#StudyAbroadBecause... there’s no better way to learn about the world than by seeing it

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Ben Schuster earned his Bachelor’s degree in Communication at the University of Pittsburgh in the spring of 2015. He studied abroad in the Fall 2014 semester of his senior year to London, England. Read up on his interview below to learn more about his experience abroad! 

Ben Schuster - #StudyAbroadBecause... there’s no better way to learn about the world than by seeing it

What motivated your decision to go abroad? How/why did you choose where to go?

In December 2013, I went on a Birthright trip to Israel. It was only 10 days, so I wanted to do something that would last a little longer, with people my age. I had a lot of fun on Birthright, so I figured study abroad was the next step. A lot of my friends had studied abroad and they told me it was something I should do. When I started college, my parents actually really wanted me to study abroad because it was a rare opportunity - and it was. School-wise, I was in a position where the only Gen Ed requirements that I needed I could actually get by studying abroad. I had completed all of my major requirements as well, so I thought it would be a great way to shake up my senior year. I’m a bit of an anglophile (I could listen to those accents all day), so London was the easy choice. I had been there twice before when I was younger, and I figured it was time for me to go back. 

Ben Schuster - #StudyAbroadBecause... there’s no better way to learn about the world than by seeing it

What was your experience like? What is your favorite memory? What were some challenges you observed?

One of the things I was warned about was London’s ability to rain at random, but I figured it couldn’t be worse than Pittsburgh. Surprisingly, it didn’t rain all that much in London, nor did it get as cold as I thought it would. Overall, my experience was unforgettable. Just being in Europe and experiencing the different culture was fun enough to the point where it’s hard to pick out a favorite memory. I did like the fact that I was able to travel around Europe cheaply, especially when I went to Prague.

What skills did you develop from your experience? Do you feel changed from your experience abroad? 

I learned how to live communally with people I didn’t know. It was a bit intimidating at first because my roommates were all bigger than me, that was a huge incentive (for me at least) to avoid any sort of confrontation. You learn to put up with the good and bad of having roommates you don’t know, and how to deal with conflict. That may not be everyone’s experience, though. I also learned that sometimes, it is ok to go it alone in an unfamiliar setting. The experience definitely made me a more independent person, as well as increased my confidence in being independent. Some people thrive off of independence, but at the same time I really think that is something more people need to experience because it lets them know that they don’t need to fear being alone. Step outside of your comfort zone and take the plunge.

Has your experience helped you get to where you are today? 

Well, as I said before, it has made me a more independent person. I’d say my experience got me where I am today by being another stop on the journey of my life. Studying abroad is a great opportunity to take advantage of, and I have yet to speak to someone who says that they regret studying abroad, and I have yet to speak to someone who doesn’t wish they did while they were in college. You learn life skills and life lessons, and the most important part is you have a great time doing that.

Ben Schuster - #StudyAbroadBecause... there’s no better way to learn about the world than by seeing it

What advice would you share with other students who are thinking of going abroad?

With regards to finances, plan it out. Seriously. In my case, the exchange rate did not favor me, so no matter what, it was going to be expensive. Because the legal drinking age is lower than that of the U.S., it’s very easy to blow a lot of money at the bars and clubs. Set aside a certain amount of money for when you go out on the town, and as tempting as it may be, don’t do it every weekend. The nightlife isn’t the only thing there is to experience, so set aside plenty of money in case you want to do some travelling and visiting all the touristy places. If you enjoy concerts like I do, look up local venues of whereever you may be. I went and saw one band that I actually really like play in Amsterdam because they happened to be playing there the weekend I was visiting, so I went and got last minute tickets. 

How has international education impacted or influenced your cultural identity?

As cliché as it sounds, it has broadened my global perspective. I went to a country that also speaks English as the native language, but that does not mean you automatically understand everything about the way they speak English. Just as you’ll find differences in the way someone from New York and someone from the south speak English, you’ll find differences in American English and UK English. There are subtle language differences and subtext that you have to read between the lines, but being immersed in that culture gives you a better understanding of those differences. What the British may find humorous most Americans would either not understand entirely, or they would find it extremely offensive. Europe is less Puritanical, so sex is much more prevalent in their media while violence is not, and in America we have the exact opposite of that.

Is there anything else you'd like to share with us?

My study abroad experience was unique to me. Not everyone is going to have the same experience that they read about from other people. That’s why I encourage anyone who can to go out and carve out his or her own study abroad experience, because that experience is special to them and them alone. 

Ben Schuster - #StudyAbroadBecause... there’s no better way to learn about the world than by seeing it

 

#StudyAbroadBecause... there’s no better way to learn about the world than by seeing it
 

Stasia Lopez is the Global Education Editor for Wandering Educators and is also a Career Consultant at the University of Pittsburgh. She graduated with her Master’s degree in Educational Leadership in Higher Education and Student Affairs from Western Michigan University and earned her Bachelor of Science in Business Administration degree in Hospitality and Tourism Management from Robert Morris University. Stasia is passionate about international education, travel,  and loves working on a college campus. She’s lived in four different U.S. states (Florida, Michigan, South Carolina, and Pennsylvania) and also studied and lived abroad in Rome, Italy. Stasia lives in the Pittsburgh area with her husband, Fernando.

 

All photos courtesy and copyright Ben Schuster 

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