Why did you decide to study abroad?
I always knew that in college, I wanted to study abroad because I wanted to explore a new area away from home. So once in college, I looked for the opportunity to find the perfect location that could offer me the opportunity to expand my skills, learn something new, and discover a new place. When I finalized my decision on a location, I talked it over with my parents. Studying abroad had always been my dream, so the my biggest influence towards applying were my parents. I wanted to have their support in the decisions I made.
How did you pay for your study abroad experience?
In order to afford going abroad, I applied to various scholarships, did personal fundraising, worked, etc. I attend FIE: Foundation of International Education abroad in the city of London and this specific program had their own scholarships I could apply for. So, I was lucky to be awarded the FIE & Diversity Abroad scholarship, the FIE semester scholarship, and a school scholarship I applied for during my fall term. Those scholarships plus some saved money from my work study helped me financially throughout my term abroad.
What is one thing you wish you would have known about studying abroad before you left?
Before going abroad, I would have wished I had applied for a credit card with no international fees earlier, instead of waiting for it to arrive in London. The customs take a while and the fees do stack up. I did know I would need one but believed it would reach me on time, that being said it was my fault. I would have wished I knew that I didn't have to buy books before getting to London because FIE would offer some used ones on sale and it would have saved me space in my luggage.
As for advice, I would tell future students thinking about studying abroad that one has to really know where they are going and plan it out well. Financially, if you work for it and apply to scholarships, work, take out a loan, etc. then you can then plan out conversions in currency, how to spend your money, etc. For example, an easy way to save money was to cook rather than eat out. Which sounds awfully hard, since being in a different country, you want to try everything. Yet, what I mean is eating out is okay as long as you balance out your groceries prior to spending money. This will help you keep track of how you spend your money and help you plan out any other trips you would like to do. Studying abroad is a possibility for everyone regardless of where you are and I hope that if you're interested in doing it, you invest time in looking at the destinations offered and commit to educating your self in a new and undiscovered setting that can bring forth new experiences and memories.
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 myself identify as Mexican-American and throughout my time abroad I never experienced any kind of discrimination. On the contrary, due to our political stance at the moment, wherever I went when people identified my as American they would talk about the current president. Besides small remarks they made about his political decisions, never was I tied to my homeland really. I was never taken aback by anything, but rather smiled at how invested foreigners were towards our politics. I learned that I could join in on any jokes or preconceptions anyone could have had about being American and I had fun learning the perspectives of others.
How has studying abroad benefited you, personally and academically?
My international experience has made me more adamant, outspoken, and brave personally. I loved the feeling of being in charge with myself, of being independent to take the decisions that needed to be made in a large cosmopolitan city like London. Where I could go out to Hyde Park, take the tube to Portobello for some chips, take a stroll through Primerose Hill and still be back at my flat by 6 in the afternoon. Academically, I learned more about the historical context of the city and the symbolism it carries today both politically and physically. I was able to communicate with local british professors and learned colloquial ways of communication. Overall, I was able to pick up certain sensitive subjects, adapt myself, and learned to grow out of my shell.
Therefore, this past semester has impacted my career goals overall by giving me the inspiration to try and adventure outside of the states again in the future. I am a biology major with a pre-med track focusing in health with the idea of one day becoming a future physician. So studying in London with an internship in the health research field, made me realize the there are vast opportunities in health outside of the U.S. Hence, this experience has motivated me to want to adventure into another unknown place in the near future.