My experience studying abroad was great. I transferred in to Iowa State and was scared that I wouldn't be given this experience. I looked in to semester long study abroad programs, but the price tag was a little out of my budget. When I stumbled upon this trip, I was so ecstatic. It was the perfect amount of time, and within my price range. I, as patiently as possible, waited for Thanksgiving break to roll around. The entire time I was in Europe I was in complete awe. It truly felt like a dream. I still can't really even believe that I went over there and had all the amazing experiences that I did.
I have two very valuable learning experiences from this trip: the traveling aspect and the social aspect. Coming in as a transfer student was really difficult for me, because I didn't have that dorm experience that connects you with lots of different people. This trip really pushed me socially and forced me out of my comfort zone. At the end of it all, I can say I have made some great friends and will definitely stay in touch with them as we all go different ways. The second valuable experience I have taken away from this trip is the ability to confidently use the public transit in various cities. After a couple different times taking the trains and buses in each city we visited, I felt like I could adequately get around. I had a special experience and ended up navigating the Paris Metro alone to try and get back to the group, so I was extra immersed in to having to navigate on my own. I feel like having to navigate with a language barrier made me realize that I could effectively navigate any American city, and after some studying, most cities around the world.
What advice would you give?
My advice for other students that are studying abroad is 1.) to prepare well in advance, 2.) take lots of pictures, 3.) try to experience the city as a local. The first bit of advice is pretty self explanatory. As soon as you know where you are travelling, start making a list of all the different things you need such as a passport, luggage, vaccinations, etc. Another good tip is to look up weather trends for the season in the countries you will be visiting. Take that knowledge and use it to help out your packing. Now think of all the different things that could happen based on weather and personal comfort, and pack for those. Preparing in advance can lessen the expense of having to purchase items you already own while you are abroad. Second, is take a lot of pictures! I had a digital camera and my phone to take photos. The entire trip I was having to delete old pictures to make space for new ones! At the end of each day, I would go through and decide which pictures I wanted to keep of the ones I had taken. This helps save space on your device and makes the pictures you do keep extra special. If you are traveling in a large group, someone is bound to have a camera. You will all be great friends by the time the trip is over, so don't be scared to ask someone in the group to take a photo of you if you would like something that isn't a selfie. Lastly, is to experience the city as the locals do. Each city that we visited had major tourist areas and hotspots. It was so nice to venture away from that and experience the city's everyday life. If there is someone you notice speaking English, ask them about their favorite restaurant or cafe. I did a lot of research before the trip to plan out the places I wanted to eat at. These were helpful, but I didn't even get to half of them. Live in the moment and see if you can find something special that is a little bit out of the area you are in, or even out of your comfort zone.
How has this experience impacted your life?
I never would have been able to travel abroad and immerse myself into the culture the way I did on this trip on my own. It was a very valuable experience to have Grit tell us the ins and outs of German culture and society. She has been to these places multiple times and gave us some true insider knowledge. I now feel comfortable navigating the cities that we visited, despite not knowing or speaking the native languages. This is a skill I can use in my professional and personal life whether I am abroad or stateside. Public transit is a great way to experience the everyday life of the city or location you are in, no matter where you are in the world. Educationally, I now have more insight in to creating and starting your own business. A lot of the places that we visited had hand-crafted and very artisan items. I think in America people are nervous to venture out and create things, out of fear that they will fail. There is a very large market for hand-crafted items, you just have to find the niche! This trip also really inspired me to branch out professionally. I realized that even though I don't speak any foreign languages, there are places in Europe and all over the world that speak English. I could just as easily be employed internationally. The horizon does not end with the United States. One of my goals is to work over seas at some point in my career, and that is all thanks to this trip.
How did you learn about this experience?
The program leader, Grit Vece, was a teacher in one of my classes. I hadn't seen any other information about the trip, and I would have never known about it if she hadn't been my teacher. She gave a small presentation to the class about the trip and I immediately went home and applied.International Connections