travel stories

My first experience abroad was in Spain during winter break of my freshman year. While this was an enlightening experience, it was not so different from my own culture. Traveling to India, however, I was excited to explore those cultural and social differences. Starting with the sheer amount of people on the streets of Chennai, the town I flew into, I knew the YouTube travel videos I’d watched in preparation were not exaggerating.

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Three months ago to this exact date was the day I accepted to spend the spring semester in Thessaloniki, Greece. After sending the acceptance e-mail, I remember calling my mom, my boyfriend, my friends – anyone who would listen – and then wondering how in the world I could ever wait three months to leave for Greece.

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Getting off the plane at O’Hare was surreal. Was I really back in Chicago? Costa Rica felt like a dream and I had just suddenly awoken to the brisk winter of the Windy City. To be honest I wasn’t excited to be back, not as excited as I should have been or excited as my friends were. I had found a sense of happiness in Costa Rica that I was scared I would lose the moment I stepped back on to U.S. territory. But as I walked through the airport, I promised myself I would hold on to that happiness and optimism I had gained in Costa Rica and carry it with me wherever I went.

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Brad Merryman will tell you he has the best job in the world. After 25 years in the IT industry, he hung up his hat and volunteered in Costa Rica through the Peace Corps. Just a few short months after returning to the U.S., Merryman was honored to accept the Midwest Regional Manager position with the Peace Corps, where he now oversees the recruitment of volunteers throughout a region spanning 11 states.

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My name is Hanley. I am currently studying the 2014-2015 academic year abroad in Madrid, Spain. I decided to study in Spain after having spent a year in Peru. I became fascinated with the Spanish language and the many cultures that surround it. My year in Spain has been one of the greatest experiences in my life, to say the least. Perhaps, one of the biggest revelations one could make while abroad is self-discovery. Regardless of people’s said intentions for going abroad, or even just travelling in general, they subconsciously are not only looking to see new parts of the world, but of themselves as well. People travel to find previously undiscovered parts of their identity.

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My name is Jade Manternach, and I am a Senior Entrepreneurial Management major in the Tippie College of Business. I am a first generation student, and I am solely responsible for paying for my college education. I was determined to study abroad while I was at The University of Iowa, and last year I applied for every scholarship I was eligible for. Through University of Iowa scholarships, I was able to get almost 60% of my study abroad experience in Beijing and Shanghai funded!

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One factor that influenced my time abroad is my identity. Being from a Hispanic family, I had more experience than other students being in an environment in which most people were only speaking a foreign language in which I could not fully understand or communicate. Although this environment made many other students feel out of place, I was already accustomed to this feeling.

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One of my biggest dreams is to walk outside of my little world and experience the diverse environment and culture that is unknown to me. A three week trip to study business in London caught my eye. It would be a very good opportunity for me as a first generation student. I was really excited and looked forward to the chance to study abroad in London.

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My name is Xin Xu and I study biochemistry with a pharmacy interest at the University of Iowa. Even though study abroad is among the 47 things that students should do in college, it initially didn’t appeal to me since I am already studying abroad in America. However, one course in India Winterim called Pain, Palliative Medicine and Hospice Care caught my attention. With a strong interest in palliative medicine, I decided to go on an adventure to Trivandrum, India during the winter break, 2013-2014.

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My name is Vannessa Ginther, and I am a first generation college student and a Native American. I studied abroad in Guanajuato, Mexico in summer 2014. It was an experience I will never forget. I learned so much about Mexican culture, language and myself.

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