#StudyAbroadBecause...You'll Never Know Until You Go

Dr. Jessie Voigts's picture

Gabby Beckford is a recent STEM graduate who has visited 27 countries in her 23 years. She thrives on once-in-a-lifetime adventure and 80 degree weather. She's won upwards of $40K in study abroad scholarships, and advocates for creative ways to see the world on a budget.

Gabby Beckford: #StudyAbroadBecause... You'll Never Know Until You Go

What motivated your decision to go abroad? How/why did you choose where to go?
I've always been in love with travel. I did my first trip to Paris with my family at 4 years old, and my first solo trip to backpack in Iceland at 17 years old. Travel is in my family, my blood, and my spirit. But, I never thought I would study abroad in college. Between being an engineering/mathematics major, being in a sorority, and working part-time, I never thought studying abroad would happen for me.

Next thing you know, the Boren Scholarship found me on a random Google Search. I say found me because it fit me perfectly. I applied knowing 100% I would win, and when I did I had to choose a country and a language to study abroad in that wasn't in the western world. I chose Dubai because I wanted to learn Arabic and learn more about Islam first hand, and because... duh, Dubai. When could I ever live there again? When life gives you an opportunity, you jump on it.

What was your experience like? What is your favorite memory? What were some challenges you observed?
I loved living in Dubai for a year. I loved living in metropolitan center of the world, where each person that passed me spoke a different language, and multiple languages at that. I loved the dystopia of living in a city that spent money on extravagance and luxury for no reason. For better or worse, it's a once in a life time experience.

My favorite memory is New Years Eve at a beach club with my local friends I'd made. Laughing and screaming at the thousands of fireworks going off around the city. It was gorgeous.

Some challenges were the general unknown factors of living in a Muslim society. Hearing the call to prayer every few hours was interesting at first, while I grew to love it later. Not knowing the customs and colloquialisms was odd.

Gabby Beckford: #StudyAbroadBecause... You'll Never Know Until You Go

What skills did you develop from your experience? Do you feel changed from your experience abroad? 
Oh, absolutely. Having studied Arabic language and Islam I adore the culture and religion now, and the history. My view on global politics has changed living with and knowing people who have had family on the other side of the wars out history books teach us in the Western world.

If I can find love and compassion and curiosity in so many people whose lives are completely different from mine, it shows me how much the difference between us are really exaggerated by those whose interests it is to do so.

Around the world, we truly are one people.

Has your experience helped you get to where you are today?
I think having international travel, a Certificate in Middle Eastern studies, and Arabic language on my resume definitely gave me a competitive edge to get me the Amazong job I have today.

Otherwise of course the friends I made and adventures I had abroad have definitely shaped me into the person I am today.

What advice would you share with other students who are thinking of going abroad?
Apply apply apply to study abroad scholarships. I won $40K worth that paid for my entire year abroad and the 5 countries I listed while over there.
Otherwise, network. Meet people. Get on Meetup.com, Facebook groups for expats and locals, and just show up places. Get uncomfortable, but meet people. That's how you learn.

How has international education impacted or influenced your cultural identity?
As a multiracial American, my cultural identity has been sort of ambiguous from birth. However, I think living in Dubai has helped me own that more. I own not having a certain country I hail from. I'm part of so many different continents and cultures and peoples by blood, and now I feel likes thats true in heart too.

Is there anything else you'd like to share with us?
As I said, we are all one people. All of us. The people who look like us, the people who look differently from us, the people we "hate" and the people we align ourselves with. We are all one. The sooner we realize that and decide to choose love over fake divisions, the sooner we will live in peace, "islam". Inshallah.

Gabby Beckford: #StudyAbroadBecause... You'll Never Know Until You Go

#StudyAbroadBecause... you'll never know until you go. 

Gabby Beckford: #StudyAbroadBecause... You'll Never Know Until You Go


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Photos courtesy and copyright Gabby Beckford