STUDY ABROAD ALUMNI STORY
Why did you decide to study abroad?
I decided to study abroad because I wanted to experience what else was out there in the world. I knew there was more to this Earth than my eyes could see, and I wanted to explore it.
Tell us about the program you went on
I went on the Semester at Sea spring 2014 voyage. I visited 12 countries, 16 cities, for 112 days all in a span of a semester and it was incredible. The program is set up where I lived on a ship, took classes on a ship, but I traveled around the world and had the opportunity to see new things. I was able to take classes sponsored by the University of Virginia and the credits transferred back to my home institution. The voyage overall was amazing! There's honestly no better word to explain my experience abroad.
How did you pay for your study abroad experience?
My school covered a part of my expenses for my spring semester, but the rest I was able to receive many scholarships. Semester at Sea has a generous scholarship program that's open to all students no matter their GPA. I held a fundraising event on campus where many faculty, staff, and students helped me out. My family also helped me out by giving and sending me money while I was abroad when I became low on funds.
What is one thing you wish you would have known about studying abroad before you left?
I wish I would have taken the time to research more of the countries that I traveled into. Just so I'd had a deeper understanding of what I was walking into.
Did you experience any discrimination abroad because of your race, sex, religion, sexual orientation or a physical disability? If so, what did you learn from the experience?
While traveling around Asia, I received a lot of stares because of my skin color. I’m African American and they've never seen someone of my skin complexion before. From this experience alone, I learned that people are going to stare at me no matter what I do for my whole life. You just have to learn how to deal with it and keep moving on. Eventually, they'll stop.
How has studying abroad benefited you, personally and academically?
Studying abroad had benefited me personally because I now look at the world through different eyes. After seeing what many people go without in this world, it makes you more grateful for what you do have. It benefited me academically by providing me with a type of knowledge that I'd never be able to achieve just by sitting in a classroom. I had the opportunity to put what I was learning in a classroom to real world experiences, literally, and I loved every minute of it.
What was the most memorable moment of studying abroad?
One of my most memorable moments was when my friends and I got lost, then separated while we were traveling around China. Looking back now it was a very funny moment for us, but back then we were in panic mode! I enjoyed that time I got to spend with them.
How was the entertainment and nightlife?
Fun! Despite all the countries I visited, I only really explored the night life in one and that was Cape Town, South Africa. I'll never look at dancing the same way again!!! The entertainment in different countries varies. What we as Americans consider to be entertainment may be different than what Asians consider entertainment in their country. Overall, my experience of this aspect in different countries was amazing as well.
In what way do you feel your experience abroad has prepared you for your future career? (Think both tangible things like language acquisition and intangible like learning to work with people who are very different from you)
Well, I'm interested in attending health law, but I've never given thought to studying law internationally. After seeing the world, I'm now considering it. Also, I can now say that I’m a global citizen and employers like individuals who've been abroad because it shows that you can adapt. You’re able to work in any setting.
Would you recommend the program you went on, if so why??
I would recommend studying abroad to other students and I'd recommend the program I went on to other students as well.
What advice do you have for students thinking about study abroad?
If you're thinking about studying abroad, especially if you're a minority, I highly encourage you to take the opportunity. To experience life in a different culture is an experience you won't ever forget or regret. The knowledge that you acquire and your perspective on life completely changes. If you’re thinking about taking advantage of this opportunity, then I strongly encourage you do so. It'll be the best decision you've ever made!!!!!!
Any additional comments or thoughts that you have about your study abroad experience
My study abroad experience was one that I'll never forget! I'm super excited that I took the opportunity to do this experience. I met so many wonderful people on the ship who I still keep in touch with today. Deciding to study abroad with this program was the best decision I've ever made.
Author: Imani Ferguson