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Caroline Murphy

About My Study Abroad Program

Major/Minor: Quantitative Biology major/Applied Sciences and Engineering minor
Program: Erasmus University Rotterdam, Exchange
Location: Rotterdam, Netherlands
Term: Spring 2020


Why did you choose to study abroad and how did you select your program?
The thought of traveling and meeting people from all over the world has always been thrilling to me since I was a kid, so the opportunity years later, to study abroad in college was beyond exciting. I wanted to have the full experience of living in a new country, sitting in a classroom of locals, and being able to meet new people everyday. The exchange opportunity and multicultural side of a big city like Rotterdam was a great match for me.


What did you learn about yourself?
I learned how independent and adventurous I can be. Going to college in my hometown, made studying abroad even more meaningful and really gave me room to grow as a person. I found it fascinating to meet people from every single continent (except for Antarctica) during my trip and hear all the stories they had to tell.


What is one of your favorite memories from your program?
Biking into the city at night for the first time. It’s a rush of senses from being surrounded by the city center’s skyscrapers to crossing bridges and feeling the wind blowing off the river and seeing the city skyline lit up on the horizon. At the same time, there’s also a calming feeling from the cool night air and reassurance you won’t randomly get hit by a car because of all the separate bike lanes the Netherlands created to highlight their attitudes about bike safety. I quickly fell in love with my bike and used it for nearly everything from groceries to meetings to exploring new places in the city with friends.


What advice do you have for future study abroad students?
It’s okay to be uncertain! You will face lots of new challenges and often be pushed outside of your comfort zone, but it just means that you are growing. Branch out in everything you do and don’t hesitate to ask for help, try new things or strike up a conversation with the locals.


How do you identify?
Student of color


Could you share any experiences where your identity played a role in your time abroad?
As an Asian with a dark skin complexion who loves field hockey, a sport predominantly played by white female athletes, I felt extremely lucky and grateful to find a Dutch hockey club with a focus on racial equity that made me feel so supported from day one. The HC Feijenoord team really cared for each other and would always give me rides to practice, so I wouldn’t be biking at night because they were concerned about my safety. These are the connections that made me feel like I had a home away from home.


Is there any advice you would give to other students who share your identity?
There is a place and space for everyone abroad. Researching, planning ahead, and keeping up to date with the news are helpful tools in making informed decisions and feeling more comfortable in any new setting. You will meet all kinds of people abroad, with all kinds of views, who will surely make you an incredibly empathetic and well rounded person. Make new friends and cherish the ones who appreciate you for who you are.


If you faced any challenges abroad, where could you turn to get the support you needed?
My family and friends back home were always a video call away and my roommates abroad were also internationals from other countries, so we were able to experience lots of new and similar things together. The Study Abroad Office at UNC and my host university were also supportive and responsive, especially when a epidemic turned to a pandemic.