Carolyn is an Ambassador who studied abroad in London
Why did you choose to study abroad and how did you decide on this program?
Coming from a family of many Bennies and Johnnies who had studied abroad for some length during their time at CSB/SJU, I always knew that studying abroad would be an important experience for me at CSB/SJU. Thanks to my majors, my four-year plan had just enough room for study abroad, and it didn't matter which study abroad I chose. During the choosing process I discussed with advisors, ambassadors, friends and family what trip they thought I might enjoy the best, but no matter what anyone said I always came back to London. London was always the city I had said I wanted to live in when I was only in 8th grade, it is the city to which many of my favorite authors have lived in and written about, and the London study abroad held the greatest bonus of having an internship option! At the end of the day, London was a no brainer, and it was the best decision I've ever made.
Briefly describe a specific cultural experience you had on your trip that made a lasting impression.
To me, an important part of British culture is how diverse it is. Just walking down the street you can see and hear the diversity. You see many people wearing different religious clothing, such as hijabs, and hear many different languages. During my Islam class we went to a mosque and then a Turkish dinner one night. It was interesting learning about a different religion and culture, and getting to experience different food and way of eating (we sat on the ground). It was important to see these different cultures, because diversity is such an important part of London.
Describe your overall study abroad experience.
There are so many words I could use to describe my study abroad experience, but just a few are: eye opening, exciting, magical, and challenging. There are days when it would be extremely challenging to be so far out of my comfort zone and to be painfully far from my family and friends. But it is in those moments that I reminded myself I was in LONDON and I would be quick to get over whatever was upsetting me. Being in London was eye-opening as I learned so much about not only another culture, but I learned that maybe, just maybe, other cultures might be different, but GOOD different, from America. I enjoyed meeting new people, finding friendships in CSB/SJU students that I may have never met if it weren't for study abroad, and being able to be independent and just wander around a foreign city at any moment's notice.
Based on your experiences abroad, what are some of the benefits of spending a semester abroad? How has studying abroad contributed to your personal, academic, and professional development?
I have a newfound appreciation for people that are different from me. I can understand the hardships of going outside of your comfort zone. I am now more adventurous. I am more independent. I have learned how to ask questions and solve problems. Studying abroad and doing an internship abroad has helped me gain confidence and helped me focus what I want to do with my life. It was hard adjusting to professors and class workload that is different than America, and it was interesting seeing a workplace that is very different that America.
What advice can you offer for CSB|SJU students who are considering or planning to study abroad?
My advice is to definitely study abroad somewhere. Do something. Push yourself. Work your four-year schedule around it, because it will be the best decision you can ever make. But don't be fooled, it will be hard, and you will have to push yourself to not want to hide in your room some nights. But no matter what see something about the place you are living every day, and do something awesome once a week. Just go on walks, or go to the free museums, or take a bus ride somewhere far away and find your way back. If you go to London, check out Timeout.com for any ideas of what to do!