Study Abroad Dispels Prejudices and Stereotypes

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I have recently returned to New York from studying abroad in Seville, Spain through SUNY New Paltz for the fall 2015 semester. I chose this program because I am a double major in Accounting and Spanish and was keen on using this experience to further my studies. The program offers advanced Spanish classes and is specifically located in Seville. This was important to me because I wanted a program that was not conventional. I knew I would encounter loads of English speakers in Madrid or Barcelona and wanted to be challenged beyond the safety of Americans and first language English.

Study abroad was not what I expected, but everything I could have asked for. I consider myself to be an adaptable and confident person and believed that I would hit the ground running when I first arrived in Seville. However, this was NOT the case. Originally I was smacked with a load of culture shock. Being in a different country, with a different language and a distinctly different lifestyle, is a lot to take in. The beginning of my adventure was by far the most difficult. I had to acclimate and in order to do so I was forced to let my guard down, accept and embrace the dissimilarities and as one of my newly made friends suggested to me, “Let Spain take you over.” This was no easy task. I first had to cleanse the presumptions and subconscious prejudices I had about Spain. For example, I initially thought that Spaniards disliked Americans and believed us to be obnoxious and ethnocentric. However, I quickly discovered this is a fallacy. If anything, Spaniards are as intrigued by Americans as we are with getting to know them. Locals were extremely friendly and native Spanish students were always offering a hand.

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After I changed my outlook and my purpose I soon became comfortable and rather complacent in Seville. But I was aching to travel. Complacency has never been a state I like to dwell in for long. This was a turning point for my experience and is something I HIGHLY recommend. Traveling allowed me to get away for the weekend, meet new people, see new cultures and provided the dual opportunity to enjoy the thrill of being in a new place but also the relieving feeling of coming home to Seville. I traveled to Portugal, France, Switzerland, Holland and of course, all over Spain. Each country was supremely unique and the fellow travelers I met along the way are the aspect I miss most about studying abroad. There are so many brilliant, friendly and exceptional people out there, with opinions and viewpoints that I did not even know existed. I was given access to an array of mentalities that derive simply from not being American. Those conversations could never be replicated and what I gained from these people has provided me with a new dimension of thinking.

I tell everyone to study abroad. Experiencing people that are different from you is the prime treatment for eradicating ignorance and hate. Physically meeting someone humanizes them and helps to dispel prejudices and stereotypes. Additionally, this adventure extricated me from the bubble and safety of my everyday life. There is only so much time to drop everything and travel across the globe. If there is any time to take advantage of this opportunity, it’s now, as a student, when responsibilities are limited and curiosity is on the incline.

Maria Chrysanthem, a double major in Accounting and Spanish at Binghamton University

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