Ayden Berkey: #StudyAbroadBecause ... it will be the time of your life!!!

Dr. Jessie Voigts's picture

Ayden Berkey is a 2020 college graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison where she double majored in Marketing and Human Resource Management. Since graduation, she has co-founded a free scholarship search engine and college resource platform called Access Scholarships. Find her on Instagram and TikTok - her username is @accessscholarships ! 

Visiting the Louvre in Paris. From Ayden Berkey: #StudyAbroadBecause ... it will be the time of your life!!!
Visiting the Louvre in Paris 

What motivated your decision to go abroad? How/why did you choose where to go?
Funnily enough, I knew I wanted to study abroad before I even got to college! My mom had studied abroad when she was in college and whenever we would talk about her college experience, she would always mention her time spent studying abroad in London. By the time I started college, I had already caught a bit of a travel bug, so I knew that as long as I could squeeze a semester abroad into my schedule and figure out the financial aspects to it, I was on my way somewhere. 

Two semesters before the term when I was planning on going abroad, I started to talk to some older friends who were in similar business programs to mine to ask about their experiences. I ended up chatting with a friend of a friend about his experience studying abroad in Copenhagen and, after that, I decided that I would definitely rank it as my top choice. Unfortunately, the program was very competitive, and I didn’t get a spot. Luckily, I had ranked London as my second choice (a city that I had visited before and loved!) so I wasn’t too bummed to end up going there :D 

What was your experience like? What is your favorite memory? What were some challenges you observed?
My experience there, while it ended up being great, was not quite what I had expected. Despite the fact that I felt very comfortable exploring the city and figuring out things class-wise (being in a city where everyone speaks English was helpful!), it definitely took some time for me to adjust to being in a new place with only a few people that I considered to be friends at that point. 

One of my favorite memories from studying abroad in London was one night at a concert. One of my favorite bands was touring with stops in London and I knew I HAD to see them. My only problem was that I didn’t have any friends who knew the band and wanted to go too. Normally this would have been my sign to just give up, but after having gotten comfortable exploring and being more independent than when I was back on campus, I just went for it. I bought a ticket and went by myself, and had a great time. This night stood out to me as a great one not only because I got to enjoy one of my favorite bands, but also because it signified a new independent side of me coming out, which I loved. 

Concert at Wembley Arena in London. From Ayden Berkey: #StudyAbroadBecause ... it will be the time of your life!!!
Concert at Wembley Arena in London

What skills did you develop from your experience? Do you feel changed from your experience abroad?
Going back to my concert story, one skill I developed was independence. Before being abroad, I was always pretty self-conscious whenever I was around a lot of people, and rarely did things alone that were out of my comfort zone. Once I got there, though, and was put in this environment where I didn’t have many close friends and was in a big, new(ish) city, it was like a chord struck in me that said “Go out and just do things! Explore!”. So, that’s what I did. 

My semester abroad definitely instilled a sense of confidence and independence that I hadn’t previously had. So yes, I feel changed! 

Has your experience helped you get to where you are today? 
Going along with the theme of independence, I think my time in London taught me that you can (and should) march to the beat of your own drum when you feel like it, and that you don’t always need to go with the flow to be happy or successful. 

Fast forward from my semester abroad to the end of my senior year of college. I was driving myself crazy applying for dozens of corporate jobs during the pandemic, to no avail. Rather than continuing down this rabbit hole that seemed to be taking me nowhere at the time - especially given the circumstances - I decided to pave my own path to the professional world. I launched Access Scholarships, a scholarship and college platform for students, and today, I couldn’t be more happy and proud of myself for going my own way. 

What advice  would you share with other students who are thinking of going abroad?
On the topic of finances, I will say that you should not overlook the scholarship opportunities that are often tied to different programs. If you are still in the early stages of researching, be sure to take note of the scholarships that are available to apply for with each (in addition to crunching the numbers of the actual tuition) so that you are putting yourself in the best position for success. Also, when making your decision, you will want to keep in mind the fact that some cities are drastically more expensive than others, in terms of the cost of living. I know London is expensive, but if I ended up in Copenhagen, I definitely would have spent more on my groceries and occasional hot chocolates!  

Outside of finance-related things, I would encourage anyone who is thinking of studying abroad to not get sucked into doing what everyone else is doing if it’s not what you want to do or where you want to be. You may end up having friends that all decide to study abroad in the same place, and while this can be fun, it means that you likely won’t be giving yourself many opportunities to branch out and gain that independence. I’m not saying you shouldn’t go abroad with friends, because having a few here and there can be great, but just make sure that you’re having the experience that YOU want to have!

Exploring around Spain. From Ayden Berkey: #StudyAbroadBecause ... it will be the time of your life!!!
Exploring around Spain

How has international education impacted or influenced your cultural identity?
When I was abroad, I had the chance to take a class that was solely focused on Popular Music in Britain. As someone who happens to love lots of British bands and music, I was so excited to be able to take this class in a place where it was specifically relevant. While I learned a solid amount from all of the classes I took, this one in particular gave me the opportunity to interact with and learn from people who all had similar interests to me, which I felt was a really cool thing. 

Walking across Abbey Road. From Ayden Berkey: #StudyAbroadBecause ... it will be the time of your life!!!
Walking across Abbey Road

Is there anything else you'd like to share with us?
When you study abroad, no matter where you go, be sure to try lots of different types of food! Explore everywhere in your city, take part in events and go to shows, do things you wouldn’t normally do. I know that being in a new place and environment can be scary, and you might at times want to go back into your comfort zone, but try not to hold back from giving yourself as authentic of an experience as possible. 

Ayden Berkey: #StudyAbroadBecause ... it will be the time of your life!!!

#StudyAbroadBecause ... it will be the time of your life!!! 



All photos courtesy and copyright Ayden Berkey