This blog post was contributed by Eugene Nam, an Education Abroad peer advisor who helped other Longhorns begin their own transformative education abroad adventures.
What type of Education Abroad program is the best in your eyes and why?
In my eyes, the best Education Abroad program is the university-wide exchange program because the price is reasonable, and it is sponsored by UT Austin. Meaning, there are no third parties involved.
If I am thinking beyond the program that I went on, especially if money and time allowed me, I would participate in the intern abroad program because I think it is really unique and more professional to work abroad than studying. Plus, when you work with people, you can assimilate to the culture better and more naturally, in my opinion.
Especially, I would like to go to either Israel or to the Middle Eastern region, like Dubai. It is because I do not know their culture well, but I want to learn about it. These countries are known for great work ethics. I would like to notonly learn about their culture and rich history but their work ethic and how they were able to become so successful.
What are the top 3 skills you gained through your EA experience? How do you think these skills will contribute to your professional advancement?
The top three skills I gained through my Education Abroad experience are:
- How to connect with people.
- To appreciate and widen my perspective and understanding of others.
- Being open!
Being an international student here in Texas, I was able to have some advantage in having many experiences to connect with people here in the United States. For me, coming to Texas or going to Singapore were both new experience for me. When I went abroad to Singapore, I was lucky to have my fellow Longhorns that I came with and to share that commonality so that I was not alone.
Then, I was able to make a connection to a local friend in Singapore through my mutual friend via Facebook. I think it is important to connect ahead before you arrive to your destination. Making that one connection to a local friend or person is very important because that one local connection is the key to start making more local and global connections.
Second, I was truly able to see other culture and differences. For those of you who never went abroad, it may be difficult and uncomfortable to face the new place, new people and new culture. Things that we are comfortable with and normal to us could be culturally different and not acceptable in other cultures and places. Thus, it is very humbling to know that there are differences in the world and knowing how to appreciate different culture and customs. Once you humble yourself, locals will be able to connect with you more quickly.
Third, I had to admit that I am culturally vulnerable. That is why being open and open-minded was key to surviving while abroad. Not only are you open to learning about them, but you should also be open to share your culture with them. If you are very self-centered and egocentric, it is going to be difficult to make friends and enjoy your time abroad. I am glad that I had the courage to be open and try new things, especially new food.
This does not mean that you have to be open for everything, if you feel uncomfortable trying new things, please don’t do it. It is okay to be open and say what is your standard and for others to learn about yourself, too.
I think these skills will help me greatly in my future professional career. Whatever career you build, having an experience abroad is always a plus, in my opinion. Knowing that there are different people out there and understanding how to adapt to the new situation and environment is a critical lesson because once we leave UT and graduate, we will have to face not only differences but also the difficulties.
What was your EA “aha” moment? What was your biggest takeaway from your study abroad experience?
The “aha” moment for me was to learn how to study while I was abroad. I knew that Singapore and the National University of Singapore (NUS) were competitive, but I had to adapt to their style of studying. I am not underestimating the academic competitiveness at UT Austin, but I had to re-learn how to compete and work together to study in Singapore just because the learning and teaching style was different than here. I am grateful for academic skills that I learned in Singapore, and for a friend and the professors I was able to work with.
What are the top three things you wish you knew before you left for your study abroad program?
The top three things I wish I knew before I left for Singapore/NUS are:
- I wish I did more research about Singapore and NUS.
- Making a bucket list of things that I wanted to do, go visit, and eat.
- I guess I wish I was better prepared for it.
Even though most things are learned from experience, but I wish I did more research and prepared myself better for the new culture and new countries. And to plan how I will assess academic assignments and other challenges that I faced. Also, since I was too focused on the abroad experience, I did not really get to explore and travel to other places. I wish I had made a bucket list before I left so that I did not have to spend my time there to plan on going abroad and other places.