Program: GEA Summer Aerospace Program (direct enroll)
Term: Summerterm 2017
Major: Aerospace Engineering
Studying abroad...transformed my perspective. Seeing and living in another cultural environment [revealed my] perspective of people and the world. I was definitely challenged in communication, boldness, patience and many other areas as I became acclimated to some of the challenges and new encounters that such a journey entails. I definitely made connections with several business professionals and students I traveled with over there, but even more so I was able to grow personally during the personal time I had every day to read, explore, pray, and meet new people.
Advise for future #TerpsAbroad: I would advise people of color to be very approachable and to be bold. The fact of the matter is, people are not going to be chomping at the bit to meet you or be close to you, and it's not their fault. You have to be willing to go out of your way and out of your comfort zone to make friends and interact with people. It will teach you about your own shortcomings as well, because you cannot always choose the friends you make. Being stuck with 25 other students for 7 weeks definitely showed me that.
My most memorable experience was one late conversation I had with a friend, Leo [whom I met] on the trip. Leo is an Aerospace student not unlike myself who had come on the trip to also experience a new culture (and get some credits). I had previously gone to the beach with Leo and a couple others the day before and wanted to return his swim trunks that he had let me borrow. When returning them I made small talk in effort to get to know him better. I learned that he was actually 24 and had served in the Korean military before becoming a student. He told me a lot about himself and shared his beliefs about this world. I was able to tell him about the Love of God which has transformed my life and have given me peace. We even prayed together. From then on we became good friends and I still communicate with him today 3 months later. I can't forget that experience.
The hardest part about studying abroad for me personally was staying focused in France. I'm a family man and I missed all of my people back home so much that it almost distracted me from work in the early stages of my trip. Learning to cut off social media and focus on the new exciting arena in front of me was one of the best decisions I made while abroad. It made me appreciate my community at home all the more when I returned and it taught me to make the most out of my time.
Advise for future #TerpsAbroad: I would tell someone who has never heard about study abroad before that they need to PLAN. do not wait for tragedy to strike to begin to plan. Start saving, start strategizing, start learning about the country you're visiting. I saw that if you actually make effort to learn a few words in French, survival is not that difficult. I also saw that it was good to be CONTENT. there are many different things in other countries that don't correlate to how things are done in America. A complaining attitude will only dull the whole experience for you, so take everything with a grain of salt and be grateful!