Peer advisors from the Center for International Programs organized a reflection last Friday that encouraged study abroad participants to share what they learned from experiencing day-to-day life in another country.
“I think people kind of want to group time abroad as this homogenous thing when, in reality, people experience and process these things in hugely different ways,” said Hannah Kim ’17, one of the peer advisors that organized the event.
First to speak was Shelby Hopper ’18, who was in the Erlangen, Germany program. She described her experience writing a blog that detailed her travels.
Although initially intended to keep family and friends at home updated, she said, “I realized I was doing it more for myself than anyone else.”
She explained that even now, it serves as a way for her and others who went on the trip to look back on their time in Germany. “I would have forgotten all the funny, little things,” she said.
Coming to the United States from Nepal, Mansi Dahal ’17, had a different experience. She described in good humor the questions she answered from her American peers and read a poem about staying true to her Nepalese identity while studying in a country with very different customs.
“I learned that the US is not perfect either and to embrace the scars of my own country,” she said.
She also was inspired to overcome her fear of writing in English and become an English major. “Passion was buried inside my doubts,” Dahal added.
Annah Freudenberg ’17, gave advice on switching up the routine people inevitably get into while studying abroad.
“I found my favorite running routes, my favorite side streets, my favorite time of day,” she said, explaining that she stuck with these out of comfort and a sense of pride.
She recalled that it took attending the house warming party of her hip host cousin to take her out of her comfort zone.
“It’s spontaneity, chance, or some combination therein that creates favorite memories,” Freudenberg said.
Last to speak was Malikah Mahone ’17, whose connection to her study abroad country of Senegal was special.
Born in New Orleans, Mahone had lived in Senegal for two years as a child before moving to New York. When she discovered K had an abroad program in the country, she was sold, citing it as one of the major reasons she chose to come here.
While abroad, the opportunity arose for her to have coffee with her birth father that she had never met. She is grateful to K for facilitating this opportunity, and in recounting the experience of meeting him as well as other family members, she said, “I was crying because I was about to discover an entire lineage.”
Kim felt that the reflection was a success. “I think acknowledging and being cognizant of differences and not trying to totalize the experience of being abroad is pretty important,” she said. “These sort of community reflections kind of take a step in the right direction of opening avenues of participation and communication to try to change things for the better.”