UMD: A Globally Connected University

Alina Saif

Alina Saif

Term: Spring 2019
Major: Government & Politics and Public Policy

My experience studying abroad allowed me to explore my comforts and discomforts in a series of many firsts. Exploring my career interests in a region and context that was foreign to me allowed me to gain a better understanding of future prospects when I came home. As someone whose brain works on full speed with countless thoughts, the slow and settled vibe of Denmark taught me tricks to change that into “living in the moment” and taking one step at a time. I really did learn why the Danes are some of the happiest people in the world!

Advice for future #TerpsAbroad: I am a woman of color and a Muslim-American. The hesitations of going abroad as minority group members due to safety, cultural reservations, or lack of seeing potential growth is common. However, I MUST urge you to do it! Study abroad at UMD provides a lot of resources for you to utilize to understand and combat issues such as financial pressure, academic success and personal safety while abroad. Study abroad is for everyone and through EA resources, and those provided nationally and through UMD, it can most definitely be a reality. My time abroad taught me loads about my field, becoming a global citizen and what it means to be an American.

When I think back to Denmark, one of my favorite memories was spending one evening alone with my host sisters and their babysitter. My host parents went on their monthly date early on into my arrival, and I spent the night at home with the girls and their local babysitter. That night we played games, watched movies, ate dinner and then tucked the girls in with a story book and so much laughter. Not only was I able to make a new friend from a different place in Europe, it was the first of many moments that my host sisters and I really bonded! I think them laughing at and correcting my Danish was the trick!

Advice for future #TerpsAbroad: Two myths that I’d like to bunk are: language and dietary restrictions. You don’t need to be fluent in a particular language to study abroad. I was able to effectively communicate everywhere in English regardless of my lack of Danish. Nevertheless, I would still encourage you to take up language classes when you are in the country! You might not become fluent by the end of the semester, but similar to my experience with my host sisters, it might lead to funny conversations! As with dietary restrictions, I don’t eat pig products, and I was able to match with a host family that was aware of my restrictions and was able to communicate their understanding of that even before I left for Denmark! As with other people I encountered, they all had similar experiences.​

The most difficult part was moments of homesickness. Regardless of enthusiasm, everyone goes through moments of missing being home - and that's okay! Use it as an opportunity to discover new comfort zones for yourself and exploring your host-country. And remember, you can always call home if you need to!

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