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Gaining New Skills Abroad

Sydney at Chateau de Chantilly in Paris
Sydney at Chateau de Chantilly in Paris
Sydney Nwakanma
Major: 
Economics
Program: 
France + UK
Term Abroad: 
Spring 2018

Q: Initially, what made you decide to study abroad? Why did you choose your program?

A: I was really drawn to the internship opportunity that the Global Cities Urban Realties program offered. I had never had an internship before in my college career, and I understood that this was my chance to acquire this opportunity. In addition, it helped that my program offered a dual city experience that is very unique and attractive. I applied because I was convinced that I would receive plenty of cultural and professional skills through this program.

Q: What was the highlight of your study abroad experience?

A: My biggest highlight was witnessing France's World Cup win while in France and witnessing Belgium's game win against Brazil during the World Cup while in Belgium.

Q: What was your greatest challenge abroad and how did you overcome it?

A: My greatest challenge was pushing myself to explore areas in big cities and communicate with my co-workers during my internship. In order to overcome my fear of exploring areas alone, I managed to map out specific activities during my free time and invite other students in my program to join me. This allowed me gain confidence in exploring areas and actually enjoy it. At my internship, I decided to ask my supervisor of projects he would like me to work on and this encouraged me to ask my co-workers for help even when I didn't need it.

Q: How did your coursework abroad compare to your courses at UC Merced?

A: I found my coursework abroad to be much easier and enjoyable than my coursework at UC Merced. This was because classes abroad included multiple site visits and field trips, which were very informative, and they offered an opportunity to explore the city much more. Also classes abroad mainly required essays and presentations, which tested our writing and oral skills. I particularly like writing, so these kinds of assignments were always a joy to do. All in all, I preferred the non-traditional style of coursework and class structure to traditional courses.

Q: What did you gain from your study abroad experience?

A: I gained a sense of respect and self-discipline since I was in different countries surrounded by different cultures and customs. It would have been very easy for me to disrespect a culture that is different from mine because I was not accustomed to it. However, I never allowed myself to be uncomfortable with this change in normalcy. I instead used this as an opportunity to actively learn a new language and build friendships with the locals. In this way, I persevered through cultural challenges and appreciated the chance to improve my communication skills.

Q: What advice do you have for students considering study abroad?

Take leaps of faith and always make time for yourself and your academics. Studying abroad is a great way to optimize you academic experience and live a better quality of life. You will never know what this feels like until you take a leap of faith and try it.