Travis studied in Maastricht on the Center For European Studies: Maastricht, Maastricht University Program in Spring 2016.
If you could give only one reason, why would you suggest other students study abroad?
The reason why you should study abroad (seriously, do it!) is because you will never have another opportunity like it. The blend of classes and travel, along with new international and American friends, is an experience that is hard to put into words, but is one that I am incredibly thankful for! Seeing places that you have only ever dreamed and/or read about, along with making friends from these wonderful places, while managing life in an unfamiliar context is something that makes study abroad a once-in-a-lifetime chance!
If you could go abroad again, what would you do differently?
This is a difficult question because I felt like my abroad experience went really well. I spent a balanced amount of time in my home city and in new places, which was great. However, if I had to pick something, I would put a higher priority on learning more of the native language. I did not prioritize Dutch because the Dutch people speak English so well, but I think being able to carry a basic conversation would have been a valuable addition.
What specific factors influenced your decision to go abroad?
Before studying abroad I had never been out of the country, but I had always desired to travel. Besides the desire to travel, I love meeting new people, especially from new places, and Europe was always on my “to visit” list. I wanted to live in a setting different from my own and see whether living abroad is something I would like to do after college.
What concerns/fears did you have about studying abroad, and how did you overcome them?
At Penn State, I am heavily involved in DiscipleMakers Christian Fellowship (DCF) and love the community of people so when I went abroad I feared that I would greatly miss that huge aspect of my life. Thankfully, I was able to find and get involved with a local church (Damascus Road) and Christian group (DR:UM), which was a huge blessing during my time in Maastricht!
What was it about your program specifically that fit your personal goals over other programs?
Early on, I knew nothing about Maastricht. I saw it on the website as a program offered so I added it to my list of places that I was considering. After doing more research, I was drawn to the fact that only English is required, the city is small-to-medium sized, looked beautiful, was unique compared to other study abroad destinations and was well-placed for travel to surrounding countries. All of those aspects were true and I cannot imagine studying abroad in a place other than Maastricht!
What experiences did you have while studying abroad that you feel you could not have had if you had stayed at Penn State?
In one of my courses, there were 16 people and 15 different home countries were represented, which was such a unique feeling. The classes are set-up to be small and student-led with the tutor (professor) mostly listening and allowing the class to facilitate discussion. During discussions I was able to learn about so many different cultures and norms, while being the sole spokesperson for the U.S.
What advice would you give to outbound study abroad students to help them make the most out of their study abroad experiences?
Be open and ready for mistakes! I enjoyed planning trips and the details of the trips, but some of my best memories were made when I embraced the unexpected or made mistakes (going on a cave tour in a foreign language, getting on a bus going the wrong direction at 5:30am, stumbling upon the whole Bayern Munich football team, etc).
Share an experience where you interacted with someone in your host culture in a way that taught you something.
There were several moments where individuals showed such kindness towards me with no expectation of anything in return that I was left in awe with repeated “thank yous” being my only form of repayment. Whether it was a classmates’ family allowing me to stay with them in their home when I went to see my favorite soccer player in a different city and giving me gifts as I left, or another friend planning a wonderful visit for me and forbidding me from paying for myself, each act was beautiful and something I will always cherish. I hope that whenever I can show love to my “neighbor,” as was shown to me, that I will do so.