Studying abroad is something that I think everyone should consider throughout their college experience. It’s wordly impact is something to look forward to and enjoy. I participated in SUNY Brockport’s Mahidol University Program in Thailand because I wanted to go somewhere different. I wanted a conversation starter. The “Oh, you studied in Thailand?” personally sounds at least somewhat interesting to start a conversation.
Also, prior to studying abroad, I glorified being exposed to different cultures, and didn’t realize that I am already exposed to these cultures in America. I was more so fixated on the idea that being abroad will allow me to enjoy a whole new world. That’s exactly what it turned out to be.
Furthermore, what surprised me while abroad was how nice people were. Yes, they stared at me because I was a foreigner, and because they haven’t seen a women, whose skin is as smooth and dark as coffee, like mine before. That was definitely an experience I feel every person of color has experienced within their lifetime. Sad but true.. Although, one of my biggest challenges was embracing the staring and the fact that I looked completely different. Another challenge was facing myself. Coming to the realization, that it was okay to be alone. Sometimes people need that time alone to reflect and realize what’s the the true meaning of life, meaning of myself and my own identity. I took this as a time to figure out what I wanted and didn’t want for myself. The pros and cons and all the benefits of each decision I make.
In addition, studying abroad was rewarding. I was happy with myself because I actually did it. I took the steps and made it happen. I took an idea that made me somewhat anxious and followed through. I got to make really good friends from all around the world and was able to travel within Asia. My experiences left me with a lot of time to go on adventures and find things out about myself. I excelled academically, took arts classes, and even joined the debate team. I met my goals because I was sure to make school a priority. It’s really easy to forget that you are in school when immersing into a different environment.
Additionally, I would most definitely encourage other students to study abroad because of how fulfilling it is. I knew going abroad was something that I’ve always wanted to do, but I let anxiousness get in the way. My journey has allowed me to make use of all opportunities presented to me, no matter what fear was associated with it. Yes, you will be alone. Yes, it will be a different environment. Yes, you will make great friends. Yes, you will be able to travel other countries and try new foods. Yes, there is phone service. All these yes’ ensure that your decision to study abroad will be one that you won’t regret.
Lastly, the top ten things you should know before you study abroad is to start, do your research:
#1 Understand the location you are about to reside in and what’s culturally important and what’s not.
#2 Download google translate. It’s essential and a life saver. There’s even a feature that allows you take a picture and it translates what is said on an image.
#3 Pack lightly. Of course pack your necessities, like undergarments, your favorite face wash, lotions, or hair products. I’m not saying you won’t find it there, but sometimes products in different countries have different ingredients. For instance, I struggled finding lotions that didn’t have heavily advertised “whitening” agents.
#4 Make sure you get a visa that allows you travel within whatever continent you are in. Sometimes the way your schedule is set up, you will have time to travel.
#5 Make friends. Having friends that are going through what you most likely may experience makes things easier.
#6 Try new foods. Taste the spicy thing that you’ve always glanced at.
#7 Make memories. Take photos and be sure to back them up.
#8 Get a journal. Write down your thoughts when you wake up and before you go to bed.
#9 Buy souvenirs. Buy gifts for your family and yourself.
#10 Be open to new things.
Sasha Meus, a Sociology major, studied at Mahidol University in Thailand through SUNY Brockport in fall 2018.