One of my advisers suggested that I try to compare and contrast my two study abroad experiences while an undergraduate student at Temple University. It simultaneously also does the job of wrapping up my experience. However, comparing the two experiences I have had is hard to do. First some background knowledge:
Spring semester of sophomore year, I partook in an exchange program in Norwich, England, which is a city about two hours northwest of London. I was enrolled in three classes, including an environmental science course, biology course, and a creative writing course (counted as my art Gen Ed). During my six-month-abroad adventure, I did a lot of growing as an individual and young adult. I went on numerous trips around Europe and met some amazing people along the way.
So, here is the part where I try to compare and contrast…
-both experiences put me outside of my comfort zone. Going to England was my first experience abroad that I took on by myself and without knowing anyone. In India, I had no idea how the disparity in culture would play out.
-both were fulfilling in that I learned about myself and what I liked and did not like about living in that specific country, be it food, culture, etc.
-I was able to gain the best experience because I put myself out there and made friends with local residents in both locations. In England, I made friends with many of my flatmates, was able to travel with them and even visit their hometowns, and I learned how real Brits live. In India, I was able to speak to the translators and really get to know them and ask them about their lives. In some instances, I even had the opportunity to go home with them so that they could show me their home life.
-While both experiences were eye-opening, they did so in very different ways…England opened me up to new experiences, a different college adventure, and opened my eyes to how college is for foreigners. England taught me how to be mature and travel smartly on my own, as it was my first time doing so. I learned how to make friends, how to talk to anyone, and how to better be myself through the process. Living in India taught me how drastically culture plays into lifestyle. It was incredible to see how people across the world live and thrive.
-Accepting what you’ve been taught…India left me questioning myself and my beliefs more often than not. For example, after being asked why I wear contacts instead of my glasses some days, I would find myself perplexed. Everything had to be explained, and this holds true vice versa. When I was being taught the reason why some Indian traditions came to be, I would find myself questioning the reasons. England was the exact opposite. I would learn something about the way that “Uni” was taught and it made so much more sense to me.
-Both are culture shocks, but the cultural differences in India were more apparent to me, and in England the differences were more subtle.
Both experiences, for me, were one-of-kind and the best I could have hoped for. Both have lasting impressions and have left me with new information and various global perspectives.