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Describing My Experience Abroad as Paella

Posted on December 02, 2019


Why did you decide to study abroad?

One of the most frequent questions I got when I came back from Spain was, "How was your experience abroad?" It's so easy to say it was "amazing" and "life-changing" and sure it was, but it was so much more than that. So, I say, my experience was Paella. When I think of Paella I think of home. I think of my amazing host mom and family. Of all the delicious food she made, as well as how warm, funny, and goofy she was. Paella describes the richness of the Spanish people and their culture, the diverse international friends I got to know, and the comfort of my CIEE family. Not only was I able to learn more about myself through the various challenges of studying abroad, but I was able to gain hands on knowledge about the tourism business field.

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?

I identify as a queer, Asian-American woman. There weren't many challenges or times I faced discrimination due to any of my identities. I think there were a lot of similarities culturally where people would assume the gender of the person I like or dealing with people catcalling you. When I introduced myself a lot of people were surprised I was American when they thought I was from China. I think whenever you travel or meet other people, you learn that we all have our own assumptions or ideas of other people. Everyone is a bit prejudice. These experiences help you break down those stereotypes and learn to celebrate people's differences.

How has studying abroad benefited you, personally and academically?

I gained many benefits from this experience. Luckily, academically I had all my credits transfer and I stayed on track for graduation. Also many of these classes gave me a more hands on approach on the subject. When I returned from my time abroad I felt more energized in my classes because I saw a tangible connection between what I was studying and the "real world." When it comes to my career, I felt a better understanding of what my passions are and what direction I want to pursue later on. It deepened my love of travel and desire to work in the industry. I was able to feel more comfortable with my Spanish and reach a high intermediate level (host families are the best!) You come back with a different view on the world and it helped me become more cross-culturally sensitive, self confident, patient, open to new ideas of thinking, and much more.

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