My Summer Abroad…

AGGIE / HANNAH LEE

UC Davis students share their summer study abroad experiences

Summer: a glorious time made for relaxing on the beach, soaking up radiance from  the warm sun and for many UC Davis students, traveling across the world and engaging in a once-in-a-lifetime study experience. Hundreds of students partake in summer study abroad trips every year, traveling anywhere from Asia to Europe to Africa. Here are the unique stories of three of those students.

This summer, Megan Mekelburg, third-year sociology major, embarked on the an incredible journey as her studies brought her halfway across the world. Mekelburg traveled through the “Celtic Connections” program of UC Davis Study Abroad.

“My program was during the […] entire month of July,” Mekelburg said. “The program started in Ireland, right in Dublin in the center of the city. Then, we took a plane to Santiago, Spain, and we [were there] for a little less than a week. And then we took a plane to Rennes, France, which is on the Northwest coast of France.”

Mekelburg recalled all of the unforgettable memories she made while abroad, saying that the trip not only changed her perception of the world and everything around her, but it also revealed facets of herself that she was not previously aware of. For Mekelburg, her study abroad experience was a highly introspective one.

“I think I learned a lot about myself and how independent I could be and how well I knew the languages, which I hadn’t realized,” Mekelburg said. “I think [you should] go at it with an open mind. If you don’t fully immerse yourself, you’re not going to have the authentic experience that you want to have. I think that’s what I learned from the group of people that I was with.”

Victoria Casas, a fourth-year theatre and dance and English double major, decided to study abroad in Spain this summer in what she feels was one of the best summers of her life.

“I spent six weeks in Madrid in Spain through UCEAP, and it was a lot of fun,” Casas said. “The program itself hosted field trips for us, so they took us to the Royal Palace, they took us to Congress, they took us to Northern Spain to this area called Galicia and we did a weekend trip there, and there was a day-trip to Toledo, which is is another main city in Spain.”

Throughout her six weeks there, one of Casas’s fondest memories of her trip to Spain was traveling to Galicia with her study abroad group.

“One of my favorite moments was going to Galicia,” Casas said. “They put us in a really nice hotel that was right across the street from the beach, and that was really cool. They took us to this little private island on a Saturday and we spent the day on the island. We went hiking and we went swimming and it was a lot of fun.”

A huge part of why Casas decided to study in Spain had to do with her love for Spanish and her desire to have a better understanding of the language. Casas felt that her study-abroad trip undoubtedly solidified and transcended her love for the Spanish language, as well as the people of Spain.

“I kind of grew up with the Spanish language, but when you don’t speak it everyday you kind of lose it,” Casas said. “I wanted to go to Spain and continue my Spanish. I got to take Spanish over there, and it helped me […] improve my Spanish skills. It actually wasn’t that difficult. I feel like a lot of times people have this misconception that when you go to a foreign country [everyone] is going to be really rude to you. But pretty much everyone that we were talking to knew that we were students, and they tried to help us.”

A strong desire to immerse herself in Latin-American culture was also what prompted Paulina Belloso, fourth-year international relations and history double-major, to study abroad this summer in Santiago, Chile.

I wanted to learn about the relationship between the US and Chile,” Belloso said. “I’ve always been interested in other countries and cultures, especially those in Latin America. Being the daughter of Mexican parents and with most of my family back in Mexico, I’ve visited Mexico a lot. I wanted to experience a different Latin American country from the one I know, and learn how they are similar and different.”

Belloso started her summer in Chile with an intensive language-immersion course and will continue her studies abroad until December.

“The program started on June 27 with a three week Spanish language course that refreshed my Spanish and taught me chilean slang,” Belloso said. “Chilean spanish is full of slang and words that aren’t used anywhere else, so this course was useful to understand that. I’ll be in Santiago until December 7, when the semester ends.”

Belloso urged anyone with the willingness and the means and capacity to study abroad to do so, because it will give them a nuanced understanding of their surroundings.

“If you can, study abroad,” Belloso said. “It’s nice to get out of Davis […] and see how much more is out there. You get to meet new people from around the world. You really gain a lot of perspective on your daily life – I think you appreciate what’s around you more.”

 

For more information about studying abroad, visit the UC Davis Study Abroad website or visit the International Center located on campus.

Written by: Emily Nguyen — features@theaggie.org