Post by Kate Mowles, Class of 2013

For me, studying abroad was about having experiences that I could not have at Babson. Even with a very diverse student body, nothing matches actually diving fully into another culture. I wanted to learn more about the world we live in because I was never really exposed to diversity growing up. But I never expected to end up in Asia or Africa. I have now been to both continents twice. While we’re told when we return not to just wrap all of our experiences up and stick it on a shelf (figuratively or literally), I’m now going to attempt to fully yet concisely reflect on my incredible experiences.

 

Kate with Professor Deets and her Entrepreneurship class in Ghana

Kate with Professor Deets and her Entrepreneurship class in Ghana

  • I learned that people really are not all that different. No matter where I went there were parts of the local culture that people were intensely proud about (rugby in South Africa, K-Pop in Korea, etc). Each culture also had its own struggles. People were, in general, welcoming. Sometimes it took a little more for them to open up, or to cross cultural barriers, but I think this goes back to the cultural pride. People were generally excited to share their culture.
  • I learned to be patient. This was probably one of Dean Hanno’s favorite things to remind us of in Ghana. It really is applicable in a lot of situations though. There were many moments in my international experiences when there were communication barriers that had to be breached. These issues were solved much more smoothly with a level head than with panicking. In South Africa I learned a new concept of time: saying you’ll be somewhere “now” means you’ll leave home pretty soon. Then there’s just-now and now-now on top of that. At the end of the day, all I could do in many situations was just take a deep breath and try to relax; I only had so much control over what was going on and I just had to let go of the rest.
  • I learned how to communicate interculturally. Sometimes this meant communicating with gestures, especially in Korea where I had to learn the writing system. Sometimes, it was learning slang. Quite often there were miscommunication issues (pronounce a word slightly wrong and you accidently insult someone instead of asking where the bathroom is…yikes!). Then there are differences in physical gestures that are appropriate, ranging from who can take a drink first to declaring you’re in mourning based on where you leave your chopsticks.

Cultural mishaps abound, but I somehow managed to survive my study abroad experiences. Would I say I’m a changed person? Not really. But I have gained a deeper understanding of and greater appreciation for other cultures.  The experiences I have had are truly unforgettable. I have made friends from all over the world. The lessons I’ve learned along the way will stay with me forever. I have been inspired and touched in more ways than I could ever really tell. But I’m still me. I think that’s the important part. These experiences don’t define me, I define my experiences.

 

About Kate:

I graduated in May with a double concentration in Accounting and Global & Regional Studies. I will jump straight into my Masters in Accounting before starting a job in the fall. My first Babson Abroad experience was the elective abroad, Social Responsibility in Malaysia. After that I spent a semester in Stellenbosch, South Africa, a semester in Seoul, South Korea, and then finished my abroad experiences with the elective abroad in Sekondi, Ghana. I also managed to do some other travel while I was abroad, hitting a total of seven new countries.