Our student writer, Anna, tells us about her study abroad experience…
I spent last semester out of the US. I lived in Ireland and went to an Irish school (NUI, Galway). I traveled to Paris, London, and visited Brugge and Brussels in Belgium. Yes—I studied abroad. And I would seriously recommend it to every single student if it is at all possible for you to make it happen.
The study abroad program here is fantastic, and I write this from personal experience. You have an orientation along with all of the other UMBC students planning on studying abroad to learn about the process and the various ins and outs of living in a foreign country. And get this: you pick where you want to go. Granted, that country has to make sense for what you want to study, but generally speaking, UMBC will work with you to try to get you where you want to go. Obviously for me it was Ireland. For one of my friends, it was Peru. For my best friend, it was Japan. Where in the world do you want to go?
The purpose of studying abroad is, unfortunately perhaps, studying; however, classes are only a part of what and how you learn. How much have you traveled? If you haven’t traveled a lot, you’ll get used to it, and yes, travelling most certainly has a learning curve. How about navigating possible language barriers? It happens. After all, I ended up in Paris—and I don’t know French. In Belgium I was even worse off—there they speak both French and Dutch. The point I’m trying to make is that when you live abroad, you become so much more aware of…so much. Language, dress, music, food, lodging (we don’t really have hostels in the US), all of which and more accumulate into culture. UMBC loves to advertise its diversity, and you definitely will get a feel for that here on campus. But nothing completely replaces the experience of experiencing another culture firsthand and in real life.
In Ireland, one of the classes I took was the Introduction to Positive Psychology. There I learned that spending money on self-improvement (classes, therapy, certifications, etc.) or travel actually enhances well-being. Spending money on ‘things’ doesn’t. I’m not saying you have to study abroad, but I am highly recommending considering it. From my experience I got to visit five countries across two continents in four months. The other country? South Korea. That is somewhere I would have never expected myself, and guess what? I want to go back there the most. So to summarize the study abroad experience: You’ll never know, unless you go.
–Anna Crow ’16