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Ike Keku

About My Study Abroad Program

Major/Minor: Biomedical and Health Sciences Engineering
Program: Scotland: Innovation and the NHS
Location: Edinburgh, Scotland
Term: Summer 2022


Why did you choose to study abroad and how did you select your program?
"I chose this program because I believe it will allow me to not only experience education in a different country but to go overseas for the first time in my life. I wanted to expand my comfort zone by placing myself in an unfamiliar environment with hopes that I would build comfort as well as an understanding of a different culture. By participating in the Burch Scotland program, I believed I would learn the demographics and geography of Scotland, a country that I have had an interest in visiting for a couple of years, through my own point of view. More importantly to me, I will go through this experience alongside other program participants, who may share the same personal objectives as me. Edinburgh is one of the most unique and memorable cities in the United Kingdom and as I've read it doubles in size during the summer because of the many festivals held in the capital. Because of this, I knew there wouldn't be a dull moment throughout the program and there would be plenty of activities to get involved in during the downtime. This program in Scotland was my first time in the UK and in the future I hope to visit other UK countries as well."


What did you learn about yourself?
"Perspective is an important thought to consider when undergoing a situation. Growing up in the U.S. and not moving around too much, it was easy to fit myself into groups that I for the most part shared an identity with. Going overseas for the first time, I had to consider different perspectives to feel more comfortable and sociable with people abroad. By doing this, I virtually reshaped my personality. I can't say I returned from the UK the same person I was when I applied for the program. Anticipation, expectations, and reality were the conductors of the emotional rollercoaster I endured abroad. Through this ride I faced anxiety, joy, disappointment, and many other feelings. I learned that I wasn't comfortable with changing myself, but I also learned how to mold myself to be a better me. One of the first steps of this process: learning how to take a look at things from a different point of view."


What is one of your favorite memories from your program?
During our time in Dundee, a city in Scotland, we hiked to the top of Dundee Law, the highest point in the city. What made it more memorable was the fact that it wasn't planned. After a couple of days in Dundee we had a mixer with students at the University of Dundee. One of the Dundee students wanted to show us around Dundee a little bit, so me and three other students from UNC followed her. She pointed to the memorial on top of Dundee Law and told us we were going to hike up there. We were under the impression that the trek would be short, sweet, and scenic, so we went through with it. Turns out it was only scenic. About an hour and three sets of VERY steep stairs later, with a couple of needed breaks in between, we finally reached the top. The view of the city made it well worth it. We took a lot of pictures and returned days later with the rest of the group from the program.


What advice do you have for future study abroad students?
"Take a chance. You might not have the opportunity to study abroad in the future. Don't let fear over take you. Many people have said studying abroad was one of the most memorable experiences of their life and after my time abroad I can see why. Use it as an opportunity to be outside your comfort zone. Keep in mind your reasons for studying abroad and embrace new experiences. You might embarrass yourself, but don't stress about it. You're getting comfortable in an environment you're not used to. If you feel homesick, try and keep yourself busy. Take the time to appreciate where you are. Find your balance; put time aside for studying and exploring. Things to keep in mind: research/download travel apps, figure out your data roaming situation early (before you land), save money, make sure to bring the right adapters, keep your paperwork and other personal items safe and close to you at all times, use your student card to your advantage as many places offer student discounts, pack medicine as certain medications may not be available abroad, be mindful of the weather and dress accordingly, and use the buddy system when going out. Most importantly, don't expect anything. If you set your expectations too high, you may disappoint yourself during your time abroad, which may add to any uncertainties you may have. You may or may not make friends, but that's okay. Put in the effort, be spontaneous, and take advantage of going on short trips on the weekends/during extended break periods. All in all, weigh the pros and cons. Studying abroad is not for everyone, but if you believe it's for you, take the chance."


How do you identify?
Student of color


Could you share any experiences where your identity played a role in your time abroad?
There were cases where it was more challenging to connect with people on a personal level because the population of the black community was sparse, but nevertheless people were really friendly. In communities like these, people aren't used to seeing those of a different race and background. The locals were generally open, warm, and polite people. I didn't feel like I stuck out as much as I thought I would, which is welcoming.


Is there any advice you would give to other students who share your identity?
Although I met people from all walks of life while abroad, few were people of color, and, taking my identity in mind, few were black. This shouldn't discourage you from traveling abroad. Though there may not be many, there are indeed people in your study location that will share your identity. While you're abroad, take the opportunity to talk to people, go to local cafes, volunteer, check out events, and go out with other people in your program. Also, make sure to keep in touch with any friends you make while abroad; you never know if you'll reunite with them in the future.


If you faced any challenges abroad, where could you turn to get the support you needed?
If possible, try talking to students and faculty at your study location that you share an identity with. There are also a variety of resources provided by UNC concerning identity-related challenges ( These resources may offer you the support you need when faced with these types of challenges.