These PSU students went abroad for a summer, a semester, or a year!
I went on a study abroad program to Kralendijk, Bonaire in the Caribbean for roughly a month. My program was through an organization called CIEE which offers many incredible experiences in a multitude of countries around the world. This was the opportunity of a lifetime and I will never forget it.
The great thing about study abroad is that you get to choose exactly where you want to go and you can match the program to your personal and professional goals. My program focused on marine biology and conservation because that is what I want to get a career in. Living in Kansas, there is no way I would have been able to gain hands on experience with marine life without studying abroad. This was also a great way to gain experience to help me get into graduate school.
Studying abroad can take you anywhere you want to go and my program took me to a very special country. Bonaire is a unique island because of its incredible marine diversity, it has coral reefs surrounding it, and has been a marine protected area since the late seventies. I would have never even heard of this island if it wasn’t for the study abroad office at PSU. Through my program I got the opportunity to study marine life hands on and get scuba certified which was not only a fantastic experience, it will also help me get into graduate school. I also was able to participate in research, witness the ways places are conserving their marine life, catch bats, and go on a deep sea submarine dive 450 ft. deep. These were only a few of the unique activities I got to be a part of by studying abroad. I learned so much through this program and it really helped me decide the direction I wanted my life to take.
There are so many great things I could say about study abroad programs and why students should go on one. For me personally, this gave me a once in a lifetime experience but I also got to meet some of the greatest people and make professional connections that can help me as I move forward with my education. Traveling to a different country all by myself helped me learn a lot about myself and made me a much more confident person. It forces you out of your comfort zone and gives you a newfound respect for the different cultures you visit, as well as your own. Studying abroad will leave you with a passion for traveling and learning and you will come home a different, better version of yourself.
Studying abroad was a good opportunity and my first real taste of independence. I left a month ahead of the first day of my semester and traveled across Europe before ending up in Finland. I really enjoyed being able to experience different cultures and people. Being a study abroad student made it very easy to meet other students from many places, as many people were new to Finland just like me. I formed lasting friendships in my time there and now have a network spread all over the world. Finland in particular was great because most people speak English, so you don’t need to know a lot Finnish before you arrive, and the Finnish culture shares many similarities with my own. The country was beautiful, the air was clean, and while it was cold, it was wonderful experiencing a place so frozen and foreign to mine. I would love to go back and have thought about relocating there for awhile.
For me, traveling has been the most influential experience I've ever had. My first trip to Eastern Europe to study The Cold War and The Holocaust changed who I am as a person, how I look at others, and how I sympathize. I saw things that I couldn't have possibly understood with the life I've lived. I gained a perspective that shows how destructive oppressive behavior is; the effect of pure inhumanity to man. Letting go and allowing myself to become vulnerable to the environment and discomfort facilitated growth towards compassion and tolerance. My trip to Switzerland, France, and Italy continued my lifelong journey to cultural competence. I stretched myself and my interests by diving into the art, music, and cuisine that fueled the culture. The people I've met and places I've been will guide me for the rest of my life. I am extremely grateful for the opportunities I've had here at Pittsburg State and I encourage everyone to chase opportunities as I have.
One thing that I've enjoyed about being in Spain is that not only have I had incredible experiences here, but I've been able to travel to other places in Europe as well. It seems like each city and country that I've visited has something unique to offer. I've loved getting to meet new people, learn about local customs, improve my Spanish, and participate in cultural festivals and events. Sharing my culture with other international students and learning about their lives and experiences has been one of my favorite parts. Living and studying outside of the U.S. has given me more respect for people who are different from me while also leaving me with a greater appreciation for my home and country.
Berlin…where do I start? My journey to Berlin was a long one. I decided long before getting to college that Study Abroad was for me. My first day of freshman year here at PSU, I went straight to the study abroad office to start planning my trip and never looked back. I didn’t care how I got overseas. I just knew I needed to go. After searching for just the right place for me, Germany ended up being the perfect fit. Centrally located, beautiful countryside, rich history and of course amazing food. While I had my fair share of challenges getting abroad the incredible experience I had made every obstacle worth it. When I boarded the plane to Germany I had no idea that Berlin would be the place that would lead me to a big part of myself I had not found yet.
When I landed overseas I hit the ground running. I traveled every chance I had and did my best to experience as much as I could. By the time I was headed back to the States I had visited 8 counties and countless cities in-between. Being around other cultures got me thinking about why I have the beliefs I do and why they are important to me. It wasn’t until I spent time overseas that I could truly enjoy what we have back home.
Academically, Studying Abroad was one of the most eye opening things I could have done as a business student. I quickly realized how big the world really is and how important culture is in the business world. Some of these lessons were vital in helping be getting employed after graduation.
I learned more than I could have ever imagined over those six months. My experience quickly became about more than just travel. My favorite thing about my time overseas was not the places I went, but it is hands down the people I met and the experiences I had with them. I walked away from Berlin knowing so much more about myself because of some of the unlikely friendships I formed.
Berlin was a tough goodbye. I will forever hold the memories I made there close to my heart. As the old saying goes in Berlin,Ich bin ein Berliner.
…People always say it’s cliche, but those 4 1/2 months in Finland changed my life. It was the best decision I ever made. Although I haven’t sorted out every reason that it was, or every way I have changed, or the exact moment in time that I became a different person, I can see the experience as a whole and see that it was the best time of my life. It opened my eyes to new experiences, it made me more adventurous, it taught me to live in the moment, it pushed me out of my comfort zone, it made me learn how to communicate more effectively, and it gave me insight into new languages and cultures. It made me into a teacher, something I thought I’d never be. It made me into a better leader. It made me into a better friend. It made me into a better listener
Being in Finland made me more aware of who I was and why I was that way. It made me reevaluate the way I live and think and view the world. It made me more open to conversations with people I wouldn’t normally have conversations with. Honestly, I could go on and on about how this experienced has changed my life, but the there is one thing inside me that is yearning to get out. I want others to have an experience like I had.
When I was thinking about studying abroad for a semester, students at my university were shocked. “A WHOLE semester??” It’s funny to me now because most students I met in Europe found it normal to go on an exchange for a semester. They didn’t have short term programs for a months or a week like we do here. Maybe it’s a cultural thing or maybe it’s because of the expensiveness and distance between the U.S. and most countries. Even I thought I was crazy at the time.
There were so many times before I actually left for Finland that I thought the trip was impossible. There were so many times when I almost gave up. There were so many times when I thought I wouldn’t have the money, when I thought I wouldn’t make it to New York to get the visa, when I thought my visa wouldn’t be approved, when I thought flights were too expensive, and when I thought I couldn’t bear being away from Caleb for that long. There were so many moments of despair that I can hardly count them all. But I made it to Finland. I got there with the support of so many people…
You don’t have to go to Finland. You don’t have to go to Europe. In fact, I encourage you to go some place that you know almost nothing about. Go someplace that you would have never thought of going. Be surprised. Be culturally shocked. I hope you take that step…