Hong Kong; a place where I, Brianna Jeanette Diaz, am being recreated through the challenges I face in a drastically unfamiliar environment. I have created three crucial goals during my time abroad to maximize my experience and take in knowledge and growth. With my passions for fitness, and my enthusiasm to learn more about the business culture, Hong Kong, with its vibrant and bustling business environment, fit my passions, dreams, and desires. To the beginning of a whole new outlook on life!
It has been two years since I was awarded the Gilman Scholarship to Costa Rica, and it has provided me the skills to be confident, flexible, and independent. So, I initially did not think that I would gain these skills when studying abroad- I thought that I could just get ahead by taking courses while having the opportunity to travel and become more advanced in my Spanish-speaking skills, but studying abroad allowed me to gain critical career skills by pushing me from my comfort zone.
Yes, I did expand my Spanish-speaking vocabulary, but more importantly I developed important cross-cultural communication skills. You see, I was in a home-stay program where I was able to live with a family and learn about the Costa Rican culture to truly adapt to the Pura Vida lifestyle. My communication skills developed immensely, and I am able to now interact with people with different backgrounds. Also, learning another language can make you a competitive applicant for a future career because you are able to connect with a greater range of people through communication.
Studying abroad will help you enhance your ability to adapt to a new environment. During my first days in Costa Rica I had no idea what to do, where to go, or how to have fun. I escaped the dim lighting of the library and was able to actually walk outside and study wildlife on campus (such as sloths) at the University of Costa Rica! Fortunately, I was able to make cheap affordable travel plans through contacting travel agencies. While traveling in Costa Rica, I was able to meet other college students while staying in hostels, which really opened my eyes as it was a completely different experience. However, that experience was a growing experience as I was able to meet and connect with others from all across the world. I was also able to develop new time management skills in order to balance my classes as well as traveling. Ultimately, studying abroad allowed me to gain the skills necessary such as time management and being flexible which are key skills in the workforce.
Being a Gilman Scholar means that you are not only given the opportunity to study abroad, but you are given a strong foundation to set up your future career through the experiences that you will gain. Thank you Gilman for providing me with that foundation!
These last two weeks have been a blur. I went from discovering more things about my host country to saying my final goodbyes to it in what seems like an extremely short time. Now I am back home in Arlington, Texas, getting ready for the new school year.
My final week in Lüneburg was spent reminiscing and planning. Reminiscing about the previous 10 weeks of my life, during which I had created lasting memories, made new friends, and discovered a little bit more about myself. And planning for the future in which I hope I can incorporate the things I learned from my study abroad experience.
I plan to keep working on my German language skills because I would like to return to my host city one day and speak fluent German to the kind people who made me feel welcome 5,000 miles away from home.
I plan to keep being open to having honest conversations with anyone who is willing, because I now know how amazing and powerful such interactions can be.
I plan to one day help someone feel welcome in my homeland, just like countless people did with me during my time in Lüneburg.
However, despite having all these plans, I don’t think that I have actually fully gotten comfortable with the fact that I am back. A part of me still thinks that I will wake up in my bedroom in Germany, grab a quick breakfast at the train station bakery before boarding my bus, say “morgen” to the bus driver like I did every morning and head to my language class.
I’m going to miss the city, the people, my friends, the culture, and the language. Now that I am back, I don’t get to eavesdrop on native speakers at the grocery store in the name of improving my language skills.
As mentioned in my very first blog post, since Germany and the United States are both Western nations, there aren’t really stark differences that triggered any sort of culture shock. But my life here seems just a little more monotonous after having the opportunity to explore a country that has significantly more history than the United States. I can tell that I am now a little bit more curious now about other countries and how people of other nationalities live their lives.
I’m going to nurture this curiosity as much as I can by travelling more, learning new languages, and continuing to be open to people and to new experiences. In the meantime, I will be volunteering my time to my university’s study abroad outreach programs because I want more people to have the amazing opportunity that I did.
I will be graduating in December, after which I plan to attend graduate school for international relations. Also after the amazing experiences I had this summer, I think that I would like to try my hand at onstage storytelling and maybe get involved in an organization that uses the exchange of stories as a way to promote relationships among unlikely people.
The stage is set for something great, I just have to wait to see what plays out.
I miss Wien (Vienna)!
Since I’ve been back in the U.S., I’ve kept in contact with many people I spent time with in Wien. Readjusting to the time difference has been the most difficult factor because I feel exhausted while everyone here thinks the day is still young, and then I am wide awake while everyone is sleeping. I would say I am in the stage of reverse culture shock that involves frustration and loneliness because my friends and family here don’t understand what I’ve experienced and how I’ve changed. It is astonishing yet frustrating how a student can leave their home for several months and build a new life elsewhere but without everyone they’ve always known. It is also frustrating because the closest friend I made in Vienna, Akilah, is about a 10-hour car ride away now, instead of a 40-ish minute train ride. It is easy to talk about Vienna with people here, but the more I talk about it, the more I wish I had spent the rest of my summer in Wien!
I absolutely miss Vienna’s reliable public transportation system. I miss the feeling of knowing I could get from point A to point B with little to no effort and with peace of mind.
I also miss the scenery and beautiful gardens. I miss the vibrant colors and the variations in each garden I visited while in Vienna. I firmly believe that a reliable public transportation system and well-kept recreational areas are great assets to a person’s quality of life.
Here in America, there seems to be an urgent need to be going to one place or the other, or to be completing a certain task. In Austria, people actually took their time to breathe and never seemed to be overwhelmed with any daunting tasks. That is something I brought back with me: I don’t necessarily feel it is important to be everywhere and doing everything.
The American food culture is also very different from Austria’s. I never felt the need to cook in bulk while I was there because I had a mini-refrigerator. My options were to either stop by the market and buy the ingredients to cook my meals or spend quality time with friends at a restaurant. The food was always fresh and the memories are unforgettable!
This fall concludes the final semester of my undergraduate studies at Purdue. I will be sharing my experiences abroad during the study abroad fairs in September, and I am super excited about that! I think my insights will influence students who are on the fence with their decision to study abroad. I am also looking forward to graduating in December. Some people say it seems like I have breezed through college, but I can say I have made the most of my undergraduate studies. I will be seeking employment opportunities within the field of agriculture, but I am open to any career that requires travel and the use of my global awareness and adaptability skills!
Bis bald, Wien.
Studying abroad in Costa Rica has completely changed my life. As a Gilman scholar, I have been given the enriching opportunity to grow academically and professionally through new language skills and cultural integration. My time in Costa Rica has enhanced my ability to dream passionately and to keep striving toward my vision of becoming a bilingual health professional who can make a difference in the community.
The Gilman Scholarship has truly helped me believe in myself and helped me realize all things are possible. The challenges I’ve faced during my international educational experience have ranged from language frustrations to learning to cope with the stages of culture shock while being abroad. All of my experiences have helped me mature and have allowed me to develop as a more flexible and open individual who can take on all obstacles with integrity. With the new language skills I have acquired from my language intensive program with the University Studies Abroad Contortion, the Gilman Scholarship Program has opened the doors of opportunity for me to apply to the Peace Corps as a community health aid for South America. (I’ll know about my acceptance within the next month!) After my two years of service with the Peace Corps, I hope to continue my education with a pre-medicine program designed for career-changers in order to pursue my lifelong dream of studying medicine. The Gilman Scholarship Program supporting my dream has had an invaluable impact on my life as my Spanish speaking skills will help me serve my community, while also helping me grow.
The Gilman Scholarship Program has made me more passionate about recognizing full human potential in myself and in others. When I realized I wanted to study abroad my senior year to learn Spanish, I faced confusion from people who doubted that I could reach this lofty goal. With the support from Gilman, I’ve been able to thrive in completing my last goal as an undergraduate which was to be conversationally fluent in Spanish. I’m hoping to inspire more people from my community to study abroad with the Gilman Scholarship Program because it will open doors for them and help them build confidence. I think a common barrier students face when dreaming to study abroad is their misconception that they’re “not good enough” or “not smart enough.” As a student who has overcome these doubts, I can now serve as a stronger role model and bring more encouragement to others with similar goals which will help make a stronger community as a whole.
With three months remaining in my program (and in my entire undergraduate career), I have been driven to make the most of my educational opportunity and find ways that my skills can help me help others. I am pleased that my sentences are flowing, and my grammar skills are beginning to solidify. I’m finally able to serve as a translator, and to formulate fluid thoughts and opinions of my own. I can even explain to my local friends my goals for the future, and them understand me! I know the language skills I’ve developed in Costa Rica will serve me for life. The Gilman Scholarship Program has enhanced my confidence to believe in myself and my ability to become a bilingual health worker of the future.