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Gabriella Arzate | Summer 2015 | Turkey

June 5, 2018


Q: What made you decide to study abroad? Why did you choose your program?

A: Even before coming to UCM I knew that I had wanted to study abroad, which pushed me to look into programs as a first year. I knew that I wanted to be exposed to places, perspectives, and ways of thinking outside of the US. I chose my program because it offered coursework in my major and planned minor, the location was rich in history and off the beaten path, Turkey is predominantly Muslim, and the price was something that I could afford.

Q: What was the highlight of your experience?

A: The highlight of my experience was being exposed to Islam and the people in Turkey. I had never before been treated as well as I was or exposed to people with so much optimism and compassion. Going to Turkey allowed me to see what it looked like when Islam was practiced in a place where it was normal to be Muslim and the combined experiences left me amazed, humbled, and changed.

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

A: I am a reserved and introverted person by nature, and that was my greatest challenge to overcome. I am an independent person, but to be able to get by and get the most out of my program I had to adapt. To do this, I enrolled in a Turkish language class to be able to interact more effectively with the locals, I challenged myself to only speak Turkish when I was outside of class and to become friends with the Turks around me as well as to ask for help – for example, when my luggage was lost for a week.

Q: How did the coursework compare to UCM?

A: In regards to the level of difficulty, the courses were on par with UCM but differed greatly in the styles. My language course involved much more interaction with other students and building up our vocabulary and understanding of grammar through comparisons. The course was more writing and application intensive compared to the language course that I have taken at UCM. The greatest difference was that there were no skits involved. My other course was Risk & Resilience – an area of study more common in Europe and Turkey than in the US – and was more discussion based than lecture, requiring us to take responsibility for learning and reading the material to be able to participate. For that class the grade was made up of only a final project built, similar to European university courses.

Q: What did you get out of your SA experience?

A: For me the experience was a bit of a wake up call. I was shown how small my perspective was, how much I underestimated myself, humanized and solidified in my mind the faraway places we hear about on the news, and showed me my potential. My experience also revealed to me the aspects of life that matter most to me, something that I did not expect.

Q: What advice would you give to a student considering SA?

A: Take the leap and do it, it isn’t something that you will regret doing. Regardless of one’s views, the reality is that we live in a globalized world and this is an opportunity to participate in it and grow academically, professionally, and personally. The benefits of study abroad are much more nuanced than the ability to travel and there will never be time when it is this easy to do. It’s perfectly understandable to be a little afraid and hesitant, but you shouldn’t let that hold you back.