Samantha participated on the Brighton: University of Sussex Summer Program during the Summer of 2015.
If you could give only one reason, why would you suggest other students study abroad?
It is liberating. To experience another culture, and to see everything outside of our somewhat sheltered lives is amazing! Once you go out of your comfort zone you learn so much about the place you’re in and about yourself. It feels as if you can go anywhere, be anyone, and do anything when you are enlightened by a new culture.
If you could go abroad again, what would you do differently?
I would immerse myself in the culture more. Where I studied I was surrounded by American students. I had to venture out to experience locals. If I went again (which I plan to) I would choose a program that lets me experience the culture as fully as I possibly can by being thrown into it completely.
What concerns/fears did you have about studying abroad and how did you overcome them?
I was mostly concerned that I wouldn’t be able to find people to share my experiences with since I was going abroad alone. This was not the case. Not only did I meet students who wanted to travel with me, but I met locals to explore with, native students to show me around, and made countless lifetime bonds I know will be with me forever. In fact, my friend from abroad already came for the first PSU game this year to visit!
How have you used the skills you learned abroad now that you are back; either in job searching, or in other activities?
I am currently searching for an internship abroad, and not only am I using the skills I gained, but I am using the resources and connections I made at the university. They are amazing with helping me to accomplish my goals whether it is providing career search engines or writing letters of recommendation.
What did you learn, or what experiences did you have while studying abroad that you feel you could not have learned/experienced if you had stayed at Penn State?
I learned that there is so much more for us out there than we think. If you love a culture or love a place or a job there is no reason you should be held back from it. We are not limited to jobs in our area, or lives within the norm. There are millions of cities and lives we can choose from. Everyone should dream as big as the world because that’s how far we can search to be our happiest.
What advice would you give to outbound study abroad students to help them make the most of their study abroad experiences?
I would say to let yourself completely experience the place. I met kids in my program who were comparing everything to America, and I think that is the wrong way to go about going abroad. You need to experience every destination for what it is … different. Making comparisons will only keep you from enjoying and embracing the uniqueness of a new environment.
Share a particular story of an experience where you interacted from someone in your host culture in a way that taught you something about yourself, your host country, or the world in general. Describe the experience and what you learned.
I met someone who went to the host university during normal term time. He was a volunteer for the school and he kind of acted as my guide through all things England. He was originally from Cyprus, so he understood what being somewhere new was like. He is the one who gave me this whole perspective on going for your dreams and shooting for your happiness. He had always had a longing to get somewhere different than his home, and he did it. He was so happy with his decision and he was doing so well assimilating to the culture. He showed me that it was possible for me to live in England if I really thought it would make me happy. That opened so many doors for me, and he became a good friend I consult with frequently.