Alyssa studied abroad in Hungary, France, and Ireland, and is currently finishing up her studies at California State University, Fullerton.
Where do you go to school?
California State University, Fullerton
When and where did you study abroad?
Summer 2012 Budapest, Hungary (with API)
January 2013 Paris, France (with AIFS)
Summer 2013 Dublin, Ireland (with AIFS)
What was the BEST part about studying abroad?
The freedom! Once you step off the plane, you can leave all our baggage behind because you are a stranger in a new city, and you can be who you want to be without any expectations.
What did you learn about the rest of the world from studying abroad? What did you learn about yourself from the experience?
Studying abroad puts you right in the middle of a new culture, and it makes you become completely immersed very quickly. It creates a much deeper and personal connection than you could ever hope to achieve in a classroom setting, no matter how hard you try. What you were just reading about in a textbook suddenly becomes real, and you begin to see how similar and connected we all are – despite how different our culture may seem on the surface.
One of the things I realized about myself when I was abroad is how much I take for granted. Between work and being a full-time student, I always spent my days just trying to do everything I needed get done – it was all about just getting through the semester. The pace of life in Europe is so different than it is in the US, and it really forced my to slow down and enjoy the little things in life – like spending hours in a cafe drinking cappuccinos with new friends at the Central Kavehaz, or spending and afternoon reading at the Jardin du Luxembourg.
What was your BIGGEST challenge while studying abroad and how did you manage to handle it?
My first time studying abroad, my biggest challenge was dealing with the homesickness. There were some days when all I wanted to do was chat and Skype friends and family back home, but spending time on Facebook actually makes it so much worse because all you are seeing is what everyone else is doing at home without you. I personally found that it was so much better to stay away from Facebook and Skype and go out and explore.
My second study abroad trip I did not Skype once and focused on the present – thankfully, I didn’t get homesick once, though I did get in trouble with family when I got back home. After getting over that obstacle, my biggest challenge was to focus on my studies when all I wanted to do was travel…my school work really got in the way of my study abroad experience!
How did studying abroad change your life?
I think the most important things I took away from my study abroad experience was a greater sense of self-confidence. The girl who could never go anywhere without her GPS suddenly managed to successfully navigate the rail system of Central Europe, and later through the labyrinth of twisted streets that make up Paris. I think at some point as a young adult, everyone questions whether or not they can make it on their own, and I think that studying abroad was one of those crucial moments when I realized I could.
What are your future plans?
I am a senior majoring in History and English Literature, with one more year left! After graduation, I hope to pursue my Masters in History.
As far as the future, I want to work on improving study abroad programs in schools and encourage other students to study abroad. As far as I am concerned, it should be mandatory!
What’s your BEST piece of advice for someone who is thinking about studying abroad?
Do it! Don’t even think about the “buts” or the “what ifs.” Jump in head first and don’t look back. I have always been something of a control freak and tend to over-think things, but when I got an email from one of my old professors saying he was taking students to study in Budapest for the summer, I replied instantly. I knew absolutely nothing about Hungary and I had less than a few days to submit my application, but I knew that I had always dreamed about traveling the world, and if that was going to happen I had to be the one to take the first step. Honestly, it was one of the best decisions I have ever made. Once the summer was over I signed up for the winter program in Paris, and now I am leaving in a few days to spend the rest of the summer in Dublin.