Dear prospective study abroad student,
So you’re thinking about studying abroad? Well you are making a great decision! I can say with 100% certainty that studying abroad has been the coolest thing I have ever done in my life thus far. No matter where you choose to go or for how long you will gain experience and learn more than you ever expected. You’ll come back knowing that there is so much more out there, especially if you will be utilizing your foreign language skills like I did. There’s no better way to learn to speak another language than when it’s all you hear and speak for days at a time. Although I will admit I was totally embarrassed at first when I couldn’t think of how to say something or got corrected by the locals. But eventually I got over it as I realized everyone around me was so eager to help me learn.
Living with a host family was definitely one of my favorite parts of my study abroad experience. Getting to have that at home feel while being so far away really helped me feel comfortable during my stay. My host family taught me so much about the culture and lifestyle in Argentina, which is where I spent 8 weeks of my summer. They were so so so nice and eager to help me experience everything about their country, riding the subway, popular shows and attractions in the city, the food, the nightlife, everything! Also they were just as curious about my life back home as I was about theirs so they were easy to talk to!
Being Hispanic, before I left for my trip it never crossed my mind that my race might be any type of issue while I was down there, and after coming back I would say it held true. Besides myself we had several students in our group from minority backgrounds and overall I would say we stood out more as a large group of Americans than by our ethnicities. We definitely got stared at more than we expected but soon we realized it was a cultural thing and after getting to know most people they were extremely warm and welcoming. Often times the locals were more forward about asking about things like race and ethnicity that here we might consider too politically incorrect to ask about when first meeting someone. But it was really interesting to get to understand that from their cultural viewpoint things were different.
One thing to keep in mind to is to choose somewhere to go that will benefit you when you get back. You want to try and find classes that you can get credit for, improve your foreign language skills or do something while you are there that you can put on your resume and talk to people about.
I will admit for me it was my first time ever traveling out of the country so I was a bit scared when I first got off the plane…but it turned out to be the greatest adventure of my life! The key is to just be open and flexible to the culture around you and willing to try almost anything once! Looking back now I could talk for hours in detail about everything I did while I was there and all the friends I made. What I learned about the world around me is definitely something that is now a part of me and something I’ll never forget, and I’m sure neither will you!