#YSASpotlight: Kiara Takes Ecuador

Kiara, a Memphis, TN native and Georgia State grad student, recounts her experience in Ecuador rebranding a local NGO.

See more of Kiara's experience!

#YSASpotlight- John in China

A Little About John's Program

I am John Kelly, native of Memphis Tennessee, where I attended Whitehaven High School.  I attended Middle Tennessee State University as an undergraduate, where I also lettered 3 years as a defensive back for the Blue Raiders.  Shortly after I graduated and finished my last season, I decided it would be best that I shoot for my Masters.  While doing so, little did I know that I would stumble across an opportunity of lifetime in studying abroad.  I was extended the opportunity to Study Abroad through an International Business Management Course in the Masters’ program of Business Administration here at MTSU.  Through this course, I was able to be immersed in the Chinese culture, while gaining practical experience in international business.

Where did you study? Where did you live? What was the demographic makeup of the group you studied with?

I studied at the beautiful campus of Hangzhou Normal University located in Hangzhou, China for two weeks.  My study group consisted of 9 people (3 women, six men) including myself.  Within the student group, I was the only African American male, with the exception of my female classmate who’s from Gambia.  Also, along for the journey were our two male professors, Dr. Kim Sokoya (Nigeria), and Dr. Guanping Zheng(Shanghai) who orchestrated the trip. We were housed on campus in the international dormitory with other international students who were actually enrolled in the institution. 

Did you take classes through a university or did you take classes through your program?

I had an option between taking up a 6000 level management course on campus or to take the International management course for a 3 hour credit towards my Masters’ degree.  So, of course, I chose to apply to Study abroad and never looked back once I was accepted/selected to go.

What inspired you to study abroad?

Well, I had friends to study abroad in undergrad to learn different languages and they told me how amazing it was during their stay.  Once they got back, I was inspired by their stories and how their outlook on life itself changed tremendously.  They explained to me how their abroad experience inspired them to want to learn so much more about cultural differences and to take advantage of more similar opportunities around the World.  I was under the impression that I had to study or know a specific language to take advantage of such opportunities so I thought it was over for me in that aspect. This thought became false as I was presented the opportunity to study business abroad through the Business program at my university.  So, as I mentioned before, I took the opportunity and ran with it.

How did you finance your trip?

I originally received a $1000 scholarship through the program after applying and being approved, but that was just a third of what I needed.  As much as I was inspired to take upon the opportunity to study abroad, financing the rest of the trip I thought would be the hardest part.  I let days go by thinking about how I would come up with the money to fund the trip but was kind of prideful in asking anyone.  So, my sister came up with the idea to make a video tailored to my church for financial assistance being that it was like family.  After I did such, I sent it to my Pastor who didn’t play the video due to time constraints, but instead gave me a stipend which I gratefully appreciated.  However, I was still short, but I knew it would all work out.  After being stubborn and not wanting any social media attention on Facebook and etc., I was pressured by friends and family to create a Gofundme with my video attached since no one seen it. I finally put my pride to the side and listened by doing the two. My video produced a little over 8K views, 150 shares, and almost 500 likes on Facebook.  With that being said, I was able to see how much people actually cared and wanted to support me on my journey abroad to China.  This indeed helped me to fund the rest of my trip as well as money to spend throughout my stay.

Tell me something unique about your experience or a valuable lesson learned.

The most unique thing about my experience was networking and getting to know the Chinese people.  Before I arrived in China, I envisioned how the people would react towards foreigners, especially Americans.  It was the total opposite, as they welcomed us with open arms.  Being that we stayed on Campus, some of the students spoke good English and were willing and delighted to teach us about their culture as well as their business practices.  As much as we were enthused to learn their ways, they were even more excited to learn ours. As many questions they asked, they wanted to take a million pictures to go along with them. Lol.  It’s almost like they were the ones studying abroad and we were the host. Now, from a business mind, I figured that one of the main reasons why their companies are so successful is because they are excited to learn the ins and outs of consumers, making them feel delighted at all times to buy into them, their products, or services.

How has studying abroad helped/influenced you in pursuing your passion?

With a knack to work in the intercollegiate sports world, studying abroad has inspired me to be more open to change.  Intercollegiate sports is a fast-paced environment in which opportunities come and go rapidly just as my experience in China.  I loved the experience so much that I’m even considering the opportunity to study Chinese mandarin for a whole year to become at least level 3 fluent (enough to hold conversation, interpret words, and write). As I aspire to join the NCAA one day in its efforts to globalize and expand the intercollegiate athletics system into China, this language will also give me a competitive edge in its efforts.

Do you have any suggestions/advice for those interested in study abroad?

This is by far the best decision I’ve ever made in my life and there’s so much more to tell.  Please don’t be afraid to take advantage of the opportunity if ever presented because you’ll most definitely regret it.  Also, do not expenses be your reason for not considering studying abroad.   Most people are more than willing to help as well as inspired by you at the same time for taking advantage of such opportunity.  All you have to do is communicate and you’ll be surprised at how much attention and feedback you’ll receive just for letting someone know.  All in all, to those seeking to study abroad, step out of your comfort zone and take a leap of faith and you’ll feel as though you conquered a part of the World.

Traveling with an Internal Compass

Hi Readers! I recently sat down with my friend's cousin who travels all around the world on a regular basis to pick his brains about his traveling experiences. We talked for AT LEAST an hour and I wanted to share with you all the most poignant points of our conversation that spanned spirituality, fear and African culture abroad. I've also included some of his film work from his travels. Check them out and be sure to leave a comment!

A little about Julius

Julius: I’m 26 years old and I’m a current resident of Houston, Texas. I was born in Hollywood, California, raised in Los Angeles. When I was in school I studied journalism, and to this very day I am still passionate about film, broadcasting, and writing. As we speak that is something that I am continuing to work on and develop.

Check out Julius' international photography skills from Tokyo, Japan, Royal Pavilion (Brighton, England), London, England and Paris, France below:

 

Currently, I work for United Airlines’ catering division, Chelsea Foods. The only reason it’s named Chelsea Foods is because Chelsea is one of the only catering companies in existence that serves the airlines. Other airlines that we service include Air France, Air China, British Airways, and KLM, which is a Vietnamese carrier. As an employee, I have been able to travel domestically and abroad, completely free of charge!

Kierra: That’s awesome! Is this benefit what attracted you to this job?

Julius: It was, it’s the only thing that has kept me there, I’ll be honest. However, you know it’s crazy to me because there are a lot of people I work with who don’t travel. They don’t use the benefits. They’ve worked there twenty and thirty years all the way back to when United was Continental and they’ve only travelled one or two times. I’m like, “How can you go through all of the things you go through on this job, and and not travel!” Traveling for free is one of the biggest redeeming qualities, that’s the only reason really I went for the job. To see the world.

Kierra: Yeah, so 42% of Americans didn’t take any vacation days in 2014 so I can see how people wouldn’t exercise their travel benefits. However, it’s very baffling to me. Vacation days, free air travel, those are things you have earned with your hard work.

Julius: I think fear plays a major part in that. People are indoctrinated from early childhood with the belief that you should never talk to strangers. It’s for your children’s protection of course, but what that ends up doing is stifling their natural curiosity. And you take that into adulthood, and what happens is that you’re not willing to explore the world around you. You’re not even curious about it because it seems so much safer to just remain in your own backyard.

Kierra: That’s so true. There’s this quote that I love. “A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions.” I believe that people are fearful to broaden their footprint, but once they take that leap of faith, they become citizens of the world and not just their hometown because of the experiences they encounter.

 Julius’ first international trip

Julius: Well, my first trip out of the United States was to Calgary, Canada, but Paris, France was my first trip overseas.

Paris was life changing and humbling. We view Paris as such a decadent place filled with rich food and culture, and it’s all of that, but the reason I loved it is because I felt at home. There was an abundance of African culture in Paris which I personally had no clue would be there. It was just so familiar and warm to me that I didn't want to leave.

What changed about you and what did you learn on your first trip?

Julius: Well, I became more connected to my internal compass and that kind of delves into my spiritual beliefs a bit, because I do believe that we are born with senses that deviates from the average 5 tangible senses that we’re taught. I think that we all have this internal compass. That ties into fear as well. We have so many people who are very spiritual, very religious, but they are fearful. And if you think about it, if you believe that you are being guided every step of your way, there should be no fear. So I remember being in Paris and going out at night and seeing the Eiffel tower because everybody saying that you have to go at night when it’s lit up. So I went, it was breathtaking, and then I just stayed out. I stayed out and I just walked the streets of Paris. I’m talking, two and three o’clock in the morning. I had not even the least bit of fear, and I know it doesn’t sound very advisable especially with everything that has recently happened. However, I really do believe that my internal compass was with me every step of that way telling me what streets to turn down. I have Google maps on my phone, and so that really helped me getting to the places that I knew I wanted to go…But there’s a point where you turn your phone off and you just decide okay, this is what I am going to do. I’m just going to feel my way through the city. And when you do that, you have to channel walking by faith and not by sight in order to get to where you need to go. I’m telling you, when I was hungry, I could feel myself going down a certain street, and lo and behold there was a Caribbean restaurant that’s open at 3 o'clock in the morning. I’m going in they’re speaking Patois, they’re speaking French, and I’m like I want food, but I know it’s late. And one of the guys turned around and said, “If you want food you have to sit down, just sit down.” Those are the experiences that you wouldn’t have if you were going on a set program or a set itinerary. You just have to disconnect from all those things, and that’s something that I continue to try to use in my daily life, that internal compass.

That compass is there really for your protection. I didn’t feel the least bit unsafe because I’m always reminded of this fact that anything that will happen to you someplace else, could happen to you in your neighborhood. We talk about these bombings abroad all the time but we experience the same thing in our home front. For example, The Boston Marathon. It’s the same concept. You have terrorism, you have really egregious things that happen all over the world. It’s a fact of life. It’s a fact of karmic debt and it’s a fact of a lot of other things that are beyond our control. But the point is, when those survival instincts kick in we have to know that they’re there, and that we’ll be okay. 

What advice do you give to the people who just want to study or travel internationally and feel like there’s so many barriers?

Julius: Don’t let the logistics overcome the goal of traveling. I have the same philosophy with regards to money. Money can always be earned back, but sometimes you get a window of opportunity with experience and once that window shuts that particular opportunity might not come again. So in this life you have to take advantage of opportunities and you have to just make it work and work with whatever obstacles that come about. 

More videos from Julius' travels here, here and here. Enjoy!

YSA Spotlight: Margaret's Story

YSA had the awesome opportunity to "hangout" with Margaret, an ambitious pharmacy student who took her talents to Tuscany to study Viticulture and Enology (the fancy way to say winemaking!!!). Check out Margaret's story and let us know what you liked best about her experience and if you have questions in the comments section below!

Sounds like an amazing experience, right?? Live vicariously through Margaret's pictures below.

Enjoy!

YSA Spotlight: Cindy's Story

YSA: Tell me about your program. Where did you study? Where did you live? What was the demographic makeup of the group you studied with? 

Cindy: I was a part of the Global Leadership Scholars program for the College of Business at the University of Tennessee. As part of the program, we focused on international business and were required spend a semester abroad. I never had considered studying abroad before; but since the program required it, I prepared for it. I didn't study abroad with a program; I just did a student exchange. I was basically on my own, although I had help from advisors in the study abroad office. I studied at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia and lived in student housing with other international students. The international students I lived with were from all over the world. I shared a room with a girl from Connecticut, and the other two bedrooms in our apartment were occupied by a guy from England and a guy from Germany. The majority of students at Macquarie were of Asian descent. I didn't expect that at all, but that's how it was. I was the only white person in my accounting class. Everyone else was Asian (Chinese, Japanese, Korean, etc.)- even the teacher and tutorial assistant.

YSA: Did you take classes through a university or did you take classes through your program?

Cindy: I took classes through the university. I had to follow the curriculum to get the college credit, but I was able to choose which classes I took.

YSA: What inspired you to study abroad?

Cindy: GLS is the reason I chose to study abroad. I had never considered going abroad before I went to college. After applying for GLS, I was excited for a new adventure. I could go anywhere I wanted, so I chose to go to an English speaking country because I wasn’t confident enough in my Spanish. I considered a few European countries, but Australia was calling my name.

YSA: How did you finance your trip?

Cindy: My family didn't have much money, so everything was financed by myself and scholarships. I was fortunate enough to have a lot of scholarships so they paid for almost everything. I also took out a few loans to help cover the plane tickets and the money I needed while I was there.

YSA: Tell me something unique about your experience or a valuable lesson learned.

Cindy: Before going abroad, I always stayed in my comfort zone and was quite shy. It was like a fresh start when I went to Australia. I learned so much more about myself and what I wanted in life. I broke out of my shell quite a bit. I feel like I had a unique experience because after studying abroad and graduating, I moved back to Sydney. I loved it there, and I was excited to go back and experience "the real world" abroad. I lived there for three years, seized great opportunities, and it all began from studying abroad.

YSA: How has studying abroad helped/influenced you in pursuing your passion?

Cindy: I never realized how intrigued I was about the world and different cultures. After studying abroad in Sydney, which is a melting pot of a lot of different cultures, it lit a fire in me to learn more about the world. I don't mean it offensively, but a lot of people from the South are very close-minded, and being abroad really changed a lot of that for me. It truly opened my mind up new things and perspectives.

YSA: Do you have any suggestions/advice for those interested in study abroad?

Cindy: I would suggest to everyone to do it. There's a world of opportunities out there, and you'll never know until you get out there and experience it. Go in with an open mind and try new things. Get out of your comfort zone and go enjoy it. Some of my best friends now are people I met while I was studying abroad. It was by far the best decision I’ve ever made. Leave everything you know and are comfortable with behind, and open your mind and heart to new people, cultures, and experiences.

YSA Spotlight: Shell's Story

YSA: Tell me a little about your program?

Shell: I studied abroad in the cities of Rome, Sorrento, and Florence for three weeks and I stayed a week in each city. I spent a lot of time with the girls that I studied abroad with. There were five of us: two African Americans (including myself), two Caucasians, and one Indian. We all went to UT, but we had never crossed paths before. We stayed in hotels in Rome and Sorrento, and an apartment home in Florence. I loved staying in the apartment home the most because we all shared one huge space and no one was separated. As you can imagine, the trip was filled with historical tours and beautiful sights. We went to Naples and learned about the mob. We witnessed a wedding overlooking the Amalfi Coast. We ate great pasta and drank good wine (although we didn’t know what half of the menu items were). Studying abroad literally changed my life.

YSA: What inspired you to study abroad?

Shell: I had previously had multiple conversations with people who had already graduated from college and inquired about the one thing that they would do differently if they could go back to college. Most of the people I talked to said that they would study abroad. At that point I knew it was something I had to do. My freshman year I bought a passport with no study abroad plans in sight, but I knew that a trip abroad was on the horizon.

YSA: How did you finance your trip?

Shell: I talked to multiple people in different offices on campus on ways to raise money. I also talked with other students who had studied abroad and asked for advice as well. Per their advice, I began to solicit donations from various offices on campus. They all responded really well. They offered scholarships, their personal funds, and other people on campus that would be willing to help. I contacted my church and family back home and told them what I was trying to do and they helped raise money as well. Before I knew it, I had raised more than enough to cover the expenses for my trip and was purchasing my flight to Rome!

YSA: How has studying abroad helped/influenced you in pursuing your passion?

Shell: My passion in life has always been to make a difference in the lives of young women and be a great example of what God is capable of doing in your life. Studying abroad, basically free of charge, is just one testament in twenty-two years’ worth of testimonies. After being exposed to another culture, especially one so very different from my own, I was able to appreciate people’s differences so much more. It became so much easier to wrap my mind around the fact that there is an entire world out there just waiting to be discovered.

YSA: Do you have any suggestions/advice for those interested in study abroad?

Shell: Studying abroad is truly an experience that will reshape your world and for that reason it is worth making every effort to do so. Check out your available resources and find out what it takes in order to make it happen because, despite the challenges that may present themselves, you will be so grateful after adding that experience to your arsenal.

 

YSA Spotlight: Kamille's Story

YSA: Tell me about your program. 

Kamille: My program was a sports medicine research program in Australia provided via Global Links. By participating in the program, we were able to choose our own research topic and collect information for our topic during our time in Australia. We were able to attend several sporting events in Australia including Rugby, cricket, and tennis matches in an effort to compare the Australian sporting industry to that of the United States. We started at the bottom coast of Australia in Melbourne, then traveled north from there to Canberra, The Blue Mountains, Sydney, and lastly Cairns.

I didn’t know a single soul in the group that I went with (which I loved) because it allowed me to get out of my comfort zone and meet people from all over the U.S. There were people from Montana, Connecticut, Colorado, Florida…you name it. There were two other UT students there as well. I had never met them prior to my trip, even though we later discovered we had taken classes together. That was funny.

YSA: Did you take classes through a university or did you take classes through your program?

Kamille: I took classes at the University of Canberra. Our class was composed of our research project and the information that we collected, so we were never in the traditional “classroom” setting. Another major component of our trip was having the opportunity to sit in on lectures and informational sessions that were provided by Olympic trainers for the Australian Institute of Sport. The Australian Institute of Sport is the official training grounds where the Olympic Australian athletes train year around in order to prepare for competition. We were afforded the opportunity to watch them practice, tour the sports medicine and athletic training facilities, and even interview some of the athletes. This was my first time doing my own research project. As a result, I learned how to collect data, conduct surveys, and organize the information so that I could creatively display it. 

YSA: What inspired you to study abroad?

Kamille: To be honest, I’m actually not quite sure (lol). When I got to UT, I heard about studying abroad but I never actually imagined myself doing so. This was mainly due to the fact that I didn’t feel like there was a program specifically geared towards what I wanted to do professionally (Physical Therapy). I randomly received an e-mail from my advisor about the program one day, and the more I looked into it, the more I realized it was the perfect opportunity for me. The rest is history.

YSA: How did you finance your trip?

Kamille: Most of my trip was funded by my mother, but I did receive one scholarship from the study abroad office. I also started my own GoFundMe account about six months before my trip.

YSA: Tell me something unique about your experience or a valuable lesson learned.

Kamille: Oh, this is my favorite question for sure (lol). When I initially set out to study abroad, I had no idea that my time abroad would be what I now consider to be my biggest period of spiritual growth. The semester before I left, I was going through a lot of personal issues, and I talked to God about this (trip) being a fresh start for me. Before I left, my mom gave me the book “The Purpose Driven Life” by Rick Warren. I started reading it each day during my trip, starting with my first airplane ride and that book changed my prospective on life forever. I was so thankful that God led me to read it because I don’t think I had ever been so close and open to Him in my entire life. Although I was in one of the most beautiful places on earth and seeing views that didn’t even seem real, I vividly remember thinking how AWESOME my God was every place we went. I was sixteen hours away (from home), and the biggest lesson that I learned was that the same God that kept me here could keep me anywhere. There are no limitations with Him, especially if you fully submit to His will over your life. 

YSA: How has studying abroad helped/influenced you in pursuing your passion?

Kamille: Being an athlete my entire life, I always thought that I wanted to pursue a career in athletics, but I soon realized that that wasn’t the road that I wanted to take. Although that was the major population that we observed at the AIS, there were several different populations that I found related more towards my purpose. We were able to work with paraplegic athletes, as well as those with special needs. I have always wanted to serve people who have physical disabilities and by seeing the determination & spirit of those who had disabilities, I think I found which area I would like to pursue in Physical Therapy. 

YSA: Do you have any suggestions/advice for those interested in study abroad?

Kamille: Absolutely! Even if you don’t think there is a program for you or if you have no idea where you want to go, do your research or speak to someone who is knowledgeable about study abroad programs. Don’t be afraid to venture out and see the world because you could miss out on the best opportunity of your life.

Whenever you actually do get to your study abroad destination, NO WIFI IS A BLESSING! Initially I was devastated when I realized I wasn’t going to have any service but I appreciated (not having) it SO much during my time there because I was able to take in every moment without having to worry about social media or replying to a text message. Oh and lastly, JOURNAL, JOURNAL, JOURNAL! 

YSA SPOTLIGHT: Tyra's Story

"To travel is to live" -Hans Christian Anderson

Tyra: When I was 10, my 13 year old sister and I got the opportunity to fly by ourselves from Ohio to Tennessee. After that experience, my spirit for travel was born. I have always had the urge to see new things, meet new people, and collect memories from different places in the world. Fortunately, during my undergraduate career I got the chance to feed that urge. I was selected and received a scholarship to do a study abroad trip in London, England for one month. At 21, I had never been out the country and I was so nervous. The thought of flying over a large body of water terrified me and I contemplated not going because of the flight time. Why couldn’t I just teleport myself to England? I am glad I didn’t teleport myself because the conversations, people, and thoughts that I got to experience on my journey were one of my highlights from the trip. It allowed me to gain many different perspectives and insights on subjects that I could not obtain on my own, which I value very much. I realized that traveling is something that is a part of me and helps keep my sanity.

I support studying abroad because you get an opportunity to experience something that you have never experienced before, whether it is culture, food, sights, or people, while getting college course credit.  It allows you to see how different the world is while realizing that it is very similar.  I loved it, and got another chance to do another program during my studies in graduate school!

YSA: What did you study while you were in England?

Tyra: In London, I studied “Marketing & Sports Commerce.” I got the opportunity to travel to Wimbledon Tennis Club and speak with executives on the different aspects of business as it related to sports. The various business trips ventured during my trip help me gain experience with interacting with senior level executives. This has helped my confidence tremendously with the interactions I have with top executives in my daily work life.

YSA: Tell us about the study abroad trip you took in graduate school?

Tyra: The study abroad trip for my graduate studies was based in Toulouse, France (about 5 hours from Paris). We studied “Managing in Europe” as it relates to HRM (Human Resource Management) and employment relations.  We also studied “Marketing Practices in Europe”, this course was very interesting to see the many differences/similarities each country uses to approach marketing to consumers.

The trip was awesome, mainly because we had the pleasure of going to France in May. We soon realized that France in May is a lot like a month of vacation for everyone in the country. The bank/government holidays were abundant during the month, with at least one every week and weekend. Luckily, we didn’t have a very strict course schedule and only were in class about 12 times for the whole month we were abroad. This allowed many of us to explore the surrounding cities/countries. I visited Paris, Barcelona, and met up with a friend in Heidelberg, Germany. It was great! We also visited some smaller cities around the south of France, since Toulouse was pretty close to those places.

The food was amazing and the cultures were different, but gave me appreciation for diverse situations. I loved walking around the city and making new friends and memories. Learning from my first trip abroad really prepared me for my recent abroad trip. I packed lighter and was more aware of the many mistakes I made in London.  Like exchanging money at the airport, that is the BIGGEST no-no when traveling.

Overall it was a great experience and one of the best trips I have taken so far!

YSA: How has your traveling abroad impacted the pursuit of your calling?

Tyra: Traveling abroad has heavily impacted the pursuit of my calling. Long flights give you ample amounts of time to think, talk to God, and really put your life in perspective. I’ve gained real insight that the world is much bigger than just the state and country I live in, and there are so many people in this world that need help. Traveling abroad to different countries where you see the same problems that affect people in your native land really makes you want to be a catalyst for change. I know that I am meant to help people in many different facets, and I am learning how to intertwine my passion for business with my purpose for helping people.

YSA: What advice do you have for students looking to study abroad?

Tyra: Simply, DO IT! I know that many people want to travel, but don’t feel like they can.  If you have a goal to venture and experience other countries, then take advantage of the resources that are available while in school.  The different study abroad programs available during undergraduate and graduate school are great opportunities to explore different countries. There are so many tools, like Yes! Study Abroad, that offer personal advice on ways to save money on flights, scholarships, planning your lodging, and ultimately getting the most out of your experience.

Studying abroad gives you the opportunity to earn college credit, learn new and exciting things about other places, while learning new things about yourself! Don’t let your excuses today, be your regrets tomorrow. So, if you want to do something DO IT!

 

YSA SPOTLIGHT- Biaunca's Story

We sat down to talk to Biaunca, a native Memphian, that took a summer-long journey to Paris, France. Here's her story..

YSA: Where did you study? How long were you there? Where did you live? 

Biaunca King: I studied abroad in Paris, France. It was a six-week program and I earned six credits by taking two courses that were approved as International Business electives. I lived with a host family. They MADE my experience. I wouldn’t have enjoyed myself as half as much as I did if I anywhere else.  

 YSA: What was the demographic makeup of group you studied with? 

BK: There were only about five people that went on my trip from The University of Tennessee (where I went to school), but everyone in my program was from the states. The university where we took classes was actually called The American Business School. Although there were a lot of different nationalities in my classes, everyone spoke English (including the professor). I was told that each student that applied to ABS had to take an English proficiency exam just to prove they knew how to speak and write in English. 

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 YSA: Did you take classes through a University or classes through your program? 

BK: I studied abroad through a program called ISA. International Studies Abroad had a previous relationship with my school and my host family. When I decided to study abroad with ISA, I knew taking classes and staying with people I wouldn’t meet until I got overseas was a part of the deal and I’ll admit- I was afraid at first…but it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Before classes started, we had “orientation”, which consisted of meeting the ISA Paris staff members and other students that were studying through ISA. We also went on excursions with people in our program, so although we didn’t go to the same schools as them (which means we didn’t see them during the week), we always caught up on the weekends. 

YSA: What inspired you to study abroad?

BK: I’ve always wanted to leave the country. Honestly, the reason I chose to pursue an International Business collateral is because I knew that studying abroad was a requirement. I love to travel, try new things, and meet new people and I knew that studying abroad would allow me to do all of that. Now that I have a stamp in my passport, the travel bug has bitten me. I want to go to as many places as I possibly can just for the experience. Being in a country where English isn’t the native language without any family members or friends for a month a half really taught me a lot about myself and I can’t wait for my next adventure. 

YSA: How did you finance your trip?

BK: I got two scholarships through The University of Tennessee and the Study Abroad Office and I had to take out loans for the rest of it. In all, my trip was about $6,000 (which included room and board, tuition at ABS, all of the excursions, and some meals which were provided by my host family). UT only paid for half, so I took out loans to cover the other half. 

YSA: How has studying abroad helped/influenced you in pursuing your passion?

BK: Studying abroad has made me more interested in what is going on in other parts of the world because I learned that we are all connected. What affects one country directly may affect five or six indirectly. It has also enhanced my marketing skills. It’s so much easier identify the similarities and differences across multiple target markets when you can easily identify similarities and differences in people. I am so much more aware of how similar we are and that will be useful in my career as a Brand Manager.   

YSA: Any tips/advice for those looking to study abroad?

BK: PLAN!!! If I had planned a little better, I would have been able to get family and friends to help fund my trip and I wouldn’t have had to take out as many loans. There were also scholarship deadlines that had passed by the time I had applied for my program that would have lowered the cost of my trip as well.

STAY WITH A HOST FAMILY- Of course, I did my research on Paris and French culture before I went abroad (I even learned a few phrases) but I was not nearly as knowledgeable as Google led me to believe. I am so glad I was able to stay with REAL French people that REALLY spoke French because I learned SO much from them. They were from England (so their English was amazing), but they had been living in Paris for years. They really showed me the ropes. I ate dinner with my host mom and dad like five nights and week and every conversation consisted of something that I was frustrated with or confused about and a lesson they taught me because they completely understood what I was going through or they had the answers to my questions. My host mom even gave me her cell phone for like a week to keep in contact with my classmates until I could afford one. They were amazing. They were definitely the highlight of my trip and every time I email them- I remind them of that.