Meredith Bayliss, ’13, Copenhagen, Denmark, Spring 2012 – I went abroad to Copenhagen, Denmark to study public health through the Danish Institute of Study Abroad (DIS). I had never been abroad before and, as someone of biracial descent in Northern Europe, I was anxious about how challenging it would be to make friends. However, Danes were very kind—something I discovered even within the first week of being there. The key to success for me was keeping an open mind and allowing myself to embrace their culture. My active involvement in my new country took the interest of Danes and often began friendly questions and conversations, which ultimately led to all sorts of new friends! To get me started, the program was extremely helpful by implementing exchange student social events, a host-family program and other opportunities. In addition, I took the extra initiative to try new things and to participate in Danish culture on my own. The result was a multitude of friendships that I still have today. My experience was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life as it broadened my perspective and helped me grow as an individual. Please take advantage of going abroad during your student experience at Bates.
Bommy Cha ’12, Florence, Italy, Winter 2011 — I spent a semester abroad in Florence, Italy through Syracuse University. During the semester, I traveled throughout Italy and even ventured out to Paris, Madrid, Berlin, and Morocco. I learned a little Italian and was exposed to so many new experiences. As an Asian American, I did stand out among the generally homogenous Italian population, but in the classroom, my fellow classmates came from all different racial backgrounds. The people whom I met abroad in addition to my host family were respectful and very open towards me. Out of curiosity and interest, they frequently stopped to ask me questions about my racial background. My host family and I even cooked Korean food together, which was a great way to share something from my culture with them. My time abroad has been a great experience and I’ve learned that generally, people of different countries are accustomed to interacting with people of color and are open and friendly if we show respect for their culture as well. I learned so much about different cultures and learned to appreciate mine much more. I recommend every one to spend a semester abroad because it will change your perspective and expose you to so much.
Jonah Richards ‘09, Grenoble, France, Fall 2007 – I spent a semester in Grenoble, France through Swarthmore College. I was the only student of color on the program, but the program’s directors and students always made me feel a full member of group. I think American students of color would be surprised by the diversity of Europe. At L’Université Stendhal, I took classes with students from Iran, China, Korea, Russia, Israel and Sweden. I talked with many Northern and Sub-Saharan Africans immigrants on the tram. Never during my stay in Grenoble did I feel myself to be in danger. The city was small and the police were always polite and helpful. Living in another culture (especially one with a different language) can be very challenging. Yet it is through persevering through these challenges that we become stronger. Studying in France not only improved my French, but also made me more independent and more aware of different perspectives. Do not let your ethnicity deter you from studying in Europe. The countries are much more diverse than they appear and exploring their different cultures and histories is one of most rewarding experiences you will ever have.
Sade Greene ’11, Bath, England, Fall 2009 –Studying abroad in England changed my life for the better and opened my eyes to the history of both ancient and modern Europe. Before departing, I was hit with a deluge of emotions from excitement to anxiety about the cost of the program as well as fear of the social challenges I might face. The people in the Bates Study Abroad Office assuaged my apprehension and walked me through each concern. Once abroad, I found the general population exceedingly friendly, helpful, and fascinated that I was from New York City. There were so many aspects of my study abroad experience that I enjoyed. I walked in the footsteps of my favorite authors like D.H. Lawrence, E.M. Forester, Virginia Woolf, and Thomas Hardy. I enjoyed the opportunity to experience the English tutorial system in my creative writing course. Socially, I enjoyed talking and hanging out with a diverse group of students from English universities. As with all new experiences, there were challenges, but the staff and faculty at my program gave me ample support. Studying abroad helped me to gain more self-confidence and appreciate different outlooks on life. Trust me, it’s an experience you’ll never forget.