Students recount their study abroad experiences

Krystina Slack

Studying abroad is something many college students participate in to expand their worldview. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, many study abroad programs have been canceled or postponed. Now that the world has started to return to normal, study abroad programs are back and campus groups collaborated to share their study abroad experiences with the different identities they associate with.

In a survey done by Terra Dotta, which manages study abroad applications for higher education, 72% of students say they would study abroad in 2022. 

When walking into Hanson on April 24 for the Identities Abroad: Different Lenses of Diversity event, the room was packed full of students. This event was sponsored by the international and off-campus programs office as well as program coordinators CEA Study Abroad and CAPA: The Global Education Network in collaboration with the Sigma Pi Delta sorority. The event was intended for a panel of Augustana students to share their experiences abroad.

Each student talked about their experiences studying abroad given their various identities, such as racial, ethnic, sexual and gender identities. 

Many countries have different social norms, including different views about sexual orientation and gender expression. The students on the panel also talked about the fears they had before they studied abroad and how they overcame them. They also ended the panel with a Q&A and a student-led discussion about the opportunities and experiences that studying abroad gave them.

Sophomore Cristal Moreno Aguilar, studying international business and Asian studies, has traveled to Ecuador and Spain through Augustana and plans to study in Hong Kong for a semester next year.

Moreno Aguilar said the J-term class she took during her first year on campus made her excited to study abroad.

“It was actually during that class that I realized just how much I did want to study abroad because of the way that they kept talking about the culture and just meeting new people and even the opportunity for me to expand on my language learning skills,” Moreno Aguilar said.

Some students are able to study abroad multiple times during their time at Augustana. This is the case for Moreno Aguilar, who said she is grateful her first experience happened in her first year.

“The rest of the panelists were seniors,” Moreno Aguilar said. “A lot of them shared how they regretted not doing it sooner. I’m really glad that I was able to get to do that my freshman year because now I expect to study abroad at least in one place every single year here at Augie.”

Of course, with studying abroad there are a handful of worries. One of the main questions attendees asked about during the panel was about money.

Senior Kylie Radz is the student ambassador for CEA/CAP and the current president of Sigma Pi Delta. She studied abroad in Italy in the summer of 2022.

“It’s just crazy because there’s so many people that are eligible for a sum of money, and they don’t even know that because they never come in and talk with us,” Radz said in an interview with the Observer. 

Studying abroad allows students to experience a new culture and gives many different life experiences that you would otherwise never get.

“I think that me stepping outside of my comfort zone was the biggest reward in my life because everything past that point of me stepping outside my comfort zone has led me to job opportunities and different conferences,” Radz said.