#StudyAbroadBecause the world as a classroom is an amazing way to learn

Stasia Lopez's picture

Ashish Bibireddy is a junior at Pitt and a Neuroscience and Urban Studies major. Currently, Ashish is an Event Coordinator for the Student Government Board (SGB) Wellness Committee. Future plans include going on to medical school and/or eventually end up in the public health sector, dealing health policy and change. Ashish studied abroad in Copenhagen, Denmark during the summer of 2015. Read his interview below to learn more about his experience abroad!

Ashish Bibireddy: #StudyAbroadBecause the world as a classroom is an amazing way to learn

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

I wanted to make the most out of my undergraduate experience. Visiting in a new country through a study abroad program is the best way, I believe, to get assimilated into the country’s culture. This offers a good balance between academics and entertainment. I chose Denmark because it’s apparently one of the top three happiest countries in the world. Also, I wanted to try something different. I know I’ll definitely visit places like Spain, Paris, and London at some point in my life. So why not take a chance at an unfamiliar territory? I have travelled before, so I felt prepared to take this challenge. In addition, the Danish Institute for Study abroad offers a myriad selection of courses catering to diverse interests and majors. I took two courses there, one involving comparative public health systems and the other being a clinical course, both of which that involve topics I want to pursue in my life.

Ashish Bibireddy: #StudyAbroadBecause the world as a classroom is an amazing way to learn

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

Best experience of my life. I had a great friend group, great host country, and the Danes are truly special. They are humble, modest, and down to earth. They are one of the most genuine people on earth. Most of all, they are my type of people, as I am introverted, blunt, and like to have to fun. I also met a lot of students from different universities from the States. I was the first Indian friend for a fellow peer because where he was from, the diversity lacked, which I thought was pretty interesting. The only challenge I faced involved the metro and the public transit system. Since Danish is an unfamiliar language and most of us were on limited data/cellular plans, sometimes we had to use the more primitive ways of navigation. This involved using a paper map or asking a local Dane for directions. Sometimes, I’d end up getting lost, but Copenhagen is one of the best places to get lost in. I discovered places I’d never planned on visiting. 

My favorite experience occurred in Vienna during a study tour for the clinical class. A group of friends and I went to a local vineyard to try some wine. Having a couple of hours to spare, we decided to explore the area. We ended up coming across a giant vineyard that spread across an entire hill. We decided to walk up the hill and once we reached the top of the hill (approximately 1500 feet above sea level), we had the opportunity to see the entire skyline of Vienna. The Alps in the distance, the downtown, and the colorful rooftops were surreal. I have never seen anything more aesthetically pleasing in my life in terms of landscape. Words or pictures can’t describe my feelings. This is an example of the types of experiences you may come across without having a set agenda.

Ashish Bibireddy: #StudyAbroadBecause the world as a classroom is an amazing way to learn

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

The Danish educational system is very different compared to that of the States. It’s more hands on and field oriented learning. The majority of class time was spent on discussions or field trips. As a result, I had an opportunity to meet and interact with numerous professionals from the health care industry. I’ve been exposed to multiple opinions regarding a particular issue, and as a whole became more informed. Plus, in Denmark, there isn’t really a superiority complex between the professor and the student. This made it really easy to communicate with a lot of these professionals and I gained valuable insights as a result. Academically, I truly believe that I made significant strides with myself. Interacting with elite professionals and different students from other top caliber schools helped me set a standard for myself and gave me the confidence to pursue my goals. In as little as 2 months, I believe that I have the capacity to project myself in polished adult like manner, something I thought I wouldn’t be able to achieve for a while.

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

My experience provided me added fuel and confidence I needed to achieve my goals, along with valuable relationships I made with people. Studying abroad is perhaps not a life changing experience for everyone, but an enlightening experience for sure. You truly mature as a person and gain an understanding how to balance things in life. I have learned how to prioritize things involving school and family. I have a more clear vision on the path to achieving my goals. I believe that studying abroad definitely makes me stand out among thousands of undergraduates. 

Ashish Bibireddy: #StudyAbroadBecause the world as a classroom is an amazing way to learn

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

Apply for scholarships - you think you won’t get them, but your chances are better than you think. Also, if you don’t really have financial restrictions, don’t be hard on yourself for spending too much money. This is a once in a lifetime experience and you don’t want any regrets about not taking up on a specific opportunity - but be smart at the same time. Also, don’t be afraid to do things by yourself. Sometimes, it’s okay to escape from your “newly formed friend group” and explore by yourself. Remember this is your experience, so you’ll get what you put in. Plus, you might discover a hidden interest of yours while you’re at it. Keep in mind that classes can be academically intensive and you do not want to compromise with grades and course work.

How has international education impacted or influenced your cultural identity?

One thing I’ve learned in terms of education is that America does things it completely differently. There is so much pressure to get the top scores and to get accepted into ranked university. It’s not that the Danes take their education lightly, but I believe they have a better prioritization of life. Family and loyal relationships are always at the top and they genuinely show it. I guess this culture bounced off on me, making me realize that is important to treasure the valuable relationships I’ve made, and to be thankful for whom I have, supporting me. As I’ve mentioned before, the Danes are introverted, blunt, and love dry humor. Since my personality mirrored that of the Danes, it made me appreciate myself even more and ensured me that it’s okay to be different and unique. 

Ashish Bibireddy: #StudyAbroadBecause the world as a classroom is an amazing way to learn

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

Traveling abroad in general presents some challenges. There’s going to be some culture shock involved, some homesickness involved, and some hardship here and there. But that’s life. The positives of traveling abroad outweigh the disadvantages by a long shot. Try to look at situations from a positive/open minded perspective. Also don’t be that obnoxious American. You are representing your university and your friends and family. View the legal drinking age as privilege not as an excuse to party. You won’t have any regrets!

#studyabroadbecause... the world as a classroom is an amazing way to learn



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.


Photo courtesy and copyright Ashish Bibireddy