During my time in college, I got the opportunity to go on a faculty-led, short-term study abroad program with EF College Study. At the time it was important to me to find a way to study abroad in college because I wanted to expose myself to as many different life experiences as possible. I wanted to see the world from a different perspective, get out of my comfort zone, learn about different cultures, and of course taste the variety of foods that this planet has to offer. However, the only way I knew that would be possible is if I went abroad. Below is my story.
When I was 4 years old my family made the tough decision to move to the States. I grew up dreaming of exploring the world but knew that being an undocumented immigrant had its challenges. That all changed in 2012 when I was blessed with my American citizenship; opening my world to endless possibilities. That same year I began my journey at Valencia and I started to toy with the idea of traveling to another country.
My family was not very well off and I was just beginning my adult life. I’m not going to lie, I was initially a bit discouraged when I saw the price tag of the program my school was offering in partnership with EF College Study. I didn’t know if I would be able to afford such a trip. Luckily, I had an amazing professor who showed me all the help available to me when it came to financing my program and making it a reality. I was even awarded a scholarship that paid for a portion of my trip. None of this would have happened if I didn’t put the time into researching and asking for help to find the answers I needed. When we had our first group meeting the excitement in the air was unexplainable. I was finally going to a city I had only ever dreamed of!
My favorite part of my trip was when I ordered food at an Italian restaurant for the first time. In addition to ordering my all-time favorite food, pizza, I decided I also wanted to enjoy a dish of Chicken Alfredo. I remember sitting down at the table looking through the menu trying to search for a word that might imply alfredo sauce was included. After scanning the menu for some time, I decided to ask the waiter if they had any recommendations. To my surprise, alfredo sauce was not something he was familiar with. I was so surprised to learn that something I had once believed to be an authentic Italian dish, was not so widely known in Italy! It’s funny when your perception of “Italian food” changes when you are there yourself to experience it and learn from the locals.
Six years later and I now work for a very well-known travel company. I interact with people from all over the world every day. I know what it’s like to feel a bit overwhelmed, yet so eager to explore. Because of my personal experiences of traveling abroad, I feel that I can better empathize with the people I encounter on a day to day basis at work. I remember what it was like for me to be in a foreign country trying to communicate with people who didn’t even speak my language and can channel that experience any time I see a situation where someone may be stepping outside of their own comfort zone for the first time as well. My experiences abroad have benefited me in so many ways in my professional and personal life.
I cannot stress how important it is to have programs like this available to all youth, especially in college — a critical time of life where individuals are discovering who they are and who they want to become. I believe it is a truly humbling experience essential for growth.
If I could offer a piece of advice for any future traveler is to be brave! I know leaving the United States can feel intimidating, but my advice to you is don’t get discouraged, even when it comes to figuring out finances! If you want to go, there is a way to make it happen. Allow yourself to grow and be uncomfortable at times. Trust me it will all be worth it in the end.
Ready to make your short-term study abroad dreams a reality? Browse short-term study abroad programs with EF College Study here.