Reflecting on Life Abroad
All too often these days, I find myself scrolling through my study abroad photos on social media, reminiscing about the breathtaking stone architecture, the worldwide friendships I made, and the overall experience of living in a foreign country. Studying abroad in college was always a dream of mine, now reflecting on the experience a month after returning back home, knowing I actually did spend three and a half months in Europe still feels unreal!
Studying abroad was indeed one of the best times of my life, but also one of hardest. Read more about my life abroad below!
Life Inside the Classroom at UNYP
There’s no better place to gain insight on international business than being immersed in it.
As a Hospitality and Tourism Management major here at UMass Amherst, studying abroad was one of the most beneficial educational experiences I’ve ever had, and I saw tremendous academic growth. As people always say, it's one thing to learn about a topic, but another thing to be completely immersed in it.
During my time at the University of New York in Prague, I was immersed in a truly global culture: interacting and collaborating with peers and faculty from around the world. Two courses I took while abroad that I found to be very important to my major and interests were Principles of Marketing and E-Commerce and Marketing Technologies. In all of my courses at UNYP we were encouraged to work with our peers, as this helps mimic the real world work environment. In both marketing courses, I worked on semester-long projects focusing on the Czech and International Markets, while working with students from around the world.
Self Development Outside of the Classroom
Adjusting to Life in a Foreign City
Outside of the classroom, I gained important skills living as a foreigner in the Czech Republic. Even the simplest of chores such as grocery shopping and doing laundry had an extra layer of complexity, and required adaptation and problem solving. Life abroad certainly wasn’t easy and I had my fair share of tears — calling my mom when everything seemed too foreign — but also had many of my fondest moments — watching the sunset over the city, finding cute cafes on every corner, and walking through the cobblestone streets. Over time things got easier, as I grew more confident with my surroundings and the friendships I shared with my peers. Living in a new country even helped me become more grateful for what I had back home, as I learned what parts of my hometown I missed while being away for a long period of time.
Making the Most of my Weekends
One of my favorite parts about studying abroad were all of the travel opportunities I got on the weekends! During my weekend travels, I got to do things I’d only seen on TV and heard about in the media: I saw the Eastern Alps, went to the Narnia filming site, climbed cathedrals and castles, and went to postcard worthy destinations. For most of my trips I solo traveled, staying in hostels and meeting people from around the world along the way. Solo traveling actually pushed me to be more social with strangers I don't think I would’ve been able to connect with if I’d been in a group. Never in a million years would I have imagined solo traveling Europe at the age of 20, but gained tremendous independence through doing so and am so thankful I did!
Applying my Knowledge and Experiences Professionally
From a professional standpoint, I believe that studying abroad had a tremendous impact on my overall outlook on a lot of things and I gained a lot of critical thinking skills: both in the classroom and out. I was challenged to see things from a different perspective, as I interacted with locals from all different backgrounds and was immersed in a whole new culture. I think for someone going into Hospitality and Tourism Management it is critical to be able to shift your thinking to your target audience's needs, and have a worldly perspective on things. I think that the skills I learned abroad can be applied to all areas of my life, and I’m able to speak about how my experiences have set me apart from other candidates in the industry.
My Final Thoughts & Takeaways
Studying abroad taught me a lot, not from an academic standpoint, but from a personal standpoint as well, and has helped me build my personal character. If you’re questioning whether study abroad is right for you, I highly recommend pursuing it, and using the IPO office resources to help you decide which program may be a good fit. Studying abroad is an opportunity to grow- academically, professionally, socially, and personally. Everyone's experience abroad is different, but can be equally valuable and amazing.
My last three and a half months abroad flew by in a blink of an eye, but I know the memories I made and experiences I have will last me a lifetime and I consider myself extremely lucky that UMass Amherst was able to provide me with this opportunity!