Studying abroad throws students into an unknown country to learn and grow. Individuals’ experiences can be that of good and bad. There are many reasons students may choose to go and study abroad: cultural experiences, academic experiences, and life experiences.
There are also many factors that can come into play when considering and going abroad. Some students have never traveled to a new country and want to give it a shot. Scholarships can play a big role in one’s decision. Choosing a country to immerse oneself in can be difficult because there are so many choices. One might be interested in a specific country’s art, culture, history, or scenery. The experience can depend entirely on the person and their goals, aspirations, and outlook.
Carlie Keough is currently studying abroad in Barcelona, Spain. She said she will never have the access to support and scholarships to experience Europe in an immersive learning environment once out of college, so now was the time.
“What called me to Barcelona, specifically, was the art,” Keough explained. “I am an artist and hope to pursue a creative career that is aligned with my degree in creative mass media. However, I am also passionate about Spanish culture and implementing a more holistic world view into my life, which I feel is done most easily by immersing myself in new ways of life that are completely foreign to me. I truly value the diversity that the world has to offer in an up-close lens instead of reading about it in a textbook.”
After being there just 4 months, she explained that she loves the style of life that encompasses Spain and has no desire to live in the U.S. after her study abroad experience is over.
“I plan to move back to Europe once I get a work visa and develop a plan for my career,” she said.
Although everyone has different experiences, it is best to go into the unknown with an open mind, aware that there will naturally be major cultural differences from back home. Keough explained the differences she has noticed so far.
“America is very competitive and individualistic, which is great sometimes, but I find such peace in the togetherness that Spain seems to elicit,” she said. “I also enjoy that Spain is much more of a ‘being’ culture than a ‘doing’ culture like America is. There seems to be a larger sense of the present moment in Spain whereas America can be much more future and goal oriented. Here in Spain, I see people really enjoying every step of life.”
Overall, Keough says her study abroad experience and carving her life in Barcelona is the most rewarding thing she has ever done. However, like mentioned above, everyone has their own experience and takeaways.
Isabella Fraire is currently studying Psychology at the University of New York in Prague (UNYP) in Prague, Czech Republic. Like Keough in Spain, Fraire explained the many pros of study abroad including her academic experience at UNYP. She has a flexible schedule with classes just Monday through Wednesday for three hours, and the rest of the time to explore.
“Class sizes are perfect, and students are truly able to give their input and ideas during class time,” Fraire said. “With people from all over the world studying at UNYP, students can see a different side of their major they may not get to see at home.”
“I’ve had to get used to their laws and their way of living,” Fraire explained. “One time, I rode a scooter on the sidewalk and got a ticket because you cannot ride an e-scooter on the sidewalk, apparently. I was really upset, and I was telling the police officer it was just a scooter.”
Different laws, time zones, and languages are just some of the things one must get used to abroad. Fraire explained the different people and personality types that she has noticed during her time in the Czech Republic, too.
“The Czech people seem to not like loud people, and I am very outgoing,” she explained. “So, I had to tone it down a little to not make people so uncomfortable. Being here, overall, made me look at myself in the mirror and tweak myself just a little bit in a good way.”
Although some people jump into their new life abroad and fit right in and some make some personal tweaks to get there, some people just don’t feel right when abroad and prefer the comfort of their home in America. Leah Shinn, for example, studied abroad in France in 2018. She said her time abroad was a huge growing experience, but she personally prefers home in Kentucky.
“I don’t think I was prepared for the rollercoaster of emotions that comes with studying abroad,” Shinn said. “The whole thing sounded, and was, amazing until the homesickness kicked in. Being in France was like another world compared to home. It was a culture shock.”
Shinn explained that her time abroad made her realize how much she loved America, while Keough and Fraire have almost realized the opposite. It is important to remember that each person is susceptible to their own experience studying abroad.
University of Memphis student Isabella Fraire is enjoying her time studying abroad in Prague, Czech Republic.
Fraire and her new friends explore new places in their free time. “I would have never thought that I would connect with more than 20 people during my studies here,” Fraire said. “Over the last few months, our group has traveled to countries like Poland, Austria, Hungary, Germany, Italy, France, Croatia, and more."