SUNY Oswego students write essays sharing their experiences abroad
Studying abroad is a journey, one of the mind as well as the body.
Some SUNY Oswego students found that to be true.
Traveling to various countries, they learned about the history, enjoyed the foods and even made friendships that will last long after their college careers are over.
The trips abroad challenged them to step out of their comfort zone, they said.
The lessons they learned abroad will shape their academic pursuits and personal growth.
Studying abroad is full of many opportunities and moments of growth, one student said. By being immersed in a new culture, you learn to adapt to a completely different environment that’s full of excitement and life lessons.
The experience made them cherish every moment spent with those around you and to be mindful of the present — because, as one student said, “life is best lived outside of your comfort zone.”
‘Culture Shock Is a Real Thing’
Studying in Barcelona, Spain, in fall 2022
Senior | Hometown: Morrisville
Studying abroad is the opportunity of a lifetime and one that taught me so much about myself and the world around me. I learned many valuable life lessons in my four months in Barcelona, Spain, that have changed the way I see the world and the way I live my life.
The first and most important lesson I learned is that life is best lived outside of your comfort zone. Choosing to travel to a country I had never been to without knowing anybody there was definitely not inside my comfort zone. It was scary and I had no idea what would happen. But I knew it would be great and it ended up being the best leap of faith I have ever taken.
I quickly learned while I was there the same principle applied and the leaps of faith and the risks taken were some of the best experiences of my life. Say yes to as much as possible — you will rarely regret it! Keeping safety in mind of course; obviously do not say yes to unsafe situations.
The second thing I learned during my time abroad is that people really are amazing. It is such a beautiful opportunity to meet and get to know people from all around the world. In my time in Spain I met people from many different countries including Germany, Norway, Scotland and more! In fact, my roommate while abroad was from Tarragona, Spain, and she is now one of my best friends in the whole world! Everyone has something beautiful to share with you and I never once regretted taking the chance to get to know somebody new. You never know who you might meet, so don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. You might just meet your best friend.
Another lesson I learned was that just because something is different doesn’t mean it is bad. Culture shock is a real thing and if you are living in a different country for an extended period of time it is very likely that you will experience it at some point in time. Every country is different and has a different way of doing things. The cultural and dialect differences can sometimes be a bit overwhelming, but just because it is different doesn’t mean it is bad.
There is so much beauty in learning to live in a different way than you’re used to. Do your best to embrace the cultural differences. Use it as an opportunity to grow as a person and learn as much as possible.
Overall studying abroad is an incredible experience. It is an opportunity to learn more about the world and to grow as a person. If you have the opportunity don’t pass it up!
‘I Loved Being in a Completely New Place’
Trip to Spain was short but rewarding
Junior | Hometown: New Paltz
If I was to be totally honest, my entire trip became very meaningful for me. My trip only lasted a month — but I felt like I had been away for so much longer.
I traveled to Spain in the summer for an art program. We took two classes while there and the teachers and experiences we had were incredible.
We got to travel so much while in Spain because of our history class. Going to museums and historical cities was one of my favorite parts of the trip. Traveling and experiencing new things was the most meaningful thing for me.
I loved being in a completely new place and not just enjoying it for what it is, but also being able to learn about its history. The history teacher that we had was incredible, she knew everything about everything.
Something that heightened my experience even more was bringing my camera. At this point I already really enjoyed photography, but being able to do it in a new country was wonderful. It became one of the most meaningful things to me. Capturing such unique moments in time, while across the world. I also became sort of the group photographer.
I was able to meet new friends and that became a huge part of my trip. When I first went on the trip I didn’t even consider the fact that I would be making new friends along the way. The trip was through SUNY so there were multiple different schools that were there together. We had 12 kids on the trip. Only four were from my school. I ended up becoming very close with three of the people that were on the trip with me. I would have never expected that the friends I made during the trip would become such a big part of it.
Being able to experience a new culture with new friends became the most meaningful thing for me. I couldn’t have imagined my trip going any other way.
One of my favorite things we did as a group was travel to Barcelona. It was very special because it was organized by the students and all 12 of us figured it out together. Having free time after class and during the weekend was when we had a lot of fun. I was lucky that I had friends who were good at planning and ready for adventure. There never seemed to be a dull moment while I was away.
‘I Learned so Much About Myself as an Individual.’
Visiting Paris, Rome, Florence, Venice
Junior | Hometown: Syracuse
Studying abroad is full of many opportunities and moments of growth. By being immersed in a new culture, you learn to adapt to a completely different environment that’s full of excitement and life lessons.
I’ve had the chance to further my academics in both France and Italy; doing a semester in Paris this fall, and a quarter course to Rome, Florence and Venice in the spring of 2023. While being overseas, I learned so much about myself as an individual. I’d like to share some of the lessons that were significant during my times abroad.
One that’s imperative to studying abroad is to appreciate living in the moment. So much will be going on, it’s important to take time to enjoy where you are, what you’re doing and most importantly, who you’re with. The friends I’ve made while studying in France and Italy are truly some of the best individuals I’ve met. But we’re only together for a finite amount of time. Cherish every moment you spend with those around you and be mindful of the present.
Another lesson I find myself going back to is the idea of going out and making the city your home. This was advice given to me by my program coordinator and it’s been some of the best motivation I’ve received. In the beginning I was reserved and nervous to be in a new city. But by going out and seeing what it had to offer, it made me appreciate my surroundings and experiences more. Make the museums your living room, the parks your backyard and the restaurants your kitchen; you deserve to enjoy yourself while abroad and the best way to do so is to explore, explore, explore!
Finally, what I’d say is most important while studying overseas — try new things and travel! You’ll have the chance to eat new foods, go to new places and join in on new activities while abroad. A lot of them may seem intimidating at first, but it’s beneficial to push yourself outside of your comfort here and there. You’ll discover new interests, become more independent and prove how resolute you are!
Studying abroad is a huge step to take. However, it will undoubtedly become one of the most memorable experiences of your life. You’ll meet new people, enjoy new environments and grow as an individual. There’s a whole new world to explore, so why not see what it has to offer?
‘Semester in Japan More Than Just an Academic Endeavor’
Journeying in Japan a life-changing experience
Junior | Hometown: Bronx
Studying abroad is a journey that enriches one’s life in ways that are unimaginable.
As I a junior who is majoring in global international studies, embarked on an adventure to Japan during my spring 2023 semester. This experience has opened doors to multiple valuable lessons that have left an undeniable mark on my college life and personal growth.
First, by immersing me in Japanese vibrant culture it broadened my perspective on global interconnectedness. As a global studies major, firsthand exposure was priceless. Engaging with Japan’s rich heritage, customs and traditions has taught me the significance of cultural diversity and beauty by embracing differences.
I have conversed with locals, navigating through the bustling streets and indulging in authentic cuisine. It became more of an experience and a lesson. It was a lesson of understanding and appreciating a global mindset.
Moreover, my time in Japan has made me resilient and adaptable. Living in a foreign country, surrounded by a language and customs so different from mine, has challenged me to step out of my comfort zone. From navigating the language, the complex transit system and dealing with other obstacles presented an opportunity for personal growth. I learned to embrace uncertainty
and adapt to change
Another lesson that I have learned was the art of mindfulness which is ingrained in Japanese culture. I discovered the beauty of tranquility and simplicity. From going to temples, learning meditative art and learning traditional ceremonies such as tea ceremonies. The emphasis on mindfulness has taught me the importance of slowing down and appreciating the present moment and finding balance.
Furthermore, studying abroad has fostered invaluable connections and friendships from many different parts of the world. Interacting with many other fellow international students and making friendships with locals has cultivated a global network of multiple opportunities. Having friendships that stem from Asia all the way to Europe. Not only have these diverse friendships broadened my cultural understanding, but have provided me with a global support system continuing to be a source of inspiration that enriches my academic pursuits and personal goals. These relationships have expanded my world and enriched my college experience.
Overall, my semester in Japan was more than just an academic endeavor. It’s a life changing journey that has changed and shaped me into a more adaptable, empathetic and culturally aware individual. The lessons learned abroad will undoubtedly shape my academic pursuits and personal growth; guiding me as I navigate the complexities of the world.
‘My Five Years of Learning Italian in High School Actually Paid Off’
Week in Rome shows taste of a new culture, new way of life
By Elizabeth Mullé
Sophomore | Hometown: Babylon
I learned a lot about Italian culture, even though I was there for one week.
I learned even more about myself as well. When I enrolled in “Music of Italy,” I did not know anyone in the class, and I didn’t know what to expect.
I didn’t talk to anyone in the class for the entirety of it, I barely knew everyone’s names until we got to the airport to leave the United States.
Since everyone in the class already knew each other because they were all in the orchestra together, I felt like I was going alone. But I ended up making some pretty good friends while we were over there. I also learned that my five years of learning Italian in high school actually paid off.
I thought once I got there I would not be able to speak, and I would be too nervous. But I tried ordering food, and they actually responded in Italian.
It felt like such a compliment that all that schooling paid off. Learning about their culture is one thing, but actually experiencing it and seeing it with my own eyes created memories I will never forget. The art and architecture, food, and overall history of the entire country is something everyone should experience.
I will never forget walking into a museum and staring at a single sculpture for a half hour just drinking it all in. The food tastes so fresh and every chef takes pride in their work, even if it’s a fast-food restaurant. I have a gluten allergy, and there were so many places that were very informative on how everything was made to make sure there was no cross-contamination.
They didn’t see it as an inconvenience to accommodate others. And I think walking through a city, seeing buildings that were the birthplace of Rome, built in 753 is incredible.
Seeing the history throughout the city, and knowing that all of these churches, political buildings and other buildings were built hundreds, if not thousands of years ago, and seeing the evolution of the city before your eyes is something that everyone should experience.
Studying abroad is so much more than going away for a week, semester or year.
It is experiencing a new way of life, a new culture, a new mindset. It pushes you to be confident in yourself and your abilities. It teaches you so much more than what your classes do, and that’s why it should be something everyone experiences.