#StudyAbroadBecause... you will regret not going

Stasia Lopez's picture

Elissa Wollins is a senior at the University of Pittsburgh majoring in accounting. She spent an incredible semester in Prague, Czech Republic during the spring 2015 semester. Studying abroad forced her to get out of her comfort zone, allowed her to meet people from all over the world, and encouraged her to try things she never would have considered before. “If you study abroad, you’ll come home with a new outlook on life, a few more pairs of shoes, and endless stories about castles, cliff-diving, and what happened on the night tram. I hope to travel more once I graduate and can’t wait for my next adventure!” Read up on Elissa’s interview abroad to learn more about her experiences!

Elissa Wollins in Prague: #StudyAbroadBecause... you will regret not going

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

My brother’s biggest regret from college was not studying abroad, a thought repeated to me constantly by everyone who also chose not to study abroad. After understanding the benefits of study abroad, it was clear that I was absolutely going. I was set on going to Europe because I had never been before and decided it would be a great place to travel to other countries while abroad. In the end, I created an in-depth Excel spreadsheet comparing different cities and programs. After careful analysis, I realized that AIFS in Prague, Czech Republic had all of the attributes I was looking for in a program and city including a central location, an all-inclusive program, and a different culture. 

Elissa Wollins in Prague: #StudyAbroadBecause... you will regret not going

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

One of my favorite memories from study abroad was a routine I did with friends on the weekends. We would take the metro to our school building, walk along the Vltava River to our favorite café, Café Savoy, for brunch, visit the giant baby statues by David Černý and the John Lennon wall, and finish the day by crossing the Charles Bridge.

Among the many challenges I faced, many of them came about due to language and cultural differences. About half way through the semester, after a two week intensive language and culture class, I realized that I was accidentally telling people that instead of saying “sorry, I don’t speak Czech” I was saying “sorry, you don’t speak Czech”. Albeit embarrassing, it was a great learning opportunity and locals appreciated my efforts.

Elissa Wollins in Prague: #StudyAbroadBecause... you will regret not going

What skills did you develop from your experience? Do you feel changed from your experience abroad? If so, how & why?

I developed many skills abroad including independence, communication, and leadership skills. While extremely cliché, study abroad did change me for the better, especially in the above skill sets. Wandering the streets of Prague on my own to get to class or navigate to a new restaurant taught me to rely on myself and to take responsibility for my actions. If I got lost, I was responsible for figuring out how to get back to my path and develop problem solving skills to get to my outcome. I gained a better understanding of the world through my interactions with my Czech buddy, a student I was matched with during my program. At the end of my program, my Czech buddy, Jana, actually moved to my hometown in the U.S., where I became her unofficial American buddy during her stay. Discovering numerous similarities between me and a girl from a country thousands of miles away from my own shrunk the world down and made me appreciate the cross cultural bonds I had formed.

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

Many people see high correlations between study abroad and majors like history, art, or sociology. As an accounting major, my study abroad experience has helped me in focusing my career goals. I officially caught the travel bug, and, although I can’t guarantee international travel, I hope that public accounting will allow me to travel to new offices and new cities.

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

Take pictures of everything and record your experience. I kept an online blog during my trip abroad which served to update my family on my trip and allow me to reminisce on my amazing trip. Looking back on pictures with detailed labels and stories allows me to remember the little moments abroad.

How has international education impacted or influenced your cultural identity?

My study abroad experience has made me appreciate other cultures more and recognize that no culture is necessarily better or worse than others; all cultures have similarities and differences and something isn’t “weird” just because it is different from your culture’s norm. 

Elissa Wollins: #StudyAbroadBecause... you will regret not going

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

Everyone who can—should study abroad and everyone can study abroad.


#StudyAbroadBecause... you will regret not going



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 Elissa Wollins