This blog post was contributed by Estefania Rodriguez, an Education Abroad peer advisor who helped other Longhorns begin their own transformative education abroad adventures.
Every person who has studied abroad has a collection of stories at their disposal for the moment they get asked about their experience. As a peer advisor for the Education Abroad office, I got asked this question often, especially by professors, friends, and other interested students who want to know what pushed me to go abroad in the first place.
And while studying abroad is full of countless moments that make the experience worth it, I have curated a list of five experiences that epitomize why I set out on these programs in the first place. So, why did I decide to go abroad? Well, I am so glad you asked:
A New Perspective
As a Latin American Studies and International Relations major, I have spent much of my undergraduate career reading and researching about people and places from outside the United States. Undoubtedly, I had learned a lot, but I knew I had a lot left to learn from those people and places themselves.
It was during my first week in Cuba that I was truly able to understand the magnitude of what that meant, though. After years of learning about Cuba, its economic and political systems, and the Cuban Revolution, I was able to step foot in the Plaza de la Revolución. This infamous plaza is where Fidel Castro would hold rallies with hundreds of thousands of people in attendance. As we walked around, I could not help but cry. It was so overwhelming to be in a place in which so much history had been made.
A New Academic System
Not only would studying in a different country mean learning and experiencing a new perspective but also a new style of education. Attending university in Costa Rica meant leaving behind midterms and finals, and instead embarking on a semester of discussions, presentations, and field trips–yes, field trips! We went to places like the Arias Foundation for Peace and Human Progress –places that, while interesting, I had no deep interest or attachment to. Others included a trip with my professor to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, an institution that has presided over countless humanitarian cases throughout the Western Hemisphere. Similar to my time at the Plaza de la Revolución, I was very overwhelmed when I first walked in. Fortunately, unlike that time, I did not cry.
A Different Culture
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