Making the Most of Traveling While Abroad

Esther Goldstein

People have different preferences for traveling, and you might discover yours while abroad. I realized that I like a combination of going on trips by myself and going with a small group of friends. I enjoyed traveling to places like London, Amsterdam, and Brussels by myself, but I realized that it’s less stressful to have a friend with me. This is because we can look after each other’s stuff at places like the airport. They can also help in researching sites to visit as well as how to get there. My travel buddies were my friends from China and South Korea that I met during my time in Liverpool. I was also fortunate that my friend from UT was studying in Edinburgh, Scotland at the same time I was in England!

Since I lived on campus, I was able to take part in trips organized by the residence halls for a discounted price. I went to Cambridge, The Beatles Story museum, and the Lake District on these trips and enjoyed meeting new people. A bonus of studying in the UK is that the universities’ spring breaks tend to last longer than in the US. Mine was three weeks long, and I traveled for almost all of that. While I got to see some great places in Italy, Greece, Scotland, and Ireland, it was also exhausting! I went with some friends on student tours in Scotland and Ireland. In Ireland I came down with strep throat and had to go to an urgent care center. My international insurance through UTD really came in handy here, because I was able to get reimbursed me for the medical care that I needed.

When traveling around Europe, I tried to plan things ahead of time to save money. Train tickets in the UK especially are less expensive if you buy them online and in advance. The catch is that you have to buy them for a specific time, which can be stressful if you’re not good at being early. I used a website called the Trainline to look at train times and prices throughout the UK, which is a great resource. In addition, when I flew on planes I always figured out how to get from the airport to my accommodation in advance. It can be disorienting when you’re in a place for the first time and have to navigate the public transportation there. One thing I learned from staying in England is to always pack an umbrella, because it can rain at any time!

When I first began to travel, I went to London for the weekend and came up with a long list of things I wanted to do there. I ended up packing too many things into my schedule and felt exhausted. As a result of a few trips like this, I realized that it’s not about the quantity of places I visit, but the experience. I began to appreciate the places I was able to see. It is okay to leave things “for next time,” even if that I might not get to visit again. Traveling is about enjoying whatever you get to see, and not about trying to shove everything you can into your agenda. After incorporating this idea, I felt less stressed out and was able to enjoy my travels more in some amazing cities.

– Esther Goldstein, exchange program, University of Liverpool, Spring 2017

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London’s Calling

Sarah Kraman

I went abroad to Oxford and Cambridge to present my research. I want to start by saying, when I first found out about the opportunity, I scoffed. I thought there is no way I was going to get up in front of a room of people at Oxford or Cambridge and present my research. However, the harder I worked on my paper and the more time I thought about it, the more I thought when else in this life am I going to have this kind of opportunity? So, I decided to put my feet in the water and apply for a scholarship which would seal my fate, going or not. A few weeks later, my professor reached out and said I would be awarded the scholarship… there is was, I’m going.
A few weeks after that, my research was finalized, and I was heading to the United Kingdom for the first time.
The trip changed my life. I met some of the smartest people I have ever met on the trip. I learned from my peers, made new friends and most importantly discovered things about myself I didn’t know. Before the trip, I didn’t know that I could pack lightly. I didn’t know that I could present research and warrant applause from it. I didn’t know that I love London, I am fascinated with Oxford and Cambridge on a Saturday night can be a little dodgy. I am forever grateful for Dr. Carraher for organizing the trip and making each and every experience so memorable. Thank you and as they say in London, Cheers!

– Sarah Kraman, faculty-led program, Regional Management Area Studies – UK, Summer 2018

Seville Complete Blog

Carolyn Nguyen

Studying abroad in Seville, Spain was one of the most amazing experiences I have ever partaken in! I went with a group of friends from UTD using a program called GlobalED. This program was able to set up a custom wintermester program and provided an internship that rotated students through a hospital in Seville. We got the opportunity to shadow doctors, learn about the healthcare system in another country, as well as watch surgeries! The Office of Education Abroad was so helpful in setting up a way for us to receive credits for our study abroad internship!

Besides the internship in the hospital, we also got to take an intensive Spanish course. As a pre-med students living in Texas, medical Spanish is quite essential for proper and efficient patient communication. Even learning just conversational Spanish is enough to establish a sense of rapport with your patients. I can guarantee you that at my medical school interviews, my interviewers were looking for personal growth in the candidates. This program was always a conversation starter, especially since it shows a love for learning in order to better yourself as a future doctor. What better way to do so than to learn medical Spanish in its country of origin?

My favorite part about my entire study abroad was the cultural immersion! I got to live with a host mom that took care us as if we were her own children. She cooked us home-cooked traditional meals, packed us sac lunches for school and even got us gifts for the holidays. She was the one of the sweetest and kindest soul and I’m so glad I got to meet her during my trip. Experiencing Christmas in another country was also a wonderful experience! In Spain, they celebrate 12 days of Christmas. December 25th only marks the beginning of the festivities! On January 6th, the children receive their gifts from the Three Wise Men, thus marking the end of Christmas. But before that, there are beautiful parades where the children get to submit their wishlists and candy/toys are throw into the crowds. These parades were so exhilarating! Even though I am not Catholic, I attended mass during Christmas. It was one of the most beautiful processions I have ever participated in. The Seville Cathedral was otherworldly and it is the resting place for the remains of Christopher Columbus. It was so amazing to see the way the Spanish celebrate and worship during the holidays.

During the weekends, we took the opportunity to travel to other cities within Spain. I got to go to Madrid, Barcelona and Granada. Planning the trips were kind of stressful but completely worth it! My advice is to download the expedia app before leaving the US. That way you can get airplane tickets and hotels with US Dollars rather than having to deal with the exchange rate and foreign currency charges on using cards internationally. Each city had it’s own culture, traditions and atmosphere. Each was breathtaking in it’s own way. Seville felt safe, homey and traditionally Spanish. Madrid was like the Washington DC of Spain. It was filled with city life, lights and historical monuments/museums. Barcelona didn’t even feel like Spain anymore. They spoke Catalan and it was so artistically metropolitan. And Granada was a predominantly Arabian area with a lot of Moorish Empire influence still present. We tried to maximize our time in Spain and traveled like mad women. My feet were pretty much destroyed after the whole ordeal, but I can not emphasize enough how worthwhile each trip was. From the museums in Madrid to Park Guel in Barcelona to the underground Arabic spa in Granada, everything was life changing from start to finish.

If you get the chance, please study abroad! It is so eye-opening. If you choose to go to Spain, I highly suggest doing so in the winter. You’ll get to see the holidays and can even go skiing in the Sierra Nevadas. The summers can get up to 120 degrees so be aware! Take advantage of scholarships provided by the Study Abroad Office and have fun!

– Carolyn Nguyen, Independent Study/Third-Party Program, Fall 2017

From Culture Shock to the Best Semester Ever

 

Esther Goldstein

When I arrived in Liverpool, I exited the train station and got hopelessly lost trying to find a place to convert some money. After that, I found a place to buy a British SIM card and went off to find my new home for the next semester. The day was a whirlwind of getting lost several more times, moving into my residence, and meeting my new flatmates. It wasn’t an easy first weekend because I had to find a bunch of new things for my place, such as bedding and groceries. I wondered if I was cut out for life in Liverpool. I just needed some time to adjust, however.

The day before classes started, I met some people at the study abroad orientation session, and things started to turn up. I continued to explore the city more, and I really enjoyed how compact and walkable the city center was. Along with all of The Beatles attractions and strange accents, there were tons of shops, pubs, and restaurants to visit. I navigated my way through Albert Dock, which has an amazing view of the River Mersey on a sunny day. Although it was usually windy and cloudy in Liverpool much of the time, it made me appreciate the sunny days even more. Throughout my time there, I became friends with people from around the world. My closest friends came from China and South Korea, and I was able to learn more about those countries’ cultures through them. In addition, the University of Liverpool assigned all of the exchange students a study abroad buddy. My buddy introduced me to life there and was an awesome resource during my time abroad.

I loved how I could easily walk to the train station in Liverpool, and from there I could travel just about anywhere by train or plane. During the semester I went to the Netherlands, Belgium, Greece, Italy, Ireland, and Scotland! I had never been to Europe prior to my semester abroad, and I saw lots of amazing places through my travels. Overall I had a great semester, and I cherish all of the memories I made with my friends and while travelling.

Some of the things I learned were…
•   Take advantage of travelling to different countries while in Europe, because many of the countries are close to one another
•   Traveling can expensive between bus and train rides, plane flights, and eating out, so make sure to budget accordingly
•   Try to make friends with locals so you can learn more about the people living in your area
•   Take a light course load so that you have enough time to make travel plans and are not bogged down with homework

– Esther Goldstein, exchange program at University of Liverpool, Spring 2017

From“Hi” to “你好”

chinablog

“Welcome to China” I was officially 7,350 miles away from anything I have known. In a new country, a new culture, and a new language. Inside of me, there was a mixture, of excitement and terrifying emotions, but there was no turning back. I knew whatever would come I knew my new home would be overall an adventure.

Throughout my courses, I was able to learn about business in China and also internationally. It was incredible learning how China’s business relations are important and how it works with different countries and companies. I was able to experience in person Multinational Corporations (MNC) global strategy such as McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, and Forever21. Looking at the bigger picture made me realize how connected we are a planet. For this past century, we have increased connectivity more than any era before not only in business but politics, negotiation, social media, art, and other essential ways.

Interacting with students around the world and from China, with professors, and local individuals in the country showed me despite the differences we may all have at the end of the day we are all humans and how connected we are. Building friendships and relationships with people of a different culture and language opened my mind that we have to stay together to have an impact on global issues.

This journey was a growing path, an adventure of a lifetime and one of the highlights of my college career. This opportunity exposed me to a different part of the world, and this exposure challenged me to know more about the world. A Chinese proverb says, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

– Jennifer Garcia, exchange at Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University, Fall 2017

Left My Soul in Seoul…

Blog - 3

Photo credit: Cindy Phong

I never imagined that a little country called South Korea would completely capture my heart. It was my first time ever visiting the country and I instantly developed an affinity for the bustling city. I lived in Seoul, a city rich in culture and modern technology, and couldn’t have asked for a better place to spend my semester abroad.
There are so many fun things to do in Seoul, from visiting all the cute coffee shops to picnicking on the Han River to singing at Noraebangs (Karaoke) to shopping at trendy boutiques …(the list goes on) and it’s dangerously easy to get carried away from school. My advice is to live your best life but prioritize! It’s no fun spending your last week abroad confined in your room studying 😦

Of course with moving to a foreign country, there are things no one tells you and that you have to learn on your own. From my experience a few random observations I made that I think are worth noting are:
· Learning Hangul, the Korean Alphabet, is the key to success
· It’s all about the Iced Americanos, Iced coffees don’t exist
· The man with the fruit truck has the cheapest fruits
· Korean beds are rock hard
· Dating culture is huge
· Drinking culture is huge
· Puffer jackets are a necessity in the winter

Overall, my time in Seoul was incredible. I’ll never forget the friends I made and the memories we made together, and the sweet souls that welcomed us strangers with kindness and love. From a business standpoint studying abroad is the easiest and most enjoyable way to broaden your experience and expand your network. From a student’s standpoint it was the funnest semester I have ever had and am so grateful for the memories and skills I gained abroad. Studying abroad was worth every minute and every dollar and I highly recommend it to anybody who has an opportunity to go.

– Kim Killen, exchange program, Korea University Business School, Fall 2017

Why I Chose Warsaw, and Why I Loved It

Blog Photo - Palace of Culture

Photo: Palace of Culture and Science from Centrum Metro Station

While deciding on an exchange program destination, I realized many students would immediately consider countries that are typical “vacation” destinations. Cities like London, Paris, Amsterdam, Rome, and Dublin are a few of the cities I heard my classmates consider first. Of course, there is absolutely nothing wrong with these amazing cities and if you have your heart set on a “vacation” city, by all means, go for it. However, I decided to go a different route and couldn’t be happier about the way it turned out. I’ll go through several of the advantages I experienced by spending my exchange in Warsaw, Poland, advantages that you may have not thought of.

Firstly, while Poland isn’t a popular destination for American exchange students, it is for European students. So, I ended up being surrounded by dozens of European cultures, and I met very few Americans while I was overseas. It made the cultural experience that much more amazing. Not only has it made me so excited to go back to Europe, but now I have friends to show me around in The Netherlands, England, Ireland, Denmark, France, Italy, Spain, Germany, and even Australia! It gets really easy to stick with the classmates of your own nationality, so going somewhere with no other Americans does nothing but enhance the experience.

Secondly, the cost of living is ridiculously low compared to the “vacation” cities. I would constantly hear about students studying in more expensive parts of Europe and how they would run through their scholarship money and how tight their budget would be. By choosing Warsaw, I essentially had no budget and my Erasmus+ scholarship was enough to cover almost the entire exchange period. I never felt like had to miss out of anything for financial reasons, and I was never stressed about running out of money.

Third, because of the amount of money I was saving coupled with the location of Poland in central Europe, I was able to travel a lot! I was able to visit far more “vacation” cities because I wasn’t living in one. I went to Brussels, Bruges, Rome, Athens, Krakow, Prague, and Copenhagen. The only reason there was room in the budget for all of those adventures is because I spent next to nothing in my daily routine.

I was able to enjoy all of these advantages without sacrificing any of the fun or experiences. The nightlife was incredible in Warsaw and there were plenty of cultural and historical sights to see. And best of all, I had an incredible mixed bag of cultures to experience it all with.

If you are still undecided on where to spend your exchange, I urge you to consider these thoughts while looking through your options. If you’re still trying to decide on whether or not to study abroad, I whole-heartedly encourage you to do it, and to do it as soon as you can. It changed my life and I’ll hang on to the memories forever.

Safe Travels!

– Joshua Duffy, exchange program, Kozminski University, Fall 2017

Building Confidence Through Studying Abroad

Blog Photo 1.19.18

Many have asked me, how did you have that confidence to study abroad and travel alone? My honest answer to this question is the confidence you see in me isn’t innate but is gained through my solo adventure. The confidence that you have before your trip or the lack of it should not be the determinant for whether you should study abroad. If there is a part of you that longs for adventures and enjoys discovering new cultures, you should go.

What I share with you here is raw and unfiltered because I believe what’s real is what can really motivate people to step out of their comfort zone. Signing up for an independent program and traveling solo around Europe was not my first choice. However, the desire to expand my horizon was bigger than my fear of all the things that could possibly go wrong.

No matter how used you are to being on your own, you will feel overwhelmed at one point. The panic will set in as it did for me right after I checked in to my first Airbnb. I spent days beating myself up for overestimating my confidence. It didn’t seem possible that I will be able to manage on my own for the next weeks, let alone months! But trust me, all of that will pass and you will wonder what was there to be panicked about. Being alone in a foreign place is not easy and might never get easy. Lonely is the feeling that I won’t ever get used to as I have learned through my solo adventure around Europe. However, when you focus on what you can do, you will realize that there is nothing you cannot overcome. The lessons and cultures I have learned and experienced, the people I have encountered, and the friendships I have made along the eight countries I have been to definitely worth the emotional discomfort. After all, “fear is only as deep as the mind allows.” – Japanese Proverb

You will learn the most when you venture out of your comfort zone. My life in Norway has rendered me a significant amount of knowledge, especially knowledge about myself. I learn how to be comfortable with being by myself. I learn that positive and negative factors in my life are completely dependent on whether I allow them to exist or not. I learn to be a more effective student because school can be challenging when you are studying in the most prestigious university in Norway.

– Grace Ngoc Nguyen, USAC program at University of Oslo in Norway, Fall 2017

Past the Comfort Zones

Nidhish Lokesh

PHOTO: COLORFUL TUCAN FROM PARQUE NACIONAL DEL IGUAZÚ

There is no better way to understand the scale of the world and of the human experience than by traveling. My study abroad in Buenos Aires has widened my perspective unlike anything I have done before. Many people feel more comfortable traveling to a country in Europe where English-speakers are common and it is very similar to the U.S; however, there are advantages to going somewhere out of your comfort zone too.

I picked Buenos Aires and the rest of Argentina primarily because I wanted to go somewhere completely different and immerse myself in a new language. In school up until college I had learned French, so I jumped at the chance to immerse myself in a Spanish-speaking country. Let’s be honest, Spanish is way more relevant where we are in the U.S. anyways. I was nervous going into the trip with only a semester of Spain Spanish under my belt, but excited to see just how much I could learn in my 3 months abroad.

At first I was quite intimidated here. My internship supervisor and office colleagues spoke about our projects entirely in Spanish, most of the nearly 3 million people in the city spoke Spanish primarily, and even my host spoke only in Spanish. I had no idea how I would learn enough of the language to do more than just survive. The first 4 weeks I took Spanish classes in the mornings before working on my internship projects in the afternoons. My language skills got so much better than I thought was possible – just from the immersion and daily practice. The biggest barrier was my own mental block of sounding like an idiot in a language I didn’t know. The key was to realize that it’s not a bad thing to sound like a fool sometimes, and to just keep practicing. Now, 7 weeks in, I can hold conversations with people I meet at the gym, market, or even at the barbershop about a variety of topics. My verbal understanding has gotten much better (it’s very different than Spain Spanish that we learn in the states, with lots of abbreviated words, slang, and different pronunciation rules) and I feel a lot more comfortable here. Buenos Aires has felt like home for weeks. That’s how quickly practicing something new can become natural. I even like the language better than English now – so many more ways to say things, and it’s more pleasing to the ear.

Comfort Zones don’t just extend to language, though. Studying Abroad is the perfect time to expose yourself to new experiences and try different lifestyles. For example, I was never a morning person before I came here, and I would deny the possibility of me ever being one to all of my friends. Then, I decided to try out a crossfit gym (never had tried crossfit before either), and now almost 8 weeks later I have been getting up at 6 every morning to go to the gym, then practice Spanish over breakfast with some Argentine friends, and then go to either class or to the office for work. As it so turns out, I really like mornings. Who knew? And having my butt kicked by a great workout every morning honestly feels pretty good too. It’s nice starting every day with a challenge.

Even now, with the internship portion in Buenos Aires coming to a close, I’m not going to stop pushing the limits of my own comfort zones. From here, I’m venturing out into the beautiful wilderness of Argentine and Chilean Patagonia. I’ve got some independent study projects I will be working on for professors back home while I get used to a new style of life – backpacking. I’ve backpacked once before, but it was only for 10 days and with guides. Now I’ll embrace the 6 weeks of backpacking through one of the most beautiful areas in the world with only my roommate. I’m sad to leave all of my friends in the city and a little apprehensive of the lifestyle change, but I’ll continue to learn more about myself. After all, how can you know what else life has to offer if you don’t step past your limits to experience it?

-Nidhish Lokesh, fall 2017 internship and independent study in Buenos Aires, Argentina

Be BOLD!

Alexia Blog Pic

PHOTO: MOUNT VICTORIA LOOKOUT IN WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND

I have been back from New Zealand for three weeks and it still feels like it was all a dream. Looking back at pictures makes my whole experience seem surreal. At first I was nervous about going because this was my first time travelling out of the country alone. Not to mention, it was the longest I was going to be away from home!

At the same time, though, I was so excited for the adventure. I was READY to experience life in a new way, which just so happens to be a concrete part of the deal when going abroad! You would think I wouldn’t be in much of a culture shock because Kiwi people still speak English but… that is not the case!

There are so many fascinating aspects of the country such as the diverse wildlife, incredible scenery, and the amazingly profound Maori culture. Everything about New Zealand was so different from the U.S. in the most refreshing way possible. I honestly didn’t even have much time to miss home because of all the fun experiences and places I was lucky enough to see while away (don’t tell my mom I said that, though).

I learned so much not only about New Zealand, but about myself (as cliché as that sounds). I pushed myself to do things I wouldn’t have ever thought about doing or would have had the courage to do at home, like skydiving! I’m still questioning why I did that one but, the fact of the matter is I am beyond happy that I made the decision to go abroad.

I want to inspire people to make the decision to be BOLD! The world is yours if you’re willing to immerse yourself in it. Take an opportunity to live life outside of your comfort zone! The memories you make are guaranteed to last a lifetime.

-Alexia Dos Santos, Internship in New Zealand, Summer 2017

Go Abroad, You Won’t Regret It

Concert (Vienna, Austria) - Ana-Maria Frampton, 2017Photo: Concert at Schönbrunn Palace, Vienna, Austria

Moving abroad? Easy. I was certain I had this whole “moving to Vienna” thing figured out before I even got there (not the case, of course). Arriving in Vienna wasn’t the tough part. The city is gorgeous, full of history, culture, and never-ending events to attend. Whether it was a festival by the Danube, or a pride parade in the center of the shopping district, there was always something to do. No, the difficult part was the day-to-day things you don’t consider. I didn’t speak German. Store hours? Everything is closed by 7 PM, and good luck finding a grocery store open on a Sunday.

It was frustrating at first, but once I figured out the small quirks of the city, I spent my days studying in cafes, touring museums, and traveling throughout Europe with a new set of friends. I even managed to learn a few phrases in German! Living in Vienna was one of the best experiences of my life, and the adventures I had there will stay with me for a lifetime. So take the opportunity and GO, somewhere, anywhere! You won’t regret it. Dankeschön and auf wiedersehen (thank you and goodbye)!

-Ana-Maria Frampton, exchange program at WU Vienna in Austria, Spring 2017