Living Entrepreneurship Blog / Global & Multicultural

Reflections From Studying Abroad

This blog post was written by Jessamine Von Arx, who participated in the IES Abroad Program – Emerging Economies: Buenos Aires & Santiago this past Spring…

 Why do you think it is important for students to go abroad? The best way to understand people who are different than you is to travel. Coming to Babson as a transfer student, I was told it would be very difficult to go abroad and graduate on time. I made it a priority to figure out how to go. I believed going abroad for a semester was important because it challenges you and helps you learn about other cultures. Learning about people who are different than me has been priceless and has helped me be a better person. Studying abroad helped me realize those differences aren’t so different after all.

 What was one of the biggest things you learned about yourself during your education abroad experience? I learned how resilient I am. I picked a program that was meant to challenge me. Some place where I didn’t speak the language, some place I had never been before, going with people I had never met, traveling within the program and living with host families. I was nervous but that is why I chose it! Pushing myself out of my comfort zone was a great decision. The difficult times made me stronger and good times felt even greater. I also learned how to lean more on my faith and on myself. I learned who I was. I didn’t have the perceptions of my friends or family around me so I had the chance to really figure out how I was going to deal with hardship. I feel lucky to have had that opportunity.

What was the most challenging issue you overcame during your education abroad experience? I went on a program with only a few people, ten to be exact. Having a small group had positives and negatives. I struggled to make friends abroad. I went to experience a new culture, eat good food and travel. My peers came for the nightlife and party scene. Being part of group where I didn’t enjoy the same activities as them was hard, especially at the beginning, but it ended up being a blessing. I ended up making friends with more locals. I got to do exactly what I wanted to do. I didn’t give into peer pressure when it would’ve been really easy to.

What surprised you most about the culture of your host country? I was most surprised by how the cultures I visited where very patriarchal. The whistling and looks were annoying and hard to get used to but it made me appreciate home. Though we still have a long way to go in the states, being in a society where most women still don’t work and men grabbing at you is normal made me realize how lucky I am. It also made me more passionate about wanting to spread feminism abroad.

How do you think your experience abroad will shape your future decisions and goals? I’ve always wanted to work for a nonprofit organization working with hunger, homelessness or education. Coming to Babson, it is easy to get attached to corporate companies instead. Going abroad, especially to a poorer country, reminded me of why I wanted to work to fight hunger and homelessness. Now, it is a goal of mine again to work for a nonprofit organization.

If you had to share one moment during your time abroad that was particularly influential, what would it be? When I was choosing a study abroad program, I really wanted to feel as if I was truly living in a city. To me, that meant I wouldn’t be in a homestay. I ended up picking a program that only had the option of a homestay. At first, I was bummed and wanted to be able to live on my own. But this was the most influential and beneficial part of my time abroad. Having a host mom gave me the opportunity to practice my Spanish, tell me her opinions on history and politics, show me the unknown gems of the city and to have a companion when I was homesick. I got a deeper and more meaningful experience because of the relationship I got to have with my host mom. It wasn’t always easy to understand her or to live with someone I had never met before but, those challenges helped me grow. I am so thankful for my host mom.

Many students feel like they cannot afford to go abroad.  If comfortable, please talk about how you paid for your abroad experience?  Did you get scholarships/grants? I was worried about money abroad as well but I soon figured out I spent less to go abroad than I would’ve to stay at Babson. Because however you pay for Babson tuition (grants, loans etc.) stays the same, you just need to focus on housing, food and flights. Going to South America gave me the opportunity to have very affordable housing and meals (especially in Santiago, Chile) and by searching on for good flight deals, I came out ahead. The only thing is I lost was not being able to make money. This was hard for me but if you plan far enough ahead, you should be able to save from jobs and internships and cover the costs you incur.