Madison Nesbitt got out of a taxi after a nine-hour flight, finally arriving at her host-family’s house in Santander, Spain. She walked up the hill on the uneven sidewalk, a little frustrated because the difficulty in communication made the taxi driver drop her off two blocks too early, and pressed the doorbell. Twice.
“It was so annoying and mostly frightening because I didn’t know what I was supposed to do at this point or where I was supposed to go,” said Nesbitt, 21, who waited two hours outside the apartment and, when no one still showed up, she got a hotel room for the night. “But, once that situation was resolved being abroad was the most amazing experience.”
Other students at the University of Miami have also had the opportunity to travel abroad. Many learned new languages, customs and cultures, and have gained many life experiences.
“Students really grow from this,” said Amy Cosan, 31, an advisor at the office of International Education and Exchange Programs. “It’s the best experience you can have in college.”
However, some students did not have such an amazing experience due to the fact that they visited English-speaking countries. They agreed that had they gone to a country that was unlike what they were accustomed to, they would have had a better time.
“I wouldn’t want to go to London again,” said Christina Cosmas, 21. “It wasn’t very life changing because it seemed a lot like the U.S. since they didn’t speak a different language. I got really bored with London, and was disappointed once I was there.”
On the contrary, Nesbitt, who visited Spain, loved the fact that she could practice her Spanish in everyday situations.
“It was great to be able to communicate with the Spanish people at their level,” Nesbitt said. “I really felt like a local, like I fit in.”
Some students believe traveling to a country where they don’t know the language forces them outside of a “comfort zone” and actually makes the experience more enjoyable.
“Being in a different culture, and having to adapt to a different lifestyle is one of the best learning experiences,” said Megan Ondrizek, 21, who studied abroad in Prague this past summer. “It gives you more of an awareness.”
Nesbitt took full advantage of her siesta while she was traveling around Spain. After lunch, she would take a nap for an hour and then do leisurely activities for the rest of the afternoon.
Cosmas on the other hand spent long hours at her summer internship in London and was not given a siesta in the middle of the day.
Cosmas found London to be like the U.S. in this sense because she said London residents focused too heavily on accomplishing things quickly and never had time to relax and enjoy life or the company of their friends.
Those who traveled to other English-speaking countries also found this to be true where they were visiting.
“Sydney was very metropolitan and chaotic,” said Jake Wurzak, a senior, who traveled to Australia this past summer. “In that sense, it wasn’t that big of a change from here.”
Traveling to non-English speaking countries also gives some students a new frame of reference for understanding the world.
“You’re being more adventurous by going somewhere where you don’t speak the language,” said Greg Linch, 20, who traveled to Shanghai, Beijing, Hong Kong, Chengdu, and Xian in China. “It’s actually very humbling.”
Lily Stofman may be contacted at email@example.com.