UMD: A Globally Connected University

Ben Geertsema

Ben Geertsema

Program: ENGR Exchange: Technical University of Denmark (DTU) (Denmark)​
Term: Spring 2019
Major: Civil Engineering

I learned a lot from studying abroad. Before studying abroad, I didn't have a lot of international travel experience. I figured that the whole world would come to me as I lived near an international city already and went to a world-class university. However, I quickly learned that it is also important to visit other areas to see how other people live. The world may be becoming more interconnected, but it is still a very big place. I met all kinds of people from all walks of life all over the world and now I can say that I have close friends in five continents, including other civil engineers. 

Advice for future #TerpsAbroad: Don't be afraid to step outside your comfort zone. You will almost certainly be asked some strange questions and people will sometimes make assumptions about you. Of course, this happens back in the U.S. as well, but this is especially true if you are a foreigner living in another country. This can be something that other white guys aren't used to as much.

My most memorable experience was getting to see the Northern Lights in Abisko National Park, Sweden. It was a perfectly clear evening with strong aurora and I was trading life stories around a campfire with some people I had just met from all over the world. It was fantastic. 

The hardest part [about studying abroad] for me was adjusting and making friends in a new environment where I didn't know anyone at first and English was not the first language spoken. To resolve the challenges, I kept putting myself out there and talking to people.