Studying abroad can provide many different tools for learning that cannot be observed in a classroom. Some people choose to temporarily leave their home country and pursue education abroad for their resumes, or to simply add to their college experience. For me, it was to chase my lifelong dream of studying language and researching culture. I believe that there is no better place to learn about people, and the way that they live and speak, than to be surrounded by them. By living their life in their way, you lose the perception of being an outsider looking in, and gain their point of view which is one of life’s most valuable lessons. I have studied abroad twice and I am currently preparing to study abroad for a third (and final time). I will touch on the places that I visited along with tips that I have for people possibly looking to study abroad!
The first place that I traveled abroad was to Havana, Cuba. I was so excited to go there because it had long been a place on my bucket list. I really relate with Cuban culture, and I find Fidel Castro to be one of the most interesting national leaders in world history. Having the opportunity to stand where he stood, and go where the Cuban revolution took place was interesting to say the least. I also got to visit places well-known to Americans, such as the house and property of Ernest Hemingway and the original Bacardi Rum factory. I loved my time on this tropical island and hope to return some day.
The second place that I studied was in Rabat, Morocco. I got to visit over 10 cities in Morocco and got to go desert camping in the Sahara Desert (another thing on my bucket list!!). I never really had a strong desire to visit Morocco, but the opportunity arose where I could study Arabic while earning school credit so I jumped at the chance to go. I had such a great time in this country that I am looking forward to returning soon. I learned a lot about Morocco and North African culture that I never knew.
I also learned a lot about what to do and what not to do while traveling abroad this trip. My trip to Cuba was a lot more guided than my trip to Morocco. Our airline tickets were purchased by our professor and he even sat on the plane with us. He guided us through the daily facets of Cuban life, and told us what to bring with us. Morocco was an entirely different story. We were told which airport to select for arrival and that was it. My number one mistake on this trip to Morocco was overpacking. I packed so much that I had to pay a fee on the way there (and back). Packing so much also hindered my ability to bring back the number of souvenirs that I wanted. That is a big no-no. One thing I really enjoyed doing was to arrange my flight with other students who I knew were going on the same trip. It was great not being forced to sit alone during layovers at huge international airports (even though I only had one stop at Charles de Gaulle in Paris, it was still a help). Not only that but it was also easier to navigate. Another thing that I did was arrange my trip to have over a 24-hour layover in another city. I know that sounds crazy, but that also gave me the opportunity to see another city (Paris) without paying for another plane ticket – I’m all about saving money! I would recommend for others to do this as well. I did this with a friend so I don’t recommend going alone, but in pairs or with a group it will be totally worth it. The last tip, that I have to share, is to research the place before you go there. There are many travel blogs available for almost any destination in the world. Blogs will be your best friend, just so nothing shocks you when you get to your place of study. When we arrived in Cuba, there was no peanut butter to be found, and the Wi- Fi was scarce. These were things that highly affected us and we never would have imagined it (especially the peanut butter, lol).
Studying abroad is great, as I prepare to study abroad in Spain this summer I will keep all of these tips and my past experiences in mind for myself and I hope they are helpful for whoever else reads them!