Skip to main content

Olivia Waters

About My Study Abroad Program

Major/Minor: Economics/Global Studies: Economics
Program: API: Business, Humanities, and Social Sciences Program
Location: Lisbon, Portugal
Term: Spring 2019


Why did you choose to study abroad and how did you select your program?
I've never considered myself much of a homebody and I always thought the idea of going abroad sounded intriguing and exciting. However, I had no idea where I wanted to go. I narrowed it down to Europe because the EU makes it extremely easy to travel from country to country. Additionally, I am a Global Studies student and I wanted to get language credit abroad. Since Portuguese is a romance language, I was interested in learning it. Between that and the weather, I was almost sold. Finally, Anthony Bourdain did an episode on Portugal on his television show No Reservations that I watched when I was little. All of the food looked so delicious that it was the cherry on top for me!


What did you learn about yourself?
Initially I thought that by the time the end of June came around I would be excited to go home. However, I was not. While I miss my family and friends, I fell in love with Portuguese and European culture so much that I decided to remain in Europe all summer (which is where I am now). I have also learned that I really like to know what is going on around me. Since I have been in Italy and Portugal, two countries where I am not fluent in the languages spoken, I have learned that I value communicating with language a lot. I still get nervous having to order food or talk to a store clerk and sometimes I even avoid it.


What is one of your favorite memories from your program?
One of my favorite memories was actually with my program advisor. He was young, had an office at our University, and since my program was really small, he became close with all of us. One day I stopped by his office to get a form signed and we ended up going to get a coffee. The coffee turned into a 2 hour long conversation about cultural, political, and educational differences in our countries. I feel like I learned so much in that little conversation than I did in a lot of my classes and it helped me to realize how important experiencing and trying to understand different cultures is for growth as a person.


What advice do you have for future study abroad students?
Normally when someone goes on a trip they're going going going all the time. They're always out doing things because they have a limited amount of time to be abroad. Living abroad is different in that, if you act the same way as you do when you go on a short trip, you will completely burn yourself out. You have to give yourself time to relax and rejuvenate when you're abroad. Every once in a while it is okay to watch Netflix or lay in bed on a sunny day. Just don't make it an everyday habit because the months will fly by faster than you can believe.


Would you do it again?
Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes!


How were your classes abroad different than if you would have taken them at UNC?
The biggest difference I can think of is that at UNC I am used to having small reading assignments, projects, and other mandatory check-ins throughout the semester. While they can seem somewhat unnecessary at the time, I typically feel at least a little prepared when it is time for a large paper, or exam. In Portugal students aren't even required to go to class (even though most do). I had almost zero checkin assignments during the semester and most of my classes had 1-2 exams, projects, or papers that made up the entirety of my grade. Additionally, some of my exams were very hard and required a lot of studying beforehand.