Student Reflections on First-Generation Abroad: Study abroad worth the cost

Kali Slaymaker is a first-generation college student who will earn her degree in marketing from the University of Iowa in 2016 after just three years of study. Kali was a 2015 recipient of the Diversity Ambassador Scholarship for Study Abroad which she applied toward a summer program with CIMBA in Paderno Del Grappa, Italy during summer 2015. The following is a reflection by Kali on her time abroad.

UI student in Cinque Terre
Kali hiking near Cinque Terre, Italy

By Kali Slaymaker

As I started my journey abroad, the biggest obstacle for me was cost. Studying abroad was a large expense on top of being solely responsible for paying my tuition. I knew studying abroad would be extremely beneficial to me personally, professionally, and academically so I spent months filling out scholarship applications and writing essays. Although I spent almost all of my winter break doing this, it ended up being completely worth it because these scholarships covered about 70% of the program cost.

My hometown is about 30 minutes from Iowa City and my mother works in town. Needless to say, I have the comfort of home and help of my parents pretty readily. I knew leaving home for a month, taking my second flight ever, to a foreign country was going to be a shock to the system, but that’s exactly what I wanted.

While studying abroad, I did not have many of the convenient luxuries I have at home. I could not call home, Wi-Fi was very slow, and 24-hour convenience does not exist in small town Italy. These environment helped me to become more organized and plan ahead; knowing when Wi-fi was faster, when the Tabacchis were open, when to make time for studying, etc.

It also made me more patient and willing to welcome things that are not planned. There are many surprises that can arise studying abroad: language barriers, figuring out the train system, making time for school AND enjoying your surroundings, but this all taught me to enjoy each obstacle that came my way.

Studying abroad taught me independence, patience, how to be open to other cultures, and to think critically and question things- not to just accept the societal norm. I am extremely happy I decided to travel outside my comfort zone. Being truly on my own for the first time while knowing practically no one in the program helped me learn more than I could have ever hoped for.

​Learn about the Diversity Ambassador Scholarship for study abroad or read more reflections from our Diversity Ambassadors.


Kali on Mount Grappa

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