Alice Mola Talks Studying in France

Alice Mola of Sincerely, Alice renown is a native New Yorker. A born linguist, she began teaching herself Japanese at age 15. Later majoring in Japanese for her undergraduate degree, Alice went on to study at Waseda University. She decided to teach herself French during the lockdown and fell in love with the language. We love connecting with inspiring individuals at Dreams Abroad, so we asked Alice about studying in France and other topics of interest.

Why are you studying in France?

France offers the possibility of doing my master’s for a lower cost. Getting my master’s in the same subject in my home state of New York would have cost me double what I am paying now to study in France, living expenses included. I also thought my program had a lot of potential to make connections in Europe since most of my networking was done in Japan previously. Lastly, I had begun learning French during the pandemic, and it seemed like a way to improve my skills even further. Before moving to France, I had only had a conversation in French one or two times, so it seemed like a great launching point for my linguistic skills.

Alice in Japan in Kimono

According to your Goodreads profile, you have read over 150 books. Which one is your favorite and why?

My favorite book is The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. It’s truly a classic and can be read by anyone. The first time I read this book, I was in high school. The way it depicts childlike innocence and magic makes me really happy, though it can be a challenging read due to the Yorkshire dialect used in the text.

Dijon is famous for its mustard. How much does this permeate living there?

dijon mustard

It’s actually everywhere! It’s sold at many shops all around Dijon, and there’s even a group that is called the Brotherhood of Mustard. I once met them at the Office of Tourism here! They were showing how mustard seeds were ground to make mustard, which was very interesting. However, I did hear a rumor that most Dijon mustard these days isn’t actually made in Dijon anymore. Dijon mustard just refers to the type of mustard rather than it coming from one place. 

What made you choose the apartment you rent?

I chose the apartment I currently live in because they were the only ones who would give me a chance. As a foreign person who had not yet arrived in the country, many landlords were suspicious and did not want to rent to me. I applied to over 50 different apartments on the website Leboncoin, but many of them never replied or flat out said ‘No.’ 

In order to get a long-term-stay visa, one needs to already have an apartment contract secured for at least your first three months in France. This is currently the rule for Americans, although I’ve heard other countries don’t require this. However, this created a vicious cycle where I couldn’t apply for my visa without an apartment, but no one would rent to someone who didn’t even have a visa to live in the country yet. 

At the time my boyfriend, who I am now living with here in France, was transitioning his internship into a full-time job, which also didn’t reflect well on us. I only got cut a break because the woman renting to me had an American ex-husband. So, she understood my struggle and decided to give us a shot.

You recently turned 24. What do you hope to accomplish by the time you reach 25?

Alice in fall

By the time I’m 25, I hope to be B2 level in French! I’m currently B1 level which means I can get around France with not too much difficulty. I really want to use French with more ease and grace, so I hope to have that one year from now. I also hope to be a bit more well-traveled now that I’m studying in France. This is my first time living in Europe, so I’d really like to make the most of it and see different countries that are only a train or bus ride away.

How did you meet your boyfriend, Guillaume?

I met my boyfriend online via a platform called Discord. We were casual friends for two years, talking every few days, and then decided to meet in 2020 for a Discord meetup in Paris, right before the pandemic hit in February. When we first met, I was getting out of a breakup and not really looking, but we had instant chemistry due to our long friendship and had a wonderful time together. When I returned to the States, we spoke a bit more about where we’d like our relationship to go, and began dating. 

Alice and Guillaume

What new French food has been your most pleasant discovery while studying in France?

Surprisingly, I fell in love with the lemon meringue tart sold in my local supermarket called Casino. It’s one of the best lemon pasties I’ve ever had, and I’ve gone to several bakeries since and eaten the same thing. I’m not sure what makes it the perfect culinary storm, but it’s consistent, delicious, and incredibly affordable. I know it might sound ridiculous that my favorite pasty comes from a supermarket, but trust me!

On a scale of one to 10, how easy is it to understand the Dijon accent?

I have not had much experience with the Dijon accent, as my program is in English. All my French friends around me speak standard French. Perhaps the dialect is spoken by older people? As far as I’ve heard, even my good friends who were born and raised in Dijon do not have this accent.

They say Dijon doesn’t look like it has changed much since the Middle Ages. How much does its tradition affect the character of its residents?

The history of Dijon lives on through its architecture and vineyards. Dijon feels like quite an old city, but it’s very welcoming and has an ancient beauty, especially in the massive churches. Dijon was a very wealthy place in medieval times, and when you visit any of the (free) art museums scattered around the center of Dijon, you get a natural feeling of luxury. 

So, what next for Alice after studying in France? Upon graduation, she hopes to work as a diversity and inclusion officer. Given her background, that could be in France, New York, or Japan! We would love to catch up with her again when she does.

5 Things to Do After Studying Abroad

I feel there is a general agreement and recommendations on how much you should prepare when planning to go abroad. However, what happens after studying abroad? People who return from a long experience abroad can suffer from reverse culture shock. Essentially, reverse culture shock is when you are trying to adjust to being home, similar to what happens when you first arrive in a new country. Below are some ways to help you deal with coming back from your experience abroad.

1. Respond to a Reentry Assessment

Whether you had a positive or negative experience abroad, you need to answer surveys about your experience abroad. Institutions or program providers usually have a survey they send to students when they return. This allows them to make adjustments or improvements if necessary in their study abroad programs. Learning from experiences that were not perfect is the best way to revamp the program. I remember when I came back from my exchange program, I received a survey about this from my university. It was kind of long, but I was honest and reflected on what was good and what wasn’t.

2. Join an Alumni Network

Alumni networks allow you to stay connected to your cohort and even meet other participants from that program. If your institution or program provider does not have an alumni network for students who went abroad, take the initiative and see if you can start one. I wish my exchange program had a better alumni network. This is because I would have liked to have a space where I met previous participants and talked to others about their experiences in the program.

3. Become a Mentor

This could be part of the alumni network. It is commonly known that students who have gone abroad take every opportunity to talk about their experience. What better way to inspire other students than by becoming a mentor? Some students have never been abroad and might feel nervous. Having someone who went to a specific country or region might help them decide if they want to pursue it. You will know firsthand the do’s and don’ts.

You might even reflect on how your experience could have been better. Now that I am in graduate school, I am exploring where I want to end up with my career in the international education field. I have completed some informational interviews that are narrowing my interest. Finding people who graduated from my program and where they are after graduation is a great way to figure out my next step.

4. Incorporate Your Study Abroad Experience into Your Resume and Cover Letter

With this one, I am definitely speaking from my international educator background. When you’re returning from studying abroad, this is probably one of the last things on your mind, but it is important. Studying abroad lets you gain 21st-century career skills that can be transferred to a job. We live in a globalized world, where we are engaging with companies abroad and working with diverse populations. It is essential to know how to interact with people from different backgrounds.

5. Create a Blog or Vlog

If all of this is not enough, then create a blog or vlog to write or film about your experiences. You will reach other audiences who might not have the opportunity to speak to alumni who have gone abroad, and at least reading from others’ experiences can give some background on what their opportunity might be like. Personally, when I was applying to the Disney College Program, it was very helpful to watch videos from people who had gone through the application and the interview process.

Returning home after studying abroad can be disorientating. To prevent you getting into too much of a spin, try some of my recommendations above. Glad to be of assistance to my fellow students.

How Studying Abroad Helps Your Career

Your studying years are a chance to grow, learn about the world, and make new connections. For those who crave adventure and the experience of learning in a different country, studying abroad is an amazing opportunity. Packing your bags and leaving home to study can be intimidating, but there are a number of professional benefits that come with international studies. So how does studying abroad help your career? Let’s find out. 

Embrace a New Challenge and Life Experience

There are so many options for attending university or college in your own country, so why study abroad? Studying abroad is not only a chance for you to explore a new environment, but it’s also an opportunity for you to gain more life skills. Being uncomfortable and feeling out of place are common experiences for those who pack their bags and study in another country. While these unsettling feelings can be tough, they can also act as a crucial learning experience by testing your boundaries. For employers, the ability to adapt to a new environment and a willingness to explore new opportunities is a key quality in future employees. By having the experience of studying abroad, your resume shows employers that you aren’t afraid of the unknown and that you have the life experience to prove it. 

Why study abroad? To get an edge in the workforce.

Enjoy Intercultural Experiences

“I plan to work in my own country, so why study abroad?” No matter the country you decide to study in, chances are you are going to be exposed to a different culture. Learning how to navigate an academic or professional environment that is not your native one is a dynamic and translatable skill (pardon the pun). With our increasingly connected world, intercultural communication is becoming more important than ever before.  

Make Connections

Home is where the heart is, and leaving friends and family behind is never easy. Why study abroad when it means leaving your loved ones behind? If you are hesitant to leave home behind and are wondering if studying abroad is right for you, you should know studying in another country is an amazing opportunity to meet new people. When you study abroad, you are certain to meet people who are not only from the host country but who are also from all around the globe. In the professional world, there is no such thing as too many connections. Being an international student often means meeting others in the same boat, and whether through sharing classes or living in the same dorm, making friends and connections from different countries is inevitable. And when you get homesick, you can always call home or schedule a virtual meet up. 

Why study abroad? To make more friends!

Our Experiences and Advice for Studying Abroad

The Dreams Abroad team has a lot of experience with study abroad and tips for how, where, and why to do it.

Gain in Spain

The Iberian Peninsula is a popular destination for students. Remember to keep the Spanish islands in your thoughts too.  We write about the appeal of furthering your education in the Canary Islands.

Canary Islands

Make your Mark in Denmark 

We share  experiences  studying abroad for an academic year in Copenhagen, Denmark, and how it challenges and changes us. Emma took the unusual step these days of extending her stay beyond one semester. Find out why in this illuminating read.

Increase your Intellect in Israel

Studying in Israel’s Haifa is not a conventional choice for your average non-Israeli. Jiye Kang explains why she made the jump to a program overseas. This piece will appeal to those planning a master’s program abroad, far from closer-to-home options.

Explore Your Options

Ready to make the leap? Studying abroad can seem like a challenge, but you don’t need to go at it alone. At Dreams Abroad, we work to connect global professionals and provide the resources needed to succeed. If you are still hesitant and wondering about the pros of studying abroad, explore our site for further inspiration.

 

Keeping an Open Mind While Studying Abroad

 

Danes communityDanish words are having “A Moment,” with their ability to describe grandiose concepts in a few letters. When I was preparing to study in Copenhagen, “hygge” had just burst onto the scene. Most closely translated to “coziness,” you can now find hygge plastered onto a wide variety of floral candles and fuzzy socks, as I fearfully predicted from my room in Denmark while scrolling through profile after profile on the concept’s ingenious. The New Yorker even declared the year of my study abroad “The Year of Hygge.”

If coziness must be purchased, however, it is not truly hygge. For the Danes, hygge is a reflex: some lit candles here, wearing a warm sweater on a rainy day there, all topped off with making time in your day to do a little something that brings you peace. My host family practiced hygge through nightly family dinners, with lit candles at the head of the table each night. These dinners were the highlight of my evenings, full of conversation sprinkled with wit and wisdom to transition from the hectic day into a hygge night.

Often, we’d talk politics: the 2016 presidential primaries were beginning in the United States, which provided plenty to talk about. Describing his leanings, my host brother said he was considering switching political parties. “Why’s that?” I asked.

“Mine has become too feminist — they’re so radical.”

My face furrowed. My host brother, from the country lauded for its equitable policies, didn’t consider himself a feminist? It was a radical ideology to my host brother, who couldn’t see past its man-hating stereotypes even as Donald Trump demeaned women on live TV and continued to be taken seriously. Infuriated and insulted, I excused myself from dinner to go running, during the night in the middle of Scandinavian winter. Frostbite might be a nice distraction, I figured.

Culturally, coming to Denmark had been an easy shift for me. It was beneficial even: in a country that prioritizes work-life balance, I could easily put my racing mind on pause and focus on myself, rather than making comparisons to others as is inevitable at an ambitious university.

rooftops denmark

Designing Projects Abroad

My classwork at the Danish Institute for Study Abroad was different too. In lieu of nightly readings and papers, students received large-scale projects to focus on for the entire semester. Some of mine included designing and carrying out an activist campaign and conducting a mini-photo display crafted from three shoots of the same stranger. We were far from home. Our studies ensured we were digging deeper into our strange new surroundings, rather than simply collecting surface-level shots of them for social media.

Interacting and Learning about Locals

This philosophy included people as well. Each of my classes had me interacting with Danish strangers. Whether it was extensively as a focal point for the final project or quickly as a random interview subject, we were constantly interacting with the locals. We also met directly with primary sources for class themes through field trips across Europe. For my migration sociology class, one of the trips was to meet with the Sweden Democrats: a political party best known for their unapologetically nationalist stance on immigration with neo-Nazi influences. I felt appalled by their existence, let alone their growing support in Sweden. “Remember, deep breaths,” my host dad said, reminding me to keep a little hygge around before flying into an international incident-creating rage.

Those breathing exercises weren’t necessary. After the Sweden Democrats presented their party platform, my class and I burst into action with questions that dissected their views. We armed ourselves with passion reinforced by the statistics and stories we’d encountered in class. Although no minds changed that day, I left the meeting feeling satisfied. I could hold my own while speaking to someone with whom I so vehemently disagreed with without sacrificing my values.

Sweden Democrats Keeping an Open Mind

Building Communities and Having an Open Mind

My class spent the rest of the time in Sweden with groups doing work that I dream to one day be part of. It included integrating migrants into their communities, building connections between natives and newcomers, and providing legal support for refugees. However, after three years, coming face to face with the Sweden Democrats remains the most impactful part of my time in Copenhagen. With these other groups aiding migrants, our conversations were ones of admiration. To accomplish their missions, however, they need to thrive in a country where the Sweden Democrats had substantial support. They cannot crumble in the face of contradiction.

My Danish professors understood this. In most of my classes at my stateside university, students came together in railing against such viewpoints. However, we rarely discussed how we would respond to someone who held them face-to-face.

In Denmark however, one of my professors in particular embraced differences in opinion as an educational tool. Even though he made his leftist political views clear on the first day, he briefly wore the mask of a right-winger to incite conversation in class. “But what if I thought the migrants were stealing our jobs? What would you say to me?” he would ask, biting back with even more right-wing talking points when we’d answer him. In his class, I learned how to strengthen my ideas through putting them through the test of disagreement.

Prepare for Contradicting Ideas

Knowing how to confront disagreement is also vital to studying abroad successfully. Among all of my pre-departure meetings and checklists, I had failed to prepare for encountering ideas that contradicted my own beliefs. Even in my comfortable homestay, my first reaction to disagreement was to run away. Stereotypes of Denmark trapped me in a bubble that offered a faux-hygge, like that which is currently on-sale at some big-box suburban store or another across the US, that popped as soon as I was faced with something that contradicted it. I feel lucky to have participated in a program that pushed me out of my comfort zone in harmless situations and taught me how to thrive outside any sort of bubble. This is where true hygge begins to grow.

Deconstructing discomfort can begin at home, by learning more about the country where you will spend the next few months. Read the news, speak with natives of the country and with students who have recently returned. Take classes on topics that interest you. Prepare to hear answers to questions you may not like. Above anything, know yourself. While I can preach about my own experiences, everyone’s comfort zone is as different as their own experiences. Knowing where your comfort zone’s boundaries lay is understanding how to engage your surroundings. Know who and when to engage, and most importantly, from whom and when to step away. Protect your well-being above anything.

Ellen Hietsch riding a bike in CopenhagenIntentions Get Lost in Translation

Intentions lose themselves in translation as with any linguistic misunderstanding. Just as studying the language prevents you from constantly searching for the correct word, having a more complete knowledge of your host country can help separate the malicious from the miscommunicated. When my host brother talks about feminism, he does so having grown up in a country that has made greater progress than the US on more visible feminist issues, like equal pay and representation in government. I still disagree with him that Denmark has reached the feminist finish line. However, I now understand where his opinions come from. This opens the door for clearer, calmer conversation.

Keeping an Open Mind While Abroad

Knowing how to understand without justifying has helped me thrive in Denmark and beyond. I’ve continued navigating disagreement while living abroad in Madrid. It’s opened my mind, broadened my friendships, and strengthened rather than morphed my own beliefs through debate. I feel proud to say that I no longer run away from them through the park without gloves on cold winter nights: frostbite isn’t very hygge, after all.

by Ellen Hietsch

 

Studying Abroad in Copenhagen, Denmark

Ellen Hietsch is a Dreams Abroad team member who is returning to Madrid to teach abroad for her third year. Before living and working in Madrid, she participated in a study abroad program. Ellen found the program through her bachelor’s curriculum at Dickinson College. She studied abroad for one year through the Danish Institute and participated in a core course that focused on migration sociology. This course allowed her to meet with organizations who had connections to migrant issues in Denmark and Sweden. Ellen found her master’s program due to this experience. While studying abroad in Copenhagen, Denmark, she lived with a host family. The main transportation infrastructure of the town were bike paths. They remain friends to this day.

What sparked your dream to study abroad?

“I can’t say there was a single spark. I remember coming into college not knowing what my major would be, nor any career paths that interested me. But, I’ve always been fascinated with the idea of studying abroad. I chose my alma mater partially for its renowned programs overseas.

Looking back before college, I can spot little nudges toward wanting to study abroad. Funnily enough, I didn’t leave the US until I studied abroad at 21. Before that, I had gathered snippets from all corners of the world through some serendipitous circumstances in my tiny hometown. Carlisle was not only in the same town as my future college, but also the host of the US Army War College. New military families from around the world arrived each summer to call Carlisle home for the year. Frequently, their children attended my schools.

The new arrivals were a fascinating twist from the mundane that tends to hang over small Pennsylvania towns. I greeted them with curiosity and excitement. The college itself was also a source of international exchanges. A first grade classmate’s mother was a Spanish professor. She would come to our classroom a few times a month to teach us the fundamentals of Spanish. My first few units of Middle School Spanish were a breeze thanks to these mini lessons.”

What were your expectations before you left? How did they change once you arrived to the location and what changed after having completed the program?

“Honestly, I was scared. I had reached the moment in which I realized what had drawn me to my college, only to linger back at on-campus orientation crying to the Copenhagen program assistant. After two and a half years, I was finally starting to find my place at college. There I was, about to voluntarily leave for four months. I feared that my foundation would shatter in my absence.

Sunset at the beach

Copenhagen solidified that foundation, and helped make it applicable beyond college. Through my core course on migration at the Danish Institute for Study Abroad, I had the opportunity to study across borders. We had conversations with key players involved with immigration policies in three different countries. It was at a time when it was a heated topic locally: the week I arrived in Denmark, the Danish government passed a series of controversial immigration reforms. Through this class structure, I could witness sociological topics play out in daily life rather than simply reading about them behind university walls.”

What did you not expect?

“I could have never guessed how comfortable I’d feel in Copenhagen from Day One. It wasn’t even a comfort developed through challenge and compromise. Little differences were wondrous. My hodge-podged neighborhood of whimsical playgrounds, quaint houses, and lush fields reconstructed what I believed a suburb to be. My entire time in Denmark was a treasure hunt for change. Even nuisances like face-numbing morning bike rides became an awe-inspiring reward. In the States, it wouldn’t be possible to bike wherever I wanted!

In Denmark, I finally found a way of life to which I could relate. Cultural differences embraced me through the vessel of my host family. We’d share dinners with the grandeur of home cooked meals and lit candles each night. They instantly welcomed me into the inner circle of family gatherings, of which there were a few each month. The Danes I knew cared about their careers, and work shared a place at the table with their social lives and personal passions. I envied their balanced lives, especially since I grew up and went to college in the fast-paced Northeastern United States. It is a lifestyle that is now stitched into my own value set.”

studying abroad in denmark

 

What have you done since you studied abroad?

“I now live in Madrid, Spain, where I am teaching English to students of all ages. Returning to the US for my senior year was the beginning of my quest for an international career, on which this is a stop. I hope that obtaining my master’s in a subject like political sociology will open up more permanent opportunities abroad. This is opposed to being caught in yearly cycles of paperwork to maintain a lifestyle in which I thrive.

Thriving isn’t simple, however. Gone is the gentle hand that guided me through study abroad’s classrooms full of Americans and carefully curated host family matches. Madrid has matched me up against some of the greatest challenges of my life. It’s all been in the name of the international career I crave. Yet, I find myself handling each roadblock with greater grace, and have built up resilience reserves that I couldn’t have imagined for myself three years ago. Through it all, the grand prize of living internationally remains luminous.”

What advice would you give to someone who wants to study abroad?

“Disconnect from life Stateside as much as possible: friends, family, and the foods you’re craving will be there when you return. Of course, it’s important to manage the presence of these two worlds rather than ignoring one or the other, but if you must lose yourself somewhere, choose where you are in the moment. Appreciate the tiny differences and seek to understand the complexities of those that present challenges. These challenges are not insurmountable. However, viewing them through strictly an American lens is another means of getting lost in translation.

studying abroad in copenhagen denmark

During my early weeks of studying abroad in Copenhagen, Denmark, I was constantly in contact with my friends back at home for innocent reasons. I wanted to share my awe with the people who mattered most. I was often frustrated when their reactions to my tales of Copenhagen didn’t match my own. Focusing on relationships with my host family and friends abroad eased my frustrations. Even when disagreements arose, we could have more complex conversations about them since we were living through this unique experience together. Difficulties became more navigable as I learned how and with who I should bring them up.”

Study Abroad in Copenhagen, Denmark is an Experience

Ellen shared that studying abroad in Copenhagen, Denmark changed her life for the better. It not only helped her form a more internationally-focused mind. It also gave her a different perspective that she might not have had, had she not lived in such a different culture. Her host family continues to inspire and encourage her. She looks forward to her next steps after her third year of teaching in Madrid, Spain. For now, she is enjoying her moments abroad soaking in Spanish fiestas, tapas, and cafes!

 

Essential Tips for Studying Abroad: VLOG

by Zoe Ezechiels

Tips for Studying AbroadMio Matsumoto was born in Tokyo, Japan. She is one of three children, with a younger sister and an older brother. Her mother works at an office in Tokyo while her father works at a shipping company. Her dad’s job led her to living in New Jersey and Thailand when she was younger, allowing her to explore the world at a young age. She enjoys walking her two rambunctious poodles, going on adventures with her friends, and playing basketball.

Mio studies hospitality at Waseda University in Tokyo, Japan. Japanese people do not commonly pick hospitality as a major. Mio wanted to forge her own path to her dreams. She plans to head into the tourism industry and work for a famous hotel or an international airline.

Year-Long Exchange Studying Abroad

Part of the curriculum before graduating from Waseda University with a degree in hospitality is going on a year-long exchange and studying abroad. The two countries she had in mind were Spain or the United States. She wanted to improve her Spanish first and foremost. However, since her dad now lives in Mexico, she figured she’d be able to go on vacation there and practice Spanish while experiencing what the United States had to offer. So, the United States became the clear choice for her. The fact that FSU is the 26th university in the nation stood out to her and she found herself part of the international student community in Tallahassee.

If you haven’t read her interview already, check out her amazing interview about university life living abroad. In this video, Mio shares tips essential for living and studying abroad. While these tips can apply for studying abroad in a variety of places, Florida can be a bit unique, especially when it comes to the weather! Always make sure to check the weather before leaving. Check it out!

Tips Essential for Studying Abroad

 

Michelle Futo Talks Studying in Switzerland

Michelle Futo studied abroad in Leysin, Switzerland. She was raised in Coral Springs, Florida, USA and currently resides in Tallahassee, FL where she works at the Florida State University Career Center. There, she is the Assistant Director for Mock Interviews and Employer Development. Michelle earned her undergraduate degree at Florida State University where she majored in instructional systems and learning technology.

During Michelle’s undergraduate years, she participated in FSU International Programs’ hospitality study abroad program. It was during this program in Leysin, Switzerland that she realized her passion for traveling abroad. Michelle adopted a new travel perspective inspired by her spontaneous excursions during her time abroad. She carried this perspective with her to the U.S. where Michelle continued to dream of her next trip abroad. Read more to learn where her dream will take her next!

What sparked your dream to travel abroad?

“I feel traveling abroad is truly the best way to learn about yourself and grow as a person. Traveling requires a blend of flexibility and planning. It requires courage and fear of the unknown. When I learned about the Leysin, Switzerland program, I immediately knew I wanted to participate. I had always dreamed of visiting Switzerland. The program provided a lot of free time for independent travel which was ideal.”

What were your expectations before you left? How have they changed?

“I expected to have a lot more pre-planned excursions prior to leaving the United States. However, upon arrival in Switzerland, I decided to be more spontaneous with my independent travel plans. I planned excursions based on my weekly interests. In doing so, I was able to visit over nine countries and 21 cities in just five weeks! I took that approach to heart. It’s the approach I use now when I plan international trips. I like to plan where I’ll be staying, but leave my days open. This way, I can ask locals what they recommend while I check everything out upon arrival. I tend to not get stuck in tourist trap areas.”

What did you not expect?

“I did not expect Switzerland – actually, most of Europe – to be so environmentally friendly. They charge for plastic bags, have recycling bins on lots of street corners, and overall seem to be more connected to climate change issues than the U.S. I appreciated the environmental intentionality. I wish my home country felt the same.”

What’s your next step?

“After studying abroad, it solidified my desire to want to work abroad for six months to one year. Teaching, interning, studying, or working odd jobs abroad sounds wonderful. Ideally, I’d like to head back to Switzerland. My next step is preparing my application materials to international universities and international internships to hopefully begin in Fall 2019.”

What advice would you give to a student with the dream to study abroad?

“Do whatever it takes to make it happen. Work two jobs, or skip eating out once or twice a week. Save your money for truly impactful experiences. Look into resources to help you achieve your dream. Most universities allow students to study abroad through their programs, regardless of whether you are a student of theirs or not. Do your research, save money and make it happen!”

 

Pre-Departure From Kuwait to the United States

As a soon-to-be student, there were a few things I had to do prior to my departure date. I had to get my papers documented from the Kuwait Culture Office (Kuwait Embassy) and I had to do some research. Before I left, I wanted to learn more about the place where I’d be spending the upcoming few years of my life in: Tampa, FL. I felt it was a good idea to familiarize myself with Tampa Bay’s surroundings.

Beginning Steps

Before I came to the United States, I looked for an apartment online, ahead of time. I wanted to make sure that I found one that fit my needs (before the good ones were filled and booked by my fellow students). Also, I began to look for car dealerships online in order to compare the prices. I knew that I would have to have a car to get around. Since I was going to be in Tampa for a long time, I decided to get a car.

Closer to the Trip

Kuwait moving study abroad looking apartment

I booked the airline ticket that would get me to the United States and, of course, the domestic airline ticket. The first flight would land in New York, and the second, domestic flight would take me to Florida. There were a few days between my flights and move-in day at my new apartment, so I booked a hotel room to spend the first few nights in.

Packing to Leave Kuwait

When it came to packing, I avoided making the mistake of packing a lot of things. I took only the essentials that would be hard to find in the United States (head scarfs, for example). When it comes to bathroom essentials that we Muslims use, there is good news! The handheld version for the toilet is found in Home Depot (in-store or online). There is no need to buy different types of bidet sprayers to bring with you from Kuwait (like I did) in order to see which one fits your apartment’s toilet. In short, relax; the one sold in the United States fits all bidets!

Bring Reminders of Home

One last thought; since I was about to embark on a new journey that would last up to 5 years, I wanted to collect personal souvenirs and mementoes from all of my family members and friends. I bought blank, white cards and different colors of Sharpies so I could collect their thoughts. They wrote words of inspiration and motivational quotes to help get me through the next few years. Then, I put all of the cards in sealed envelopes. I am to read one every time I feel homesick or sad. If you try it, it will surely give you a sense of warmth! You can also personalize a wall in your apartment with beautiful writings from your loved ones!

quotes from friends study abroad kuwait

by Dalal Boland

Zoe Ezechiels Talks Studying in Seoul

Zoe Ezechiels’ hometown is Sarasota, Florida. She is a senior at Florida State University where she majors in both Media and Communication Studies and B.A Theatre. Zoe just got back from Seoul, South Korea. There, she studied abroad at Sookmyung Women’s University. Zoe signed up for Global Exchange, Florida State University (FSU), a program that offers “a unique opportunity for cultural immersion” to degree-seeking students enrolled at FSU. She has a passion for veganism, Korean YouTubers, and studying abroad.

With a positive, open-minded attitude that every traveler needs to truly embrace new cultures and experiences, Zoe embraced the challenge of being a vegan abroad. However, this predicament is made all the more difficult in a country whose culture is built around the communion of barbecues. She often cooked for herself and still managed to cultivate a community with those around her. Read more to learn how Zoe’s travel roots led her to other unexpected surprises in South Korea.

What sparked your dream to travel abroad and study in Seoul, South Korea?

“I have wanted to go abroad since I was young. Born in Norway, I moved to the U.S. when I was about four years old. Travel wasn’t something new for me. I grew up listening to stories of my parents’ explorations. My dad explored Trinidad and Tobago, San Francisco, and Europe. My mom explored Europe and the United States. Their chance love happened because they both loved traveling.”

“Even though I knew I always wanted to travel abroad, I didn’t know specifically where I wanted to go.  It wasn’t until I started watching a bunch of Korean YouTubers and getting interested in Korean culture that I knew I had to go study in Korea.”

What were your expectations before you left? How have they changed?

“I didn’t go into the experience with many expectations, but I had a few big ones. They completely changed when I first arrived in Seoul. First, I thought picking up the language would be way easier than it turned out to be. It was extremely rewarding once I did begin to pick it up, however. Secondly, I thought it would be harder to adjust to living in a completely new country all by myself. Fortunately, with the help of lovely friends and mentors, I quickly thrived. I was like a fish in water.”

What did you not expect?

“I didn’t expect the air pollution to be so bad during the spring months in Korea. I had to wear face masks March until June and was severely disappointed by this. The winter was also extremely brutal. My hands and elbows dried up painfully during December, but the snow was beautiful.”

What’s your next step?

“I plan to return to South Korea in the future. This is because I’d like to continue my education in graduate school, through a scholarship program for foreign students. If not this, I’d like to find the opportunity to work in the country, preferably doing something that involves TV broadcasting.”

What advice would you give to a student with the dream to study abroad?

“Keep all your ducks in a row when preparing. Make sure that you are on top of everything, from paperwork to finances. At the end of the day, you’re the one making the trip, so it’s your responsibility to get everything completed on time. That being said, there are resources for you to utilize at your university. Please take advantage of them. Asking for help can be so relieving, especially when you’re feeling overwhelmed. Also, look in every nook and cranny for scholarships. They can be in the most unexpected places. Try your foreign university and your domestic one, as well as some foreign and domestic companies. Studying abroad in Seoul, South Korea was a trip well worth it.”

by Dreams Abroad