About My Study Abroad Program
Major/Minor: Political Science/Journalism; Minor in Biology
Program: Danish Institute for Study Abroad
Location: Stockholm, Sweden; Copenhagen, Denmark
Term: Summer 2019
Why did you choose to study abroad and how did you select your program?
I always knew I wanted to study abroad, but picking a program was difficult. A lot of programs sounded great to me and I was interested in traveling pretty much anywhere, so narrowing down my list took time. I eventually decided on DIS and did the first part of my program in Stockholm and the second part in Copenhagen. As an outdoor enthusiast, I was attracted to Scandinavia at first for the amazing natural environment. What I also loved about the program was that I would get to experience life in two similar but distinct places. Both cities embodied very different aspects of Nordic culture, which I was so excited to experience. Since Scandinavia is consistently ranked as one of the happiest regions in the world, I wanted to learn about their beliefs on a life well spent.
What did you learn about yourself?
I learned that I have a lot more mental strength than I thought! I am terrified of flying. Normally to get on a plane, I take the strongest sleeping pills I can find and hope for the best. But when I was abroad, I couldn't really do that. For one thing, I often had things scheduled after my flights that I needed to be awake for, and for another, I needed to stay aware when flying alone. All told, I took fifteen flights over the course of two months. I had easy short flights on big planes, and I also had long flights on planes so small you walked out onto the tarmac and climbed onto the plane that way. But I did all of them and I was fine. I wouldn't say that I'm over my fear of flying – getting on the plane was never particularly enjoyable. But, I learned that doing the things that I want to do sometimes means also doing things that scare me, and I learned how to deal with that fear.
What is one of your favorite memories from your program?
My class in Copenhagen took a study tour to Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina and it was easily both my favorite part and the best thing I've ever done. Switching from the high standard of living in Scandinavia to life in BiH, which is still physically scarred from the war in the 1990s, made me apprehensive at first. But I very quickly felt like Bosnia opened its heart to us and I fell in love with the amazing culture there. On our last day in Bosnia, some people from my class and I went souvenir shopping in the old market square. I bought a Bosnian copper bracelet in one shop, and as I was paying, the copper worker who owned the shop asked why we were visiting Bosnia. When we explained that we were studying the Bosnian War, he immediately started to tell us his memories of the war from when he was a child and showed us a scar on his leg sustained during the Siege of Sarajevo. We ended up spending a while talking with him about his thoughts on the current state in Bosnia and getting a deeper appreciation for how much the country has healed since the war and how much further healing is still needed. Going from learning about the Bosnian War through lectures and textbooks to hearing firsthand accounts from people who lived through the war was an amazing experience that I'll always treasure.
What advice do you have for future study abroad students?
Don't be afraid to do stuff alone! Don't get me wrong, definitely get to know the people on your program. I made some amazing friends on my study abroad who I love deeply. But, on my program's long weekend in Stockholm, my friends and I had different plans. I wanted to go hike in Norway, a lifelong dream of mine, and they wanted to visit Budapest. I ended up deciding that I would travel to Norway alone and it was one of the most special weekends of my life. Not only was it an amazing experience to reconnect with myself in spectacular settings, it allowed me to gain a great deal of comfort in choosing to do things that I want to do. When I reconnected with my friends after the weekend, one friend told me about a museum in Budapest that she desperately wanted to visit, but since the others weren't interested, she skipped it because she didn't want to go alone. She told me about how much she regretted not going to the museum. All in all, the experience reminded me that a big part of study abroad is personal growth. If you want to do something that you think will be good for you, don't be afraid to be the only one doing it!
Would you do it again?
In a heartbeat!