Personal Value in Studying Abroad

People will try to convince you that studying abroad is a great opportunity and that everyone who can study abroad should do their best to do so. While they may give many good reasons to study abroad, everyone’s individual study abroad experiences will be unique. So for me, why was studying abroad a worthwhile experience?

To say that studying abroad was a stretching experience may seem cliché or generic, but for me that truly was its greatest value. I am a creature of habit. I shop at the same store every time I need food, walk the same way to class every day, order the same drink at the coffee shop I always go to to study. I like things to function in predictable ways so I know what to expect. I also like to always have a plan. I like to know where I need to be, what I’ll be doing, for how long, and for what reason. I would not typically characterize myself as extremely outgoing or adventurous. But fortunately for my personal growth, my study abroad experience was usually quite unpredictable and very unplanned.

For instance, several friends and I took a trip one weekend from our dorms in Lugano, Switzerland, down to Venice, Italy, with a stop in Milan along the way. The entire trip was a series of the unexpected and the unpredicted. When we first stopped in Milan, we visited the Galleria and the Cathedral Duomo. As we split into groups to explore, I quickly got separated from my group and had no way to reach them as I did not purchase an international phone plan. It was sheer luck that I happened to run into one of our groups as I wandered around looking for free Wi-Fi. Then, as we headed back to our Airbnb, both members of our group who kept the keys got separated from the group. Then their phones both died. Our group had to wait for hours while they wandered the city eventually finding the correct subway stop and letting us all in. The train heading to Venice was packed so we were standing for most of the ride. Our time in Venice was largely without mishap until the last day when I again got separated from our group and had to guess at which ferries to take in order to reach the train station in time for our departing train. One of the trains on the return trip filled up so we were planning on finding a place to stay in a small Italian country town until we found another train to take. Then finally, we nearly missed our bus back to Switzerland.

At the time, most of the experiences were stressful. Who wants to be lost in a foreign country with no cell service, no way to communicate with the people around, and no idea where you need to go? Why do I say that these experiences were a large reason why my study abroad trip was worthwhile? They forced me out of my comfort zone. They forced me to think in the moment rather then follow a predetermined plan. They made me react to the unpredictable. This taught me two things. It taught me better how to make a plan on the fly and how to react to the unpredictable. More importantly, it taught me that I can function out of my comfort zone. If I could work on the fly in a foreign country, where I didn’t fully understand the language, culture, or city I was in, then I could be very comfortable in the unpredictable at home where I knew the language, culture, and city. Studying abroad was something like me jumping off the deep end and realizing I could swim and then returning to the shallows a confident swimmer.

This may paint a negative picture of studying abroad, and to be fair I am focusing on the worst of the trip. There were many more good experiences than negative ones. My point is that even the negative experiences were incredibly useful to me and contributed to my personal growth. And if even the negative experiences made my trip worthwhile, if the worst parts of the experience were still valuable, then the sum of all the good and bad experiences must be extremely valuable. My study abroad experience was worthwhile in all its aspects, good and bad.

-Coleman Moss, Faculty-led in Italy/Switzerland, Summer 2019

The Hardest Choices Require the Strongest Wills

As a Global Business major, studying abroad was a mandatory requirement that initially was a no-brainer for me. Seeing the world, meeting new people & getting out of Texas was something that I knew would be very enjoyable. It was even better that I was chosen to attend Korea University because my whole family except my dad, mom, and sister live in Korea. So, not only would I be traveling the world, but I would get to spend time with my family at the same time, which is something I cherish since I wasn’t able to spend much time with them in the past because of how far Korea is from the US. However, I will admit that as the departure date crept closer, the doubts began to hit me day by day.

I started to think about the fact that I would have to live life without my friends, Chipotle burritos, and most importantly my dogs. I REALLY did not want to live life without my dogs. The part that stressed me out the most during the study abroad application process was all the recommendation letters, mandatory meetings, and formal documents we needed to collect. It really made me second guess myself and wonder “Do I really want to do this?” I had some thoughts of just changing majors and not studying abroad because I was so busy with actual UTD courses and having to apply for study abroad applications was just extra stress. But, don’t worry, all of these requirements were more than worth it because studying abroad in Seoul was probably the best 6 months of my life.

Robin Kim

Even as a 100% genetically Korean turned US citizen who has lived in Dallas for almost my whole life, I admit to being a bit nervous to leave Texas and live in Seoul for about 6 months by myself. I am Korean in my blood, but since I moved to the US when I was about 3 years old, regrettably my Korean language skills have severely deteriorated throughout my years in Dallas making the thought of attending school in a foreign country a bit overwhelming. The worry was not about being unable to speak the language fluently, because I understand that the English language is basically universal. However, the aspect that made me lose some sleep was the fact that the locals in Korea would probably speak to me in Korean expecting me to understand what they’re saying…because well, I am Korean. But, little did they know that I had been living in the US my whole conscious life, so when they heard me speak, I could see the surprise on their faces of how I was not a local. I eventually got a lot of the language back just by being exposed to it, but I still want to improve on the language because speaking multiple languages is valuable. Everybody on campus speaks English; some are ridiculously fluent, while some can put sentences together with lots of smiles & hand movements. At the end of the day, you’ll be able to have a conversation with someone as long as you are open-minded and patient, because you have to understand that YOU are the foreigner, not them!

Studying abroad was one of the best decisions of my life because I made relationships with life-long friends. Since I am Korean, it did help to go to Seoul because I know I will be able to see these people again in my lifetime. Seriously, I met some really genuine people that I plan on staying in touch with until I am in my grave. You’ll meet people from ALL around the world. I now have a place to stay when I go to Germany, Korea, Japan, Australia, California and even the Netherlands. I made some memories that I can look back on and just laugh about out of nowhere that will last forever.

I 3000% recommend anybody to study abroad. I had some doubts at the beginning, but I am glad I went through with it. You’re probably going to want to give up during the application process, but trust me, it will all be worth it. Well, to be fair, I can’t speak for any other location, so if you go to Korea University, then you will not regret it. You’ll get homesick, but it’ll be okay because remember the hardest choices require the strongest wills.

-Robin Kim, Exchange at Korea University Business School, Fall 2019

Summer Internship in Australia

It was my second semester at The University of Texas at Dallas, and I was presented with an opportunity. The chance to apply for an international internship in Australia. I applied, then came the day of the interview, and like any other person – I was a bit nervous. The interview went well, Shannon and Caitlin are nice people, and are passionate about what they do at HungryHungry. Caitlin is the investment adviser for HungryHungry, and Shannon is one of the founders of the company. I am also thankful to everyone from Education Abroad & Jindal Abroad at UT-Dallas they helped me with any questions I had throughout the application process.

JuanDays later I heard back, I had been offered a position at HungryHungry as a Data Analyst Intern. So, I did what anyone in my position would do, hopped on a plane and headed to Australia. My first day of work went great; we interns were introduced to the team. I met Elizabeth my mentor and also met Caitlin and Shannon in person. I met my fellow intern colleagues, Dillion, Audrey, Remsha, and Fazila. I received a basic introduction to MySQL, Google Analytics, and was shown all the different Data projects I would be working. I learned about HungryHungry’s ambition to grow. It’s part of the company OrderMate, but at the same time, it is aiming to be something different. HungryHungry is a new platform with the goal of reshaping the restaurant and beverage industry. To provide customers a tailored eating experience, whether it is in-venue, takeaway or delivery, and learn of any dietary preferences a customer may have.

The weeks went by, and now as my time at HungryHungry is coming to an end. I realize that this internship helped me grow in ways I could have never imagined possible. I was fully exposed to Microsoft Excel and worked on projects to visualize data into charts and graphs. I also worked with April who is in charge of Finance for OrderMate. I worked on a research project to see possible prospective markets in certain parts of the world. I looked into the different levels of tax implications that came along with that. I was also introduced to sales pitch training with the great Caitlin as our mentor. I had the pleasure to experience an Australian Football game, and I had a great time. Mark, who is one of the founders – is very knowledgeable when it comes to Australian Football. Thanks to him, I was able to follow the game fairly well. Melbourne is city that is very passionate about Australian Football.

My Dad, Juan Sr. has worked in the restaurant/hospitality business since he arrived from Mexico in his early twenties. Time passed, and I too started working in the restaurant industry. Little by little, I started to understand the love my Dad had for the restaurant business. I am glad that I had the opportunity to work for a company that is trying to be an innovator in the restaurant/hospitality industry my dad and I love so much. I am grateful, for never in my wildest dream did I think I would have the opportunity to travel half-way across the world and work for HungryHungry in Australia. I would recommend to anyone that’s pursuing an international internship opportunity, to do your best, and go for it. As my Education Abroad Advisor, Alissa, told me “The experience will more than justify all the visa and international application paperwork” and it did and much more. Traveling is something I’m very passionate about and I can safely say that my summer internship in Australia changed me in more ways than one. I was able to further my growth as a person, I experienced a new culture, and had the opportunity to work in an international setting.

-Juan Mendoza, Internship in Australia, Summer 2019