Stories From Abroad

 

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Stories From Abroad (81)

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Hear first-hand stories from students who have built essential international skills by studying, volunteering, interning, teaching or working abroad. This is your portal to career-boosting international adventures!

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Stories From Abroad

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Asia (19)
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Australia, New Zealand & Oceania (4)
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Travel Smarts (5)
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Volunteer Abroad (15)
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Work Abroad (5)
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Working Vacations (5)
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Encountering Cultures Across Europe
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Adventure In The Alps
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Adaptation And Appreciation In Japan
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Communicating Creatively In Spain
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A Professional Visit To Vietnam
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Learning The Local Ways Of Addis Ababa
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Springtime In Spain
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Building Memories In India
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A Canadian Globe-Trotter Visits The US
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Host Hospitality In Morocco
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Fun And Friends In The Netherlands
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Food, Fun And Festivals In Germany
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Hooked On Volunteering!
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Do It Yourself! A Proactive Intern In Rome
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Simpatico In Florence
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Motivated In Madagascar
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Kids And Culture In Korea
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Business And Pleasure In Australia
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Getting Sporty In Switzerland!
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Design And Dining In Korea
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Making Contacts Count In The UK
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Getting Settled In Seoul
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Ten Years Teaching In Seoul
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Soaking Up Japanese Culture
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A Year Of Feeling French
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A Bulgarian In England
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A Warm Welcome In Mexico
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Learning To Go With The Flow In France
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Going Solo In Spain!
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Beyond The Call Of Duty In Africa
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Take-Charge Travel: Germany And Beyond!
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Traveled in Europe
Plymouth State University
Her thoughts on Coming Home
I quickly realized that people tire of hearing your stories. It's difficult to communicate what the experience abroad was truly like. I began missing my gypsy lifestyle.
Her thoughts on Pre-Departure Preparation
I worked six days a week, sometimes for over 12 hours a day to make over $4,500 in three months, enough to fund my travels, as well as the necessary preparations, like a passport and a quality backpack.
Her thoughts on Personal Growth
Fear holds people back from taking the leap to travel, but I believe it is vital to have as many unique experiences as you can. I believe in living an extraordinary life.
Her thoughts on Taking It All In
We rarely ate at restaurants, instead packing picnics. But we made sure to have one nice meal out in each country to taste local specialities.
Worked in Switzerland
University of Waterloo
Her thoughts on The Application Process
To prepare for the interview I checked the company’s site and the qualities they wanted in the ideal candidate. I wanted the interviewer to know I’d done my prep work. I was offered the job on the spot!
Her thoughts on Communicating Abroad
With younger children it was surprisingly easy to get my point across. When we did have problems communicating, we’d act out the words, which would often result in us laughing!
Her thoughts on Adaptation
The biggest challenge I found to living in the Alps was the altitude. For the first few weeks I was out of breath after just a short walk to work. As an avid runner, this was a big shock for me.
Her thoughts on Taking It All In
On a trip to Morocco, we drank tea in a cave home with an Arabic family, attended a Bedouin wedding and went on a camel trek in the desert – things I never dreamed I’d get to do!
Taught English in Japan
Her thoughts on Communicating Abroad
The most important thing I learned about communication was that insecurity wasn't going to get me anywhere.
Her thoughts on Language Learning
I realized that my Japanese wasn't going to improve unless I used it, and I didn't need to be afraid of talking to strangers – all of my best encounters came as a result of taking a chance with people.
Her thoughts on Boosting Your Career
Teaching in Japan made an immeasurable impact on my life. When I returned to Canada, I knew I had to stay connected to this experience in some way – it really shaped my career aspirations.
Studied & Learned a Language in Spain
SUNY: Oneonta
Her thoughts on Pre-Departure Preparation
It’s important to prepare yourself for the shock of being in a culture that’s completely different from your own.
Her thoughts on Cultural Differences
Although Spanish culture is different from American culture, it doesn’t mean that either one is wrong or right. They are each unique.
Her thoughts on Motivation
I wasn't making as much progress in Spanish class as I thought I should have been, so the best option for me was to become fully immersed in the culture – where I’d have no choice but to communicate in Spanish!
Worked in Vietnam
University of Illinois, Urbana Champaign
His thoughts on Boosting Your Career
Talking with other foreigners gave me insider advice on how foreign job searches are conducted.
His thoughts on The Right Attitude
Have confidence! There really is no reason to be shy with superiors or strangers.
His thoughts on Cultural Differences
In most cities in Asia, you're constantly surrounded by people, severely limiting your "me time".
His thoughts on Boosting Your Career
Network as much as you can so that when you do look for a serious job, the transition is more seamless and you know where the opportunities are.
Interned in Ethiopia
UBC: Sauder School of Business
Her thoughts on Motivation
I've always wanted to go to Africa and see for myself what it’s really like there; and being a commerce student, I also find it interesting to see how different countries conduct business.
Her thoughts on Communicating Abroad
If there was a misunderstanding, we could always use our hands or try with English, but we always tried in Amharic (the local language) first!
Her thoughts on The Right Attitude
The most important thing for me was to go with an open mind, and have zero expectations. You have to adapt and things aren’t always the way you want them to be.
Studied in Spain
Lebanon Valley College
Her thoughts on Homestays
What surprised me the most about my time abroad was the home-stay component. It had been the part that, at first, worried me the most, but it ended up being the most rewarding.
Her thoughts on The Right Attitude
What do you need? The three c’s: confidence, creativity, and comfy shoes!
Her thoughts on Cultural Differences
I was always greeted with friendly kisses on the cheek and hugs. This was unusual to me at first, coming from America where our typical greeting is a handshake.
Her thoughts on Coming Home
All good things must come to end, but for now I have the photos and the memories to reflect on.
Studied in India
SUNY: University at Albany
Her thoughts on The Application Process
At first I thought studying abroad would not be feasible because of the cost. But, to my surprise, there were plenty of study abroad programs that were extremely affordable.
Her thoughts on The Right Attitude
I thought it was important to have an open mind in terms of location. Any country inhabited by human beings was fair game!
Her thoughts on First Impressions
The biggest surprise was the impact my presence had on those I encountered. They were extremely grateful for our service and excited to welcome us.
Her thoughts on Personal Growth
There were instances along the way where I really had to reach deep down inside for the courage to work through and finish the program – but never once did I think about giving up.
Her thoughts on Coming Home
I’ll never take my air conditioned home for granted again, because I spent 10 days building a simple, four-wall structure the size of my bedroom for a family of 10.
Her thoughts on Personal Growth
My life’s paradigm has been completely shifted for the better.
Her thoughts on Coming Home
I thought my biggest concern upon returning would be the jet lag. But that just goes to show how studying abroad changes a person!
Her thoughts on The Right Attitude
In time you’ll realize that most people you encounter are more similar to you than they are different.
Her thoughts on Cultural Differences
There will always be divides and differences between cultures, so we must accept them and look past them.
Her thoughts on Communicating Abroad
With the world becoming increasingly interconnected, it is important to develop cross-cultural skills.
Her thoughts on Communicating Abroad
It is somewhat disrespectful and pompous to assume that all other cultures are familiar with the ways of one's own. A respectful bond is the key to success in any interaction, especially a cross-cultural one. 
Studied in the USA
Mount Royal University
Her thoughts on Boosting Your Career
My exchanges helped give me clarity on my educational path. I really believe that when I look back on my years as a student, it will be my exchanges that stand out.
Her thoughts on Personal Growth
My study abroad term resulted in a little longer in school to complete degree requirements, but I wouldn’t have it any other way!
Studied in Morocco
Drake University
His thoughts on Motivation
My sister spent a semester in Istanbul when I was 15. The thought of her thriving on a completely different continent got me thinking that maybe the world extended a little bit past my hometown of Green Bay, Wisconsin.
His thoughts on Cultural Differences
I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I thought I'd offend my hosts at some point and there would be some sort of rift. There wasn’t in the least -- my family loved me like a son.
His thoughts on Cultural Differences
What struck me the most, seeing my home in a different light, was just how much stuff Americans had and how much space they had for all that stuff.
His thoughts on Coming Home
Everything I had been craving so badly while I was gone was the same as when I had left – there was no big celebration behind eating peanut butter, drinking American coffee or using a electric hand dryer again.
His thoughts on The Right Attitude
In Morocco, your taxi driver may speak one of any four languages – and you have to be ready that French might not be one of them. To me, the fun lies within this unpredictability!
His thoughts on First Impressions
I'd taken autumn for granted while I was home; I'd never even thought that it simply didn’t exist elsewhere in the world. When it was gone I had a surprising time adjusting.
Studied in the Netherlands
Mount Royal University
Her thoughts on Boosting Your Career
Studying abroad developed my cross-cultural communication skills and made me more approachable and unafraid – which I'll take with me into my future career.
Her thoughts on The Application Process
In writing my application, I felt the most important aspect was to show my passion for traveling, learning and experiencing new cultures.
Her thoughts on Taking It All In
I was amazed at how easy it is to travel in Europe. I visited over 15 countries during my semester abroad!
Studied & Learned a Language in Germany
Western
Her thoughts on Taking It All In
My advice for others is that when you’re on your excursions, be sure to explore the treasures within your own host city too!
Her thoughts on Motivation
If you have an interest in your host country, you'll find it's easy to adapt. You might even find new cultural norms that suit you better than your own.
Her thoughts on The Right Attitude
If you get lost in the middle of Barcelona looking for the Picasso museum, so what? Explore what's around you!
Her thoughts on Coming Home
Coming back felt as if I had left my second home.
Volunteered in Guatemala & Peru
College of Saint Elizabeth
Her thoughts on Motivation
I am originally from Guyana. Growing up in a Third World country gave me a real insight into how hard things can be. Now I want to give back as much as I can.
Her thoughts on Pre-Departure Preparation
There are no excuses! If you have a burning desire to serve, you can make it happen.
Her thoughts on Homestays
Going with my volunteer program, we stayed in a local host home and ate traditional cuisine three times a day. This approach to going abroad made me feel like I was much more a part of the culture than I would have been staying at a hotel.
Interned in Italy
University of Wisconsin: Oshkosh
Her thoughts on Boosting Your Career
When I wanted to make a career change I looked back at what impacted me the most as an undergrad -- and that was studying abroad.
Her thoughts on Pre-Departure Preparation
I’m so glad that I started looking into it months before I had to travel, because that was an extensive process.
Her thoughts on The Application Process
There was no official application, just me taking an idea and running with it!
Her thoughts on The Right Attitude
By looking at my experiences as adventures instead of challenges, I shaped those experiences positively.
Her thoughts on Communicating Abroad
The most important thing that I learned when 2087 was to take things with a grain of salt, be flexible, and laugh at your mistakes. It’s just as hard for the people you are trying to communicate with as it is for you!
Her thoughts on The Application Process
My number one tip would be not to give up on something you really want to do! I heard a lot of “no” before I finally heard “yes”!
Studied in Italy
SUNY: University at Albany
Her thoughts on Communicating Abroad
The most important thing about cross-cultural communication in Italy was using hand gestures. If I didn’t know how to say a certain word, hand gestures were a universal way I could communicate!
Her thoughts on Personal Growth
I used to do everything in a hurry. Now I try to take things step-by-step and notice everything around me.
Her thoughts on First Impressions
Be prepared to arrive not knowing anything, feeling like an outsider – but leave feeling like you found a new home.
Interned in Madagascar
University of Waterloo
His thoughts on The International Workplace
Persevere. Companies, while willing to help students, have other commitments that are much higher on their priority lists and perseverance will be your greatest asset. 
His thoughts on Adaptation
At first it was a challenge to communicate with the Malagasy employees, but I quickly realized that I’d be more successful if I made the effort to adapt.
His thoughts on The Right Attitude
I wasn’t afraid to travel, try new foods, or get my hands dirty helping the villagers.
Taught English in South Korea
University of Alberta
Her thoughts on Motivation
I’d always been really interested in Korean culture; and through my research I learned that South Korea really provides the best package when it comes to teaching overseas.
Her thoughts on The International Workplace
The kids love their teachers! I taught fourth grade through sixth grade and it’s the only time I’ve ever felt like a rock star! My students would get so excited every time they saw me.
Her thoughts on Cultural Differences
There were things that I didn’t understand, or that I found confusing… but I always took a step back and reminded myself that different cultures have different ways of doing things.
Her thoughts on Communicating Abroad
Be fearless; be open to advice and criticism; and be willing to throw yourself into the process of trying to communicate.
Studied in Australia
HEC Montreal
His thoughts on Motivation
It’s fundamental for our generation to understand the forces that shape the cultural backgrounds of people around us. Traveling is undoubtedly the best way to gain that understanding.
His thoughts on The Right Attitude
This experience taught me that everything eventually falls into place in life and there’s no need to worry about things we can’t control.
His thoughts on The Right Attitude
If you are willing to try new things and push your limits, I don’t see how your study abroad experience could not be a success.
His thoughts on Boosting Your Career
As a business student, studying overseas was a great idea as it enabled me to extend my business network. I met individuals abroad that could eventually become business partners.
His thoughts on Coming Home
I have decided to be as passionate about my hometown as I am about other places of the world. Surely, I would have never truly appreciated home if I had not gone away.
Worked in Switzerland
University of Waterloo
Her thoughts on The International Workplace
One of the challenges in my workplace was that my colleagues were also the people I lived with. It was challenging to have my “colleague lenses” on, rather than my “friendship lenses.”
Her thoughts on Taking It All In
I traveled to many cities -- London, Amsterdam, Berlin -- each country gave me a different perspective.
Her thoughts on Personal Growth
For me, education is a lifelong process, and this is only the beginning. I am already planning my next international exchange.
Studied in South Korea
University of Wisconsin: Oshkosh
Her thoughts on Motivation
Studying in South Korea had always been a personal goal, so when my school finally offered the program, I knew I had to sign up.
Her thoughts on The Application Process
I really wanted to make sure that the application went smoothly. I never doubted myself and I was never negative about all the work I had to put in.
Her thoughts on Pre-Departure Preparation
I took out a loan and worked a lot before I left. I made sure to save money from each paycheck to put into my Korea fund.
Had a Working Vacation in England
University of Waterloo
Her thoughts on The Application Process
I looked into many options for finding a job abroad but the one with the best result ended up being from a personal contact I didn’t even know I had!
Her thoughts on Homestays
The people who helped me get a job offered me a room in their house. Taking them up on the offer was one of the best decisions I made! I became part of the family.
Her thoughts on The Right Attitude
Be willing to change your plans and meet new people. If you start talking to the people beside you in your hostel, chances are you will make friends for the day.
Her thoughts on Adaptation
You never quite get past the odd feeling of life happening without you at home, but you are busy building your own memories that outweigh the losses.
Taught English in Korea
Mount Allison University
Her thoughts on Motivation
I wanted another chance to live in a foreign culture, but I wanted to take it a step further and go where I wouldn’t be able speak or read the language.
Her thoughts on First Impressions
I felt disoriented and overwhelmed in the first couple of weeks. The jet lag, new language, pollution and creepy seafood all added up to feeling way out of my comfort zone.
Her thoughts on Taking It All In
It was tough to connect with other teachers outside of school, but my breakthrough came when I got involve with the Seoul Players, a theater company for expats.
Taught English in Korea
His thoughts on Pre-Departure Preparation
I suggest trying to find out the working conditions beforehand, or try contacting a friend or acquaintance that lives in the area to see what advice they have.
His thoughts on First Impressions
One of my first big surprises was the amount of hours some students are required to study. They're usually even too busy to participate in extra-curricular activities.
His thoughts on The International Workplace
The best advice for teaching cross-cultural would be the same as teaching local students: have patience.
Studied in Japan
Mount Royal University
His thoughts on Motivation
I was introduced to the world of Japan through comics, and from that I was motivated to do more research.
His thoughts on Pre-Departure Preparation
Getting everything in order early will give you time to think of anything you might have forgotten, and give you a chance to relax before you travel.
His thoughts on Cultural Differences
The way that the Japanese perceive themselves in relation to everyone else around them, and in different situations, dictates everything from how they act to how they speak. Hierarchy is very important.
His thoughts on Taking It All In
Meet new people. All of a sudden you’ll have a life outside of the exchange program, and your life in whatever country you’re in becomes much more exciting.
His thoughts on Personal Growth
To judge something like this as a ‘success’ is an understatement. In reality there isn’t a word I could put to such a massive thing as my year in Japan. I just want to go back.
His thoughts on Communicating Abroad
The meaning of a handshake, or a bow from the waist, or a smile often says more than a word ever could.
Studied in France
McMaster University
Her thoughts on Motivation
I am a self-proclaimed "Francophile", and for someone who is pursuing a double major in French and History, it made perfect sense to go to France and be immersed in all that I was learning about.
Her thoughts on Cultural Differences
The French live at a slower pace and really take the time to enjoy life's simple pleasures. There isn't as much of an urgency to always hurry through the day.
Her thoughts on First Impressions
I found that a good way of coping my first month in Lyon was to run on autopilot and be task oriented. I was constantly checking things off my "to do" list.
Her thoughts on Language Learning
Actions, gestures, intonation, voice inflection, facial expressions, and body language play just as much of a role as the oral component.  
Her thoughts on Taking It All In
I would walk the length of the market and peruse the stalls, stopping every now and again to nibble a sample of cheese or saucisson.
Her thoughts on The Right Attitude
Learn to laugh at yourself when the little things go awry - laughter is often the best remedy for an embarrassing situation.
Had a Working Vacation in the UK
Her thoughts on Pre-Departure Preparation
Saving up beforehand made the trip much easier, and I actually managed to save up some money while I was in the UK.
Her thoughts on Coming Home
Before arriving home I told my mother that I wanted at least four or five of my favorite dishes prepared as soon as I returned.
Her thoughts on Adaptation
I had to force myself to become more and more patient. Sometimes I have a temper, and I really learned to control it while I was away!
Volunteered in Mexico
St. Ambrose University
Her thoughts on Motivation
I absolutely love helping others. I’m very involved in a variety of volunteer experiences at home and I wanted to continue with this type of work while I was abroad.
Her thoughts on Coming Home
I felt like my time abroad had gone by so fast. It was a dream that I wanted to keep dreaming.
Her thoughts on Language Learning
By putting myself out of my comfort zone I was forced to speak the language. After my experience, I feel that studying abroad is one of the very best ways to learn a language.
Her thoughts on Adaptation
I always made sure to respect the different cultural values held by the locals: eating when and what they ate, greeting the way they did, and wearing the same types of clothes.
Studied in France
Carleton University
His thoughts on Boosting Your Career
I liked the idea of being immersed in a foreign culture, and the potential to bring back skills and knowledge to sell to employers upon graduation.
His thoughts on Personal Growth
Studying abroad forced me to change as an individual and learn about things that I previously had no interest in.
His thoughts on Language Learning
My time abroad has allowed me to gain fluency in French to a level where I can express myself with a degree of ease and spontaneity.
His thoughts on The Right Attitude
When things go wrong during your time abroad (such as missing your train), don’t forget to be happy and keep a sense of humor – this will go a long way!
His thoughts on Personal Growth
Before my exchange, I can definitely say that ambiguity was not my friend! But things changed during my exchange and I handle it much better than I did before. 
Studied in Spain
University of Evansville
Her thoughts on The Right Attitude
Instead of looking at it as something that would take me away from the familiar, I decided to view it as an adventure that I was fortunate to experience.
Her thoughts on First Impressions
All of a sudden I wasn't having fun any more. I was awakening from the dreamy version of studying abroad, and what I saw when I finally opened my eyes was the plain truth. 
Her thoughts on The Right Attitude
My experience turned out to be a success because I made it my own, and I grew to accept the city’s flaws along with its charms.
Her thoughts on Coming Home
I was apprehensive about returning because I had learned so much and wanted others to recognize that I had changed.
Volunteered in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
Carleton University
His thoughts on Motivation
I wanted to further develop my skills and experiences in community development work, and to help refugee populations escape from conflict zones.
His thoughts on Adaptation
I learned very quickly that a person living in these circumstances has to be extremely flexible to deal with changing situations and different challenges whereby every day seemed fraught with another situation or event.
His thoughts on Language Learning
Language is extremely important when attempting to build a bridge across a cultural divide.
His thoughts on Cultural Differences
I found that the willingness of people to share, to work hard, and to learn as much as possible, were shared values that allowed me to partially bridge the cultural divide.
His thoughts on Coming Home
I ensured that I scheduled a few days to “decompress” in the UK before heading back home. The idea of decompressing was to get used to being back in the so-called “modern world” before having to interact with family members.
His thoughts on Coming Home
I found that I felt a profound sense of injustice, given the amount of excess wealth is available in our society. For a while I felt a certain sense of disgust and anger.
Studied in Germany
University of Ottawa
Her thoughts on Motivation
In essence, I decided to go on an exchange to live life while I was young.
Her thoughts on Adaptation
The academic formality that exists in the German school system is certainly something I had to adapt to. From interactions with professors after a class, to the way exams were written; they were a step up from what I was used to.
Her thoughts on Motivation
The beauty of it all was that for half a year, I lived somewhere where no one knew who I was before I stepped off that plane.
Her thoughts on Language Learning
You never, ever, ever sound stupid. Locals who see you genuinely trying to learn their language will do what they can to help you.
Her thoughts on Motivation
If you’re sitting on the fence about whether or not to apply for an exchange, I can tell you that my experience changed my life.

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