The University of Iowa

Student Reflections on First-Generation Abroad: Setting an example

December 21st, 2011

Reflections from First-Generation Students

Dear Prospective Student,

As a cultured student now at the University of Iowa I have realized the importance of a study abroad experience. Not only can an opportunity such as this help students learn more in their relative field(s) of study, but at the same time this experience can help students to understand other cultures and lfiestyles around the world, which in my opinion is something you cannot be taught. Being the first generation in my family to attend a University, and now to have studied outside the U.S., I feel like I have set an example for my family and friends to hopefully follow in the future. Having now studied in Spain for a semester and traveled throughout Europe, I can honestly say that I experienced the greatest 5 months of my life. At the same time I can say that I learned an astonishing amount both inside and outside the classroom, and it is because of scholarships such as the Diversity Ambassador Scholarship that students such as myself can pursue these opportunities.. 

I studied for a semester in Seville, Spain, and thoroughly enjoyed every day abroad. I was studying business and Spanish while in Spain, and to do this I took business classes in the Spanish language, lived with a Spanish host family, and worked for a Spanish company. I learned a great deal of how business is conducted both in Spain and Europe, and was able to identify many differences between how we conduct ourselves here in the U.S. versus in Europe. When I wasn't in class or at work I enjoyed traveling. I went to several different countries and got to experience many rich cultures, and from these travels I was able to understand how other people live around the world, which is priceless knowledge in my opinion. Being the first in my family to experience this I have had the great opportunity to teach my family about what it's like to attend a University in the U.S. and in another country. 

If I had any advice to give to other underrepresented students considering a study abroad program, I would definitely recommend pursuing this unbelievable opportunity. With all of the scholarships and grants given out to study abroad students, it makes the financial pressure less stressful, and to be honest, everything you will learn and experience while abroad will greatly outweigh the financial burdens. If you are hesitant with your decision try to seek out someone who has studied abroad previously and speak with them about their experience. I have yet to find someone who did not enjoy their trip abroad, and especially as a student who is already underrepresented there is no better way to make yourself stand out and show your strengths. I would like to once again thank the Diversity Ambassador Scholarship program for assisting me with the cost of studying abroad, because without this opportunity I would not be the person I am today.


Josh Smith