Try living in a foreign place, not knowing the language, tasting new food and consistently being pushed out of your comfort zone. This was the reality for many students as they took a leap of courage to study abroad this summer.
Ali Dickson, a senior English major, traveled to Austria with the health and promotion and wellness department. She engaged with Austrians, Belgians, Italians and Syrian refugees. The course taught about each country’s cultural diversity in food, exercise regimes and environment.
After learning about different parts of the world, “you don’t realize how much of a bubble America is until you leave it,” Dickson said.
After dining in Europe, Dickson realized how America is fast-paced and efficient while Croatia is relaxed because they value spending time with food and family. The rewarding part of the meal is the people to meet and bond with.
“It’s not a clique, it’s a mind-opening experience,” Dickson said.
The most challenging aspect for Dickson was to learn how to communicate without using words. It is not expected that everyone will know what you want to say, especially due to varying slang. The group visited Croatia and used a majority of facial expressions to communicate with those that spoke Croatian or German.
Apoorva Sarmal, senior business administration and French major, visited France because she wanted to improve her French language speaking skills. To prepare for the trip, Sarmal practiced speaking in French, writing novels in French and watching Netflix in French.
Actually, Sarmal has been preparing for this trip since 2008. “I fulfilled my life dream. Ever since I was in 8th grade I wanted to go to these cities in France,” Sarmal said.
Sarmal was accustomed to the fast-paced American culture while living in France. However, a French speaking man got upset at the quickness because the French dining culture will take hours to finish a meal.
Even when the unexpected happened, Sarmal turned the miscommunication between the different cultures into a learning opportunity.
“I am going to take something from the negativity and add it to my positive experience,” Sarmal said.
Erin Hoey, senior health promotion and wellness major, traveled to Altagracia, Isla de Ometepe, Nicaragua in Central America. Hoey worked closely with doctors, pharmacists, teachers and other professionals.
Experiencing the gratitude and warmth of the Nicaraguan people was the most rewarding part of the trip for Hoey.
“If someone is sick, everyone comes together to take care of them. If someone is celebrating a birthday, the whole community celebrates together. They appreciate the little things and are welcoming to all,” Hoey said.
Hoey has learned the importance of taking the time to get to know people, a tactic applicable to any field or profession.
In agreement with Dickson and Sarmal, Hoey said, “Plan on stepping out of your comfort zone for pretty much your entirety of your trip, and know that it’ll be the best decision you ever made. Eat every weird thing, talk to all of the locals you can, and go on all of the crazy excursions. I promise you won’t regret it.”