ISEP Student Stories: Sarah Reflects on the “Study” in Study Abroad

July 5, 2016

Last year, business major Sarah G spent a semester in Austria. We asked her to reflect on the difference in academics between her home university (University of Tennessee Chattanooga) and where she studied abroad (Johannes Kepler Universität Linz) — how did her courses abroad challenge, change, or enhance her learning experience? Here’s what Sarah had to say…

I had always looked forward to studying abroad; the concept of living in a new country and traveling through a number of others had me eager to learn. I was curious to observe other cultures and become a public transportation Guru. So with this goal in mind, I set off on what was sure to be a great adventure in February of 2012.

I was so set on traveling that I initially forgot about one very important part of study abroad: STUDYING abroad. Classes started about two weeks after I arrived in Austria and they were a swift kick in the pants. I was quick to realize that school in Austria was going to be quite different from my courses in the Tennessee. Professor expectations were high and there was a great sense of cultural diversity present. In one of my courses (with enrollment of approximately 30 students) we had 17 different nationalities; the most I have had in course at my home university is probably 3 or 4 nationalities.

Some of my classmates — 8 different nationalities, all brought together because we wanted to study abroad!
Some of my classmates — 8 different nationalities, all brought together because we wanted to study abroad!

This wide array of individuals proved to be interesting to work with. I had thought group projects were difficult before I studied abroad; all of my group work in Austria seemed even more difficult as my classmates all had different styles of working. I often found this to be very frustrating as I can be somewhat of a “Type A” personality. However, this also ended up being a huge perk. Whereas individual contributions at my home university were generally homogeneous in nature, I was always presented with a wide array of opinions and solutions to the problems at hand when I worked in a multinational group. Working with all of these students helped me to expand my thinking skills. Because of my experience with my multinational classmates I have found that I think more creatively back at my home university.

By the end of the semester I had even achieved my goal of being pretty savvy when it came to reading tram, subway, and train routes. I did travel around a large deal and many of my travel companions were individuals I had met though my courses and international program. I was only able to really succeed at my goal of traveling because of the friendships I made with other students in my courses and in my program.

My learning outlook has been greatly enhanced by my semester abroad. I am able to think more critically about my assignments and I can apply more creative solutions to problems at hand. So often there are multiple paths that can lead you to a successful outcome; before I studied abroad I was set in a black and white type of mentality where there could only be one right answer. Nowadays I find that I am more open to thinking of and considering multiple courses of action for any number of life events be they homework, area of study, or career path.

After making the most of the “study” part of study abroad, Sarah represented ISEP as a Student Ambassador and shared her insights with other students on her campus at home. She did such a great job that she was named ISEP Student Ambassador of the Year! Read more about Sarah’s adventures on own blog, Globetrotting Gardner, ask her about what else she learned during her educational travels, or reach out to any of our other student ambassadors — you can see the full list here.

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