About My Study Abroad Program
Major/Minor: Statistics & Analytics major, Russian Culture minor
Program: University of Sussex
Location: Brighton, England
Term: Fall 2019
Why did you choose to study abroad and how did you select your program?
I chose to study abroad mainly because I wanted to experience a culture difference from my own. I had briefly traveled outside of America before I went abroad, but I did not spend enough time in any location to really see how different people live, so I really just wanted to be immersed in a place and a culture I was not familiar with. The University of Sussex appealed to me because, as a Statistics major, it was difficult for me to find programs in Europe that taught STEM classes in English. Most schools I looked at either had Statistics classes but in a language I didn't know, or had English classes that did not pertain to what I am studying. I found that the University of Sussex offered classes I needed and since it is in England, I could understand the language. And I knew that I wanted to go somewhere that was less touristy than some larger cities so I could be more immersed in the culture, so with classes I needed and being located in Brighton, the University of Sussex seemed like a perfect fit for me.
What did you learn about yourself?
I think the biggest thing I learned about myself is how I deal with being out of my element. I am a very independent and reserved person and I typically don't engage in activities that put me out of my comfort zone, so going to a new country to live with a bunch of strangers was a pretty big step for me. When I arrived at my new living accommodations abroad I had the decision to either force myself to socialize with the other students I was living with or to stay by myself and figure out going to a new school alone (which I would have normally done.) But I did push myself out of my comfort zone and I made a real effort to make friends with the students I lived with, but I am so thankful I did because it gave me some of the best friendships and memories that I have ever had. Studying abroad made me realize that I am more capable of handling scary situations than I thought I was, and it has truly given me more confidence to go beyond what I am familiar with.
What is one of your favorite memories from your program?
I have a ton of amazing memories from my program, but my favorite is definitely just the time spent with the friends I made abroad. I lived with about 50 other international students and I loved every one of them, but a few of them became some of my best friends in the world. One of my friends had a larger room than the rest of us, so my close group of friends would gather in his room a few times a week to have movie and tea nights. It sounds like I could have had this experience anywhere, but spending time with the people on my program is a memory I will cherish because I would not have met so many people that are so dear to me if I had not gone abroad. The times we would take turns picking out movies and stay up all night talking and drinking tea and just spending time together is definitely my favorite memory from my program.
What advice do you have for future study abroad students?
My biggest piece of advice for future study abroad students is to keep an open mind about your program and not limit yourself to your expectations. I am a pretty independent person and I expected that I would do a lot of traveling and exploring by myself and I was completely fine with that, but I ended up making such good friends that I had just a good of time enjoying their company at home instead of doing all of the adventurous things I had planned on doing. I still traveled and had a blast doing that, but I truly loved the time I spent doing nothing exciting and just spending time with new friends. My study abroad experience was not anything like I expected it would be, but it turned out to be amazing and I'm glad that I let events play out instead of trying to force the study abroad experience that I had imagined for myself. So I would definitely recommend that future study abroad students keep an open mind because your experience might not turn out to be exactly what you expected, but that might cause you to have the best experience of your life instead.
Would you do it again?
I would do it again in a heartbeat. I had the best three months of my life while I was abroad.
How were your classes abroad different than if you would have taken them at UNC?
By taking classes abroad, I got to experience a different view point on topics that I was studying than I get at UNC. For example, I took a course titled "The African American Experience" so as per the name, it dealt with a lot of American history. It was strange learning about American history and issues from a British professor, especially since I have grown up being at least somewhat familiar with all of the material covered, but it allowed me to see how non-Americans interpret American history and culture which I found really interesting. I was able have discussions with people from around the world about how American really is vs how it is perceived by other people, which added a whole new dimension to my learning that I could not have really gotten at UNC. Even in STEM classes that I took abroad that had nothing to do with America, there was still the aspect of comparing American vs European education and culture with other students, which definitely made me think about the way I learned information in the context of how they learned. So I think overall, taking classes abroad was mainly different than taking them at UNC because it allowed me to see an aspect of subjectivity and personalization in material that is otherwise pretty objective.
If you faced any challenges abroad, where could you turn to get the support you needed?
I didn't face any challenges abroad so this question is not very applicable to me, but I know UNC offered a lot of resources even though I was abroad. I felt very secure that UNC would have provided me with support should I have needed it.