The University of Iowa

Student Reflections on First-Generation Abroad: Turn the pages of your own book

December 20th, 2011

Reflections from First-Generation Students

Dear Prospective Student,

My name is Hanna Wiesmayer and I am a junior majoring in Finance and Economics. I am involved in Women in Business and Delta Sigma Pi Professional Business Fraternity. I finally chose to study abroad this past winter session in London. After the two-week session I chose to travel to the Netherlands and Italy. During my travels I was exposed to three different languages and cultures. 

I have heard time and time again that studying abroad will help you grow as a person, but I had no idea how true that statement would be. While abroad I was challenged to adapt my behavior to different cultures. I learned simple language things such as "rubbish" being "garbage" in London to more challenging things as to how to order food in Dutch or how to navigate the Metra in Rome. 

As a first-generation student my family questioned my motives for studying abroad especially for just two weeks. My father asked, "How could you possibly get three credit hours from a two-week class?" and "Why not just take the class at Iowa?" I showed my family the tentative schedule along with all of the extra sightseeing I planned on doing to learn more about the various cultures. My family agreed that going abroad would be a great eye-opener now and a great advantage in my job search later.

While in London our whole program toured the Tower of London, saw the Crown Jewels, and saw the play War Horse. My Corporate Finance class visited Barclay's Capital, Lloyd's Insurance, and toured the financial district. I tried to fill all of my days with sightseeing. Some examples of things I did include seeing the Rosetta Stone at the British Museum, attending afternoon tea at the Landmark Hotel, watching New Year's Eve fireworks by Parliament, wandering around the Tate Modern, seeing Shakespeare's Globe, and viewing London from 450 feet in the sky from The London Eye.

Studying abroad was a great experience! I saw several countries and met great new friends. The best souvenirs I have from studying abroad are not the pictures (nearly 400 of them), or the trinkets, but the cultural awareness I gained while simply walking around town or starting up conversations with locals. Saint Augustine once said, "The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page." If you have even a tiny interest in studying abroad I suggest visiting the Study Abroad office in the Old Capitol Mall to begin turning the pages of your own book.

Happy travels,

Hanna Wiesmayer