Life Altering Benefits of Studying Abroad
STUDY ABROAD ALUMNI STORY
Why did you decide to study abroad?
I decided to study abroad mainly because it was a goal I set for myself while in high school. I contemplated doing all of my undergraduate studies outside of the United States, but settled on doing just one semester because it was not feasible at the time. However, once the opportunity came to study abroad during my sophomore year of college, I quickly took advantage and have not regretted it!
Tell us about the program you went on
I studied abroad with CAPA in Buenos Aires, Argentina. During this time, I lived in a home-stay with just a host home in a quaint apartment. I had my own room and was allowed to cook. The neighborhood I stayed in, Recoleta, is known for the cemetery and European style architecture. I also directly enrolled at Universidad Austral. Two of my classes were taught in Spanish, and the rest were instructed in English with international students. It was the first time in my life that I was only one of three American students in a class of over 20. In terms of excursions, CAPA had some planned a part of the My Education program. Through CAPA, I visited a traditional gaucho ranch as well as went to numerous other cultural events. For my own leisure, I traveled to Mendoza and Santiago, Chile during holy week.
How did you pay for your study abroad experience?
I paid for study abroad primarily through a scholarships I received from my home institution, my study abroad provider, and financial aid. Before I went abroad, I worked so I had money saved up to spend while I was away. Studying abroad was significantly cheaper than being at my home college for a semester!
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 I was abroad, many asked if I was a rapper, entertainer, or athlete. The question did become annoying after a while. However, it also gave me the opportunity to teach others about my culture as a black American/Nigerian. For many, I was the first person of color from the US they had ever met. In that experience, I was able to counter misconceptions and stereotypes of what a typical black American should be.
On the contrary, I did notice a lot of classism towards immigrants from other nations. Particularly those of a darker hue from Senegal, Haiti, Colombia, Paraguay, Dominican Republic, and Bolivia. Argentina has lenient social service programs and free education. Therefore, many foreigners would enter the country in order to create a better lives for themselves. Although this may be the case, many Argentinians felt as if they were doing otherwise.
How has studying abroad benefited you, personally and academically?
Personally, it has altered how I look at life. In Argentina, I learned that you do not have to produce to be productive in the typical parameters that the US defines productivity. Passing time with friends and family is as valuable then it is sitting behind a desk. In my belief, Argentines value family a lot more than we do here. There I learned to put energy into creating lasting and meaningful relationships. Academically, study abroad taught me more discipline. There is ALWAYS something going on in Buenos Aires. As I wanted to fully immerse myself in the social scene, I had to ensure that my academics were taken care of first.
What was the most memorable moment of studying abroad?
The most memorable moment of studying abroad was sadly when I left. I remember it like it was yesterday when I boarded the plane headed to Miami. It was early in the morning, around 6am and I received a message on Facebook from a friend wishing my safe travels and telling me that I would be missed. I lost it! Every single tear I shed was worth it for the incredible and unexpected time I had. Hands down, that was one of the saddest and longest plane rides back to the US.
How was the entertainment and nightlife?
I’ve heard the nightlife is only better in Europe. It was a big adjustment. Dinner is served late too, so it’s not uncommon to see people arriving at the restaurant around 11:00pm and not leaving until 1:00 or 2:00 in the morning. Also, clubs don’t generally open until 3:30 am. It’s very usual to find yourself watching the sunrise after a solid 4 hours of dancing. I would also say the social scene takes the edge off and allows you to meet great people who are genuinely interested in meeting you too. For those who are not big party people, there are a number of shops, bars, and cultural activities throughout the week 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)
When I went to Buenos Aires, my goal was to become fluent in Spanish. I left my host city with the confidence to engage in conversation with virtually anyone. The experience also allowed me to explore a new career path. Now I am interested in diplomacy and building social and cultural bridges to foster exchange among different societies.
Would you recommend the program you went on, if so why??
I loved it because I had a lot of freedom to explore the city on my own!
What advice do you have for students thinking about study abroad?
Think think too hard about it--just do it! There is no right amount of convincing and no dollar sign that can be put on the experience. It is truly about the memories made and moments that help build you inside and out.
Authored by: Delonte Egwuatu