+ Stories About Identity +
"Studying abroad allowed me to grow into a person that I never dreamed I could be. The experiences I have gained from living so far out of my comfort zone have enabled me to have a new sense of confidence and independence that I had not yet deemed possible. Living abroad has also expanded my world tremendously; when I envision my future, I no longer feel confined to the small town I grew up in. However, my favorite part of studying abroad has got to be all of the relationships I was able to form with people from around the world. I have formed lifelong friendships with students who I otherwise would never have met. Most importantly, I was able to meet and learn from professors who have a completely different worldview than those from my classes at Rutgers. This has therefore expanded the opportunities I foresee for myself."
"I studied abroad last semester in Melbourne, Australia, and I can honestly say that it was one of the greatest experiences of my life. Starting from the very first day at my apartment complex, I told myself that I would make some changes and put myself out there more than I do back home. As such, I found myself making friends with almost everyone around me, and within a week I had a solid group of friends that I found myself spending the majority of my time around. So if nothing else, studying abroad has made me more open and willing to approach people. In short, it has made me more confident and self-assured than I was."
"Living and traveling abroad has definitely opened my eyes to things that I didn’t even know were possible. I began my studying abroad with every intention of wanting to live abroad for the rest of my life. After living in Spain, I realized that being around family and friends in the US was too important for me to give up. Even though I loved traveling though Europe and living in Spain, I realized that I wanted to settle down and live in a place that felt like home, which was the US. I think this was a really important lesson for me to learn because it really helped me figure out what I truly want in life. They say that when you go abroad you 'find yourself', and as cliché as that sounds, I really think that is true. I learned more about myself in Spain for one semester than I did in the five previous semesters at Rutgers. It was an experience that I will forever be grateful for."
“One of the biggest challenges I had in Mexico was accepting that I was there and deserved to be there. I would never been able to afford this study abroad experience on my own. As a minority, first generation college, and EOF student, I was eligible for many opportunity and diversity programs. Although I am so grateful for all the experiences I have gained through this amazing program, I felt like I didn’t deserve everything I accomplished. Being Mexican amplified these feelings a bit. I felt I didn’t deserve to be here and that I couldn’t make it because without the program and scholarships I wouldn’t have even been in Mexico. Working at the clinic helped me realize that if the adult care facility could accept help, then I could as well. I could use the help I have gotten to study abroad to create an amazing future and actually make an impact on this world. Realizing this was actually my favorite part of the study abroad experience.”
"I did not expect to feel so isolated. I thought every moment would be blissful. But I am thankful for those trials because through them I changed, I grew. I learned I am stronger than I ever thought I was. I learned that I am adventurous. I learned that I could make a family with people who I had not known months before. I learned that I am capable, and I learned that with a little support there is nothing that I cannot do. I am extremely thankful that I decided to go to Barbados and I am thankful for everyone I met along the way that made the journey even better. After being back in New Jersey for a couple days I already miss the island that became my platform for growth and my second home."
"Thank you Romania for everything you have done. I am returning home as a brand new and better version of myself. Reflecting back on my study abroad experience has brought back my emotions and tremendous love for the country. 'As you leave, part of you stays in Romania; you bring parts of Romania back with you' - Professor Rebecca Davis. I am so grateful to have been given the opportunity. All I expected was to find myself, but this program exceeded my expectations."
"As the weeks went on, my love for France grew exponentially. I fell in love with their way of life, their language, and most importantly their food. France deals with a lot of the problems America deals with, such as poverty, homelessness, and racism, but their response to these issues are proactive, their personal morale rarely fades, and their pride for their country never declines. Towards the end of my trip, I came to a realization that there are other ways to tackle pressing issues in our lives and sometimes the pressing issues may not be so pressing after all. I also realize that I had a passion for sitting and observing various walks of life and how they interact with one another, which is what I have tailored my major to be about. My only hope would be for more students with backgrounds similar to mine have the opportunity to have this experience as well."
"I learned that taking risks is good, and so is facing your fears. Everyone on my trip, myself included, had to face their fears this trip. Whether it was fear of spiders, sharks, or fireworks, we all overcame something that frightened us, and it made us stronger. I was so glad to have met my group of fellow adventurers. We supported each other, and looked out for each other, as we navigated the city streets, the jungle, and the deep waters of Ecuador. This trip would not have been the same without them."
"Four months is not a very long time, so going into it, I was not sure of what to expect, but I knew it would be nothing short of enriching. In the back of my mind, I think I was still nervous at the slightest possibility that I wouldn't be able to adapt well to the new environment. But I left assured that I had assimilated myself well into the local life, done everything I wanted to do there, seen [most of] the places I wanted to see there, and made some life-long friends who shared this unique experience with me. The experience was everything I expected it to be, and more. More than anything, I surprised myself during my semester abroad. What I learned through this experience is beyond what I can put into words. The most noticeable changes are in my growth as a person, open-mindedness, independence, and willingness to meet new people and try new things. I used to hear people who studied abroad say that their experience was life changing, but it is amazing to be able to attest to that saying and to have lived through it myself."
"Studying abroad in Cape Town, South Africa was the best decision I have ever made in my life. Traveling 8,000 miles away from home was the most affirming and healing choice of action during the hardest time of my life. I was so thankful to be able to fund my study abroad through a plethora of scholarships. My motivation for going abroad was moved by many things: the social justice culture within South Africa drew me to want to learn hands-on from the everyday people I would interact with, the similarity of racial dynamics embedded within the history of South Africa as to the United States of America interested me, the desire to connect and learn about the African continent, culture, and people as an African American woman captivated me, and the beautiful aesthetic of Cape Town, South Africa drew me to spend a semester abroad at the University of Cape Town. As someone who believed that they had an open mind, I learned so much about the world and my position as a black woman around the globe. I was inspired to take action, understand the different ways in which I wanted to protest as an activist, and to take my passion for my art more seriously."
"South Africa made me realize how much I played myself as an artist and as a woman. It allowed to cope through a difficult break-up, a death of a family member, and allowed me to understand the ways in which I could and will be navigating my mental health as an independent woman. I took agency to live 8,000 miles away from home for five months. Studying abroad grants you a sense of confidence you never knew existed. During the month that I extended my study abroad, South Africa had its very first AfroPunk festival that is big in Brooklyn every summer. I attended with one of my best friends that I made in South Africa and our fashion at the festival made both Vogue and Essence Magazine! You explore another part of the world, other cultures, other language(s), and other types of people as well as exploring parts of yourself. It’s impacted my life, my career path, my resilience, my independence, and my creative endeavors. I hope you will decide to follow your dreams of studying abroad. Take the leap."
"Traveling abroad has affected the way I think about life and my role in a global world within the 21st century. Being that I am an American, I became very aware of certain privileges granted to me because of my nationality. Americans have a certain privilege other nationalities do not have. I was also more aware of my African heritage being that Italy is currently dealing with a huge African migrant crisis. Because of that, I became more aware of who I was as an American Ghanaian traveling throughout Italy."
"I recently made a trip to Lake Como, Italy, which is at the foot of the Dolomites Mountains in Northern Italy. I think this trip was the culmination of my study abroad experience, and where I felt most at home. As a student who spoke no Italian, came with no previously formed friendships, and knew little about my host country, getting acclimated to my surroundings was tough, but the way that I've grown and changed through my time here will stay with me always. Being in a setting so far from home makes you open to new experiences, and less afraid of change. You learn to find quirks in the culture that you previously felt so alien to, and at the end of your experience, you will find that you've actually become part of that culture and are unwilling to part with it. Writing this, I am still in my tiny Italian apartment at the edge of the city center of Florence, and it'll be hard to leave this all behind."
"I am a Muslim American-Pakistani woman, and all these identities were just words on a page for me until I went to Morocco. Entering Morocco, a Muslim nation, made me question what that title really meant. Whenever I would go anywhere on the streets people would ask me what I was. Who am I? I would reply American and they would look confused, the brownness of my skin not connecting to what they see in Hollywood movies, politics, or anything on the media as American. I would then clarify stating that my parents are from Pakistan and then they would nod and laugh in understanding. However, when I started to do the opposite—calling myself Pakistani first, they would still be skeptical, noting my accent and clothes. Soon this grew frustrating and I started to envy my white-American friends who could just say they were American and continue with their lives, sometimes even having people be more open to them due to their blatant 'Americanness'. I was too confusing for them to understand. Studying abroad changed my perspective on how I interact with others, but more specifically myself. All the challenges were new, unexpected and now looking back I am so glad I made the choices that I did. I hope to relay these same stories to kids in the future, hoping that I will inspire some twelve-year-old girl like me to keep that thought in the back of her mind, so when the day comes she will also take that step out into the world and make it."