+ Stories About Culture +
"What motivated me to spend a semester abroad is the fact that it [would] encourage me to think critically about the culture and society outside of my home in New Jersey. It is a unique experience and I knew it would get me out of my comfort zone by studying in, and adapting to, a different country with a different education system. The education system in Spain was a challenge but I was able to overcome it."
“I also learned a lot about different cultures, histories, and countries during my time abroad. When I arrived in Europe, I realized there was so much I did not know – for example, I’m embarrassed to say that four months ago, I didn’t even know Czechoslovakia doesn’t exist anymore (definitely didn’t make my friend from Prague at my university happy). This realization of how much I didn’t know inspired me to travel to as many European countries as I can that I knew little-to-absolutely-nothing about. I wanted to feel as uncomfortable as possible, so I can learn and grow, and that I definitely did achieve. Thanks to Ryanair’s cheap airfare and Flixbus’s cheap bus fares, I was able to travel to Krakow, Prague, Vienna, and Budapest – four cities in four different countries that, while I might’ve heard of, I had no idea what they were even remotely like. Now, not only do I have on-the-ground knowledge of each one’s history, culture, and cuisine, but I’ve been able to meet so many incredible people and truly expand my perspective in ways that could have never been possible without being able to view such from the eyes of a student.”
"I have to admit, I would never have traveled to another country and completely enjoyed my time abroad were it not for being in Seoul, South Korea, where I was able to expand my Korean skills and knowledge of Korean culture. Living abroad is considered among the best moments of my life, and I would 100% do it all over again. If it weren’t for graduation creeping up on me this upcoming semester, I’d have applied for an extra term abroad! Working with the Rutgers Study Abroad program has been phenomenal and I am grateful for the resources, both financial and health-wise, that the department gives their students. When I got sick in Korea, through the ISOS insurance, I was able to be recover without needing to worry about costs as I was fully covered. Perks like these made my study abroad experience phenomenal. The staff was alert and welcoming to any questions I had. I would do it all over again in a heartbeat!"
"My favorite moment in Thailand was unquestionably the time the professor took us to a rural village’s school in Bangkok. Nothing felt so rewarding than getting to spend time with these children, speaking to them without fully knowing the language and laughing so loud our stomachs would hurt. We got so hands-on with the kids and I saw all the health challenges they were facing at such a young age without them even knowing it. I felt something in my mind telling me, “Jhoselyn, this is exactly what you are meant to do.” I love working with kids. I don’t know how I want to work with them in the future, whether it be medical related or just social work, but I know that I just love it."
"When I was not in class or studying, I was free to roam Hong Kong by myself or with friends. As I had grown up less than an hour away from New York City, I did not expect any challenges in navigating Hong Kong or finding things to entertain myself. However, the fact that I grew up so close to the city contributed to the biggest challenge I faced during my time abroad: homesickness. Although the streets seemed reminiscent of Chinatown and the buildings of Manhattan, I suddenly found myself in a familiar yet different environment. I missed my parents, since they would definitely know their way around the city with their fluent Cantonese and would not have to depend on Google Maps or faulty language skills. I had also never been away from home for such a long period of time — a fact that terrified me initially. The experience of loneliness and homesickness, however, was ultimately what pushed me to become more independent. It was definitely not easy in the beginning — I worried every day that time would drag on and the program would seem like an eternity. Regardless, as the weeks went by, I learned to adapt to my new surroundings. I researched places I wanted to go and planned out my free time. I spoke more Cantonese, which ultimately improved my fluency."
"The most important thing that I gained from studying abroad in Romania was a new outlook. I never expected to create such close bonds with the students I studied abroad with. There is something about being lost in a country where you don’t speak the language that makes you rely a lot more on people. This set of circumstances also makes every day an adventure. As you walk around exploring the city you also explore parts about yourself that you have forgotten. I never expected to meet and stay in touch with so many wonderful people from around the world. Connecting with like-minded social workers in another country was inspiring. Exchanging ideas was a humbling way to remember that we are all working towards the same goals no matter what country we are from."
"Before coming to this trip, I had no idea what to expect. I was excited to learn about the different cultures in Thailand and the way of life there. On the trip, I noticed Thai people have a lot of pride in their culture. They maintain their lifestyle through their history, food, dance, clothing, and more. I witnessed this when the volunteers of the Mahasawat hospital prepared us with different types of Thai food by utilizing the vegetables and fruits they had grown. Not only that, but one of the volunteers taught us one of the Thai dances, and performed it for our class on the last day of the trip. She was very particular in the movement of our body, from our hips to our fingertips."
"This summer, I took a course called “The Microbiology and Culture of Cheese and Wine” which was hosted in Cluny, France, a historical town within the Burgundy region of the Saône-et-Loire department. Here, I had an absolutely unforgettable experience with some amazing people. I will admit though: I did experience a little bit of culture shock and ended up feeling homesick by the second day. But, by the time the two weeks were over, I had become so accustomed that I didn’t want to leave!"
"Studying abroad is a unique, transformative experience. It’s nothing compared to traveling as a tourist. It’s difficult to describe what it feels like to have the opportunity to completely immerse yourself in a different culture and participate in its day-to-day life activities. There is a deep sense of humility that transpires when you are not able to communicate with others in the same language. Facial expressions, hand gestures, and broken, mispronounced words in the local language become your way of interacting with your environment. It forces you to adapt, to ask questions, develop survival skills, and let go of what is familiar."
"Although I have been living in China for 20 years, I am still surprised by some of the different cultural habits in various provinces. For example, the people in northern Chinese provinces always use plates to eat food and to have some soups, but the people in southern Chinese provinces are accustomed to using bowls to hold food and put bones or other small things in plates. I am eager to learn about more detailed and specific situations in underdeveloped social work field in China, especially for hospitals, schools, and charities. This program provides me a wonderful opportunity to access to professional work environment and help me know more about the distinctions of social work field between America and China. This comparative perspective is intriguing for me which helps me to distinguish between conspicuous advantages of different countries and discovering their shortcomings simultaneously."
"Once I laid my eyes on beautiful Rome, it was truly love at first sight. From the architecture to the ambiance, the sounds and the romantic views, Italy is truly a magical place. Living in Rome has given me a much greater understanding of independence and how it naturally allows an individual to overcome any obstacles that may present themselves. I did my utmost best to explore the culture that sat just outside my doorstep, from the many coffee shops to small bookstores, from major tourist landmarks to even the lesser known art galleries all throughout the city. I made sure I left no part of Rome unvisited as I began my independent expeditions, planned accordingly as my daily class schedule would allow."
"The biggest challenge I’ve faced while abroad has been getting used to the different social behaviors. I’ve lived my whole life back at home in the United States that coming here to Spain and experiencing their way of life has been an eye-opening experience. I’ve had to acclimate to certain situations that I was not accustomed to at home. I must say though that throughout these past months I’ve adapted to the lifestyle that once I land home I know I will miss this place a lot. Even though many things are different here in Spain compared to home, I’ve learned to love Valencia as if I was here all my life."
“Studying abroad was a chance of a lifetime and it has changed my life. I went abroad to France to study the microbiology and culture of cheese and wine and that has opened my eyes to new culinary practices, cultural differences between France and the USA, and science that I would not have explored if I didn't go on this trip. I tried many different types of food while I was in France like escargot, frogs, different types of fresh cheeses and wines, and other traditional French dinners and desserts. I would say it has matured my palate and I felt like an adult while eating in France. I visited many different places like Paris where I went to the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre, mountains in the Jura region, the city of Dijon, and not to mention the numerous vineyards and farms that I went to. This was really the best summer of my life.”
“One of my favorite moments in the program was the field trip my class took to the National Museum of the American Indian. At the museum, we were able to interact with a man who showed us how to make traditional Native American headdresses, and taught us about his culture by showing us the types of feathers and the method of stitching that his tribe used. As a class, we critically engaged with the Native American aspects of our culture from an international perspective that I had not been exposed to prior to this program. We also traveled to Washington D.C. for a weekend trip, where we visited the Global Environment Facility. This facility brought to my attention the great reach that the international community has on a multitude of issues, and how although some may doubt the efficacy of having a cohesive international community, it can make a difference in world affairs and global issues such as human rights and the state of the environment.”
“While in Belize, one of the most apparent differences and challenges for me was the heat and humidity levels. During my first two weeks, temperatures were in the high 90s and the humidity level was at 100% every day. We would spend the morning and early afternoon out on a farm under the hot and unforgiving sun. I learned to appreciate my body sweating excessively because it meant it was trying its hardest to cool me down. I grew to love the shade and any breeze that came my way. There’s a reason Belize’s national motto is, ‘Sub Umbra Floreo.’ (Under the shade I flourish.)”
"The Art in Paris program offered a lot of what I had been looking for in hopes to take full advantage of the RU 1st scholarship. Throughout my time in France, I actively looked for new experiences and tried to stay away from my comfort zone. Although I spoke little to zero French, I actively tried to communicate with people all around me whenever I was confused or just wanted to get their view on an event going around in the area. I believe that having this mindset enabled me to challenge myself and my way of thinking, which was a huge goal of mine."
“I was nervous for many reasons. I have never travelled to Europe prior to this trip, I did not know what to expect upon my arrival, and I did not know how I would adapt to the culture. Despite these common concerns, my trip to Greece has been one of the most life changing experiences I have undergone thus far. I was granted the opportunity to sight see in Athens, learn more about the history of Greece and the refugee crisis, while also spending my time volunteering at PIPKA shelter which hosts refugees coming from the Middle East.”
"One of my favorite moments in the United Kingdom was when myself and a good friend I met on the trip, Faraz, went to a British pub at around 2 in the morning just to converse with the locals. Our conversations consisted of British and American politics, as well as education. This was one of my favorite moments because of the authentic nature of the conversation. Here in the United States it's a rarity to find people who are interested in mentally stimulating conversations. This trip expanded my mind about the world and made me eager to travel all different places in the world. I thank the entire study abroad program for awarding me this opportunity as it will be one that will stick with me for a lifetime."
“I was exposed to a whole new culture, different music, amazing food, a new language, different tribes of people and a whole new scenery. I was educated on things like agriculture, the way of life, animals, the governmental systems, and health care. My absolute favorite moment on this trip was helping deliver a baby. I was so emotional that I just helped bring a child into this world that I started to cry. The mother of the baby saw me crying and saw my connection to her baby that she wanted me to name her baby. This was one of the most rewarding and fulfilling moments in my entire life.”
"I found myself sympathizing with my mainland Chinese, whose perseverance, tribalism and understanding of the world is admirable in comparison to America’s cannibalistic liberalism. I’ve come to respect and even admire the ruthless efficiency which the Chinese government exercises in censorship and martial law, realizing that they truly understood the strength of Confucianism in forming strong family units all over the land, and how clear it was that their interests serve the Chinese people first and foremost. Of course, I also experienced constant feelings of gratitude for my privileged upbringing in the U.S., with the Western mode of thinking and way of life excelling and surpassing many avenues of skill relating to sports, technology or science of the Chinese."
"As my undergraduate career came to an end, I started to entertain the idea of studying abroad in Taiwan. My motivation came from wanting to learn how to speak fluent Chinese, my desire to visit Taiwan after not visiting there for almost 9 years, to be able experience the environment in which my parents grew up, and most importantly to see my grandmother who I haven’t seen in 9 years. At the end of the program, I believe I learned a lot in Taiwan that I wouldn’t have been able to learn if I had stayed here in America. Firstly, I learned a lot about Taiwanese culture and about my heritage through hanging out with friends, and through my courses. I took courses that taught Taiwan’s history and culture. In addition, I was also able to meet a lot of other exchange students from a variety of countries. Furthermore, I became more independent and confident, as I had to rely only on myself."
"I had 7 housemates who were from different areas of the world, from Saudi Arabia, Mexico, and India. We get to know each other, would grab food together, roam around the streets and experience the nightlife of Rome. I think the best part of studying abroad versus simply being a tourist for a week is actually being able to experience what it is like to live in another country almost as a local. You get to learn the quirks and traditions of the city and its residents."
"What surprised me the most were the people I met and relationships that I was able to make and keep for the rest of my life. I met amazing people from all over the U.S. and got closer with people that go to Rutgers that I wasn’t so close with. It surprised me that these people were like strangers to me a year ago and now we all share so many lifelong memories together. It makes me feel very fortunate. My expectations when coming to study abroad exceeded anything I could have ever imagined."
"Study abroad has been an amazing experience and has taught me a lot along the way. I learned about the Mediterranean Diet, the history of Florence, the Italian language, and the culture. Not only did I learn textbook knowledge, I learned some amazing life skills. I learned how to use different metros and public transportation; I learned how to plan and schedule; and I learned how to cook some really amazing food!"
“A novelty part of being in Menton, France is that I can see three countries when I step out into my balcony (France, Italy, and Monaco). We often take a train into Italy for a day trip or Monaco to go clubbing. One of my favorite days was when some of my friends took a train to Ventimiglia, right over the border, and had an all you can eat sushi buffet. (Globalization!) Another day, I went to an Italian town called Bordighera to look at their cactus garden, lounge on the beach, and have lunch. The beauty of this is that I am immersed in a student body that does this casually; something unreal and not feasible back home.”
"On my flight to Rome I quickly started meeting other students who were studying abroad in Rome and that eased my worries. I chose to study abroad because I felt that this would be the perfect time for me to get to travel and explore the world, while simultaneously being able to receive an exceptional higher education at a foreign institution. Living in Rome was absolutely amazing and I still cannot believe to this day that I got to live in such a beautiful city for 4 months. I do not recall ever being bored in Rome because when I wasn’t in class or studying, I was out and about exploring as much of the ancient city that I could. I was even lucky enough to have been in Rome for the rare snowfall that occurred in late February. Before this snowfall, the Eternal City of Rome had not seen snow in over 30 years. It was awesome to be able to see such beautiful city covered in a little over an inch of snow, but to see the reaction of young Romans to see and play in snow for the first time in their life was priceless."
"The culture shock came in little things, like how you are supposed to move to the left instead of the right to avoid walking into someone, how you don’t tip waiters, how people don’t use Yelp, how there are no dollar bills or one cent coins, or how the slang, accents, and cultural references are different. But, I never would have imagined that all those changes would eventually feel normal to me after being there for just four months. It’s crazy to think about the amount I’ve unconsciously adjusted to Australia (I’ve gotten used to driving on the left side of the road and the voice in my head sometimes has an Aussie accent), so much so that I think readjusting to life back in the US will be another challenge. Study abroad gives you a taste for the world, but also makes you realize how much there still is left to see. I now understand that even around me at home, in the US, there were so many things I’ve never explored or were aware of, but study abroad has helped me realize that there are opportunities all around us – we just have to be able to see them."
"Living for over eleven days in Yucatan has positively influenced me. I was able to reevaluate the concept that I previously had about Mexican culture, especially on its food and the people. At first, I thought it would be difficult because I was never a big fan of Mexican food and spicy cuisine. However, after the first couple of days I learned from locals how to appreciate and eat Mexican food properly, to the point I fell in love with Yucatecan plates like cochinita Pibil, panuchos yucatecos, and poc chuc among others. Additionally, people from Mexico are known for being welcoming and friendly. This became evident during my stay in Merida and it falls short once you experience first-hand how warm and open are locals to foreign. Individuals from Merida like tourists to visit the city frequently; hence, they not only see Merida as their own home, but also acknowledge that ‘Ciudad Blanca’ is the home of visitors coming from any location over the world."
"Hong Kong is a giant mix of people, which means a mix of different backgrounds, experiences, languages, and so much more. This is even prevalent on the HKUST campus itself – there were many organizations and events to share and connect with different people and share about yourself. Besides British and Chinese influences, you could experience other cultures almost anywhere, from going to an authentic restaurant, to talking with other people you see, to seeing advertisements and media from other countries. I thought that by going abroad, I would be able to learn more about Hong Kong and Chinese culture, but I was fortunate enough to learn about other cultures and people from all around the world."
"Throughout the following weeks I acclimated to the Australian lifestyle rather quickly. I went on surf trips, met people from all around the world, and admired the existence of kangaroos; oh yeah, I studied a little bit too. Melbourne itself is continuously ranked as the world’s number one city in terms of standard of living and it really does not disappoint. There’s nothing Melbourne does not have to offer, and having skyscrapers and sand beaches 10 minutes apart from each other is quite special. However, if there would be one thing I had to pick above all, then it is the breathtaking nature of this part of the world. Traversing major parts of the east coast and also visiting New Zealand changed my entire perception of mother nature. Just to put this into perspective, New Zealand is inhabited by more sheep than humans and Australia is as big as the U.S. Mainland while only 24 million people live there. These facts alone show how untouched this area is by human civilization. Therefore, standing on a cliff with my eyes gazing over the ocean often left me in awe of what our world actually provides for us. I cannot describe this feeling other than being in complete accordance with nature and how this state of mind exposes the deepest structures of human nature."
"Studying abroad in Berlin truly was the best decision I made during my four years of undergraduate education. The main reason that I initially chose to go abroad was to experience another culture and challenge my comfort zone. As a senior I had become very comfortable with my daily routine at my home campus and was ready for a change. By studying abroad, I was kind of forced to start all over, which was fun and challenging. I had to learn a new language, become familiar with a new school and city, and meet new people. In doing so, I not only immersed myself in a new culture, but also learned a lot about myself and my personal growth over the past three years."
"A first weekend here was spent in Perugia, Italy, the capital of the neighboring region of Umbria. Italy is divided into twenty different states, each with its own capital and very distinct capital. Before I came to Italy, I had heard stories about students abroad who had spent very little time in their host city, and vowed to myself that I'd want to get to know Florence and Italy as best as I could. After all, who gets to spend four months here? Advice that I have for future students who want to go abroad is to get to know your own city and country's culture as best as you can. The entirety of Europe is at your fingertips (and getting around is incredibly easy) but don't make the mistake of trying to hit a new country every single weekend. I don't think I ever would have formed connections in Florence if I hadn't spent so many weekends here, wandering, chatting with local shop owners, trying different cappuccinos and practicing my limited Italian. The more time you get in your host city, the more gems you'll find within it - and the more you will fall in love with your study abroad experience."
“One cultural transition I’ve noticed is fashion - at first you stick out like a sore thumb. Be patient in learning how to adapt. One thing that helps is to dress the part. You learn to observe what everyone else is wearing, how they act. Definitely pack light! Once you get here you can shop for clothes that the locals wear, the big stores here are Zara and Mango.”
“Australia is one of those places you could live in for years and still not run out of natural wonders to behold. Its coastlines are some of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen or will see in my life, the Outback is vast and colorful, the topography is breathtaking. It pushes your boundaries of exploration to a whole new level. Being able to wake up here every day was like living in a dream. There have been days where I had to pinch myself as a reminder that it was real. To top it all off, the climate and the people are wonderful, as well. It gives Disney World a run for its money as “the happiest place on Earth”. Without a doubt, this was the adventure of a lifetime.”