#StudyAbroadBecause... It will make you fall in love with the world!

Dr. Jessie Voigts's picture

Maria Haase is an Online Marketing Consultant during the day and Travel Writer at night. Born and raised in Germany, she decided to move to the US, first as a High School Exchange Student and later to study Business in San Diego. Between degrees, Maria also spent 6 months doing an internship in Beijing, China, where she discovered her passion for Blogging and Online Marketing. After receiving her MBA, she started her own company to help travel companies and international student offices of various universities from all over the world with creating a well designed and inspiring online presence. On her blog www.MariaAbroad.com she shares tips on study and internships abroad, travel and how to live an international lifestyle to inspire others to travel, study abroad and discover other ways to explore the world. 

What motivated your decision to go abroad? How/why did you choose where to go?
I decided to complete my Bachelors degree in Business in San Diego, because I had always dreamt about returning to the US after spending a High School Exchange Year in Louisiana. It was a great opportunity for me, as the university in San Diego allowed me to transfer my credits from my German Associate's degree and I could graduate one year early. Ever since I had lived abroad for the first time, I knew I wanted to explore the world and studying abroad was a great way for me to learn more about the US, a country I already loved. 

What was your experience like? What is your favorite memory? What were some challenges you observed?
Studying abroad in San Diego was a dream come true. The city is simply beautiful and I met some amazing people on the way. My teachers were really great and I was able to gain some work experience by working at my university. One of the challenges that I had to overcome was that my university had an international student ratio of over 90%, which led to limited contact to actual Americans. On the other hand, this situation was also a great way to get first hand experience in working with people from a multitude of cultures from all over the world and I was able to build a network and friendships with people from many corners of the world. 

What skills did you develop from your experience? Do you feel changed from your experience abroad?
By studying abroad, I became more independent, confident, persistent, and open-minded than I was before. Every time I pushed myself outside my own comfort zone, my confidence grew and I aimed at higher goals. I learned to love challenges and to conquer my fears instead of letting them control me. After moving to China, I had also learned to be more flexible and deal with less ideal situations. Life in China was an amazing adventure, but a challenge at the same time. The different culture, combined with language barriers often made for interesting situations. I had to learn to let go of control and to improvise and be creative to solve problems, which is a skill that is still very valuable to me today, especially in the fast-paced environment of running my own business. 

Has your experience helped you get to where you are today? If so, how?
Studying abroad has had a great influence on my life in many different ways. It inspired me to move to China for an internship after finishing my Bachelor, which turned out to be one of the biggest adventures in my life so far. When I returned from China to finish my MBA in San Diego, I also met my husband, which led me to continue my life in the US as an Expat. 

The experience I gained from blogging about my time in China and sharing tips and advice about studying abroad on www.MariaAbroad.com eventually led me to work as a consultant with the international student offices of several universities from all over the world, inspiring other students to study abroad as well. 

What advice would you share with other students who are thinking of going abroad?
During your time abroad, I highly recommend that you spend as much time with locals as you can. It will help you to practice your language skills and learn more about the culture you are staying in. This is sometimes easier said than done. Make sure that your study abroad program allows you to become truly immersed into the culture, for example, by allowing you to life off-campus in a shared apartment with local students or by living with a host family. If you go abroad with a group of friends, keep in mind that you are going abroad to make new experiences, so challenge yourself: meet new people and try something new. The more you challenge yourself, the greater the reward.

How has international education impacted or influenced your cultural identity?
Living and studying abroad, as well as working with people from different ethnic and cultural backgrounds, has helped me to gain a deeper understanding of other cultures. It also sparked my passion to learn more about how growing up in a certain culture influences our values and belief systems, our ideals and way of life. Being constantly challenged in the way I thought about the world made me more open towards others and their cultural identity. 

I also found it interesting to see how my perception of myself changed since I moved abroad. When I lived in Germany, I was always known for my interest in and my love for the US. I read books in English, studied American history and soaked up everything about the country and culture I could find. But as soon as I moved to the US, I became the German girl and started to become more and more interested in my German cultural heritage, customs, and traditions. 

#StudyAbroadBecause... It will make you fall in love with the world!


All photos courtesy and copyright Maria Haase