Why did you decide to study abroad?
The biggest motivator was that I had never studied abroad before. My university offered many programs but none of them stood out to me so I went all 4 years without an education abroad experience. I found out about the program a few months prior to graduating, so everything moved very quickly after that. I did my research, applied for the program and some scholarships, and when I got both I figured that was a sign! I knew if I didn't go, I would always wonder if I missed a great opportunity.
How did you pay for your study abroad experience?
Part personal savings and part scholarships. I'm pretty smart with my money so I definitely worried if it would be worth it to study abroad. After receiving two scholarships, I felt a lot better about moving forward with my plans. One was through the University of Amsterdam, I was eligible for it because my home institution was part of the U21 network. The other was from Diversity Abroad.
What is one thing you wish you would have known about studying abroad before you left?
The beauty of studying abroad is that there's a good amount of "hand-holding" involved. I can't speak for others but my host institution provided a lot of information about the program, the city, and what students would need to have/do to make the most of their time abroad. Aside from this, I would recommend doing as much research as you can and try to plan things in advance. My advice would be to go for it but be prepared!
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 female Nigerian-American and no, not really. Amsterdam is a generally diverse and accepting city, but like all places, there are things they could improve on (Black Pete, for example). Personally, I didn't experience any explicit bias or discrimination. Perhaps a few lingering stares, but I was prepared for that. Amsterdam has people from all sorts of backgrounds (and is a tourist hot spot) so it was easy to blend in.
How has studying abroad benefited you, personally and academically?
Academically, it was interesting to compare the teaching and learning styles to what I had experienced in the past. I learned a lot about many different topics and my perspective has changed for the better. Personally, it was amazing to build relationships with my classmates. We were a really diverse group from over 10 countries spanning the globe and that also had a variety of academic backgrounds. Our conversations were really eye-opening and led to discussions on broader academic topics- so it was all connected. Long term, I think I will benefit most from the relationships and soft skills that I developed. I now have friends all over the globe that I can rely on if I'm ever in their country or if I need an expert in a field that is different than mine. I am more comfortable traveling alone internationally, navigating foreign environments, and dealing with cultural differences. These are things that you can't learn from a book so I really value the experience and would do it again in a heartbeat.
Any additional comments or thoughts that you have about your study abroad experience
It was an amazing, life-changing experience! I'm so happy that I put my doubts aside and went for it. It's something that I would recommend to anyone that likes to travel and learn new things- it's a great way to do both at the same time.