Kristen is an enthusiastic introvert who loves to travel and work out. She also loves to cook and try new things; she’ll always be the first to take the risk!Interviewed on - 28 January 2015
Going abroad really pushes you to challenge your personal boundaries, even for someone like myself who has traveled before going abroad. IES made sure that I was prepared for every aspect of my journey abroad. My program required a visa to the UK, which can become an arduous process, but IES made sure I had everything I needed and facilitated the process. Once abroad, the staff was always around to help you with things to do in your host city to making medical appointments.
Before going abroad I was very inflexible and enjoyed having my daily routine set, going to London changed a lot of my expectations for myself. I learned to take every day as it comes, especially while traveling. I visited five countries and went to each one with only my hostel booked. Through meeting people and hearing about others’ experiences I would find things to do in each new city. This really changed my outlook on life. I you have everything planned for your daily life you miss out on new, exciting opportunities.
Europe is so different from North America because it has a richer history. Berlin was the city that held the most significance for me. When you walk through the city the landscape is incredible.
London is an amazing city for so many reasons. There is no other city in the world that is as diverse and metropolitan. In the tube you can hear conversations taking place in 10 different languages at one time, while the familiar echo of “mind the gap” in the background. At any time of day there will always be people on the streets and activities going on.
I would change the level of immersion in the program. I didn’t meet as many British people as I would have liked to. Since IES Abroad is a provider program, we were mostly with American students. I would have tried to plan mixers or events with other universities in the host city.
Now that I have gone abroad to Europe, I feel more comfortable traveling and think I would choose to go to Tokyo or Seoul. I have a lot of dietary restrictions and used to think that going to Asia wouldn’t be possible. Now I am just waiting for my next chance to travel the world and try new things.
I experienced a lot of reverse culture shock upon returning to the U.S. I grew up in Canada, which strangely resembles the UK more than the U.S., so going back to school was a shock. In Europe, professors have a lot more respect for their students and treat us as equals. The portion sizes in North America are huge, and the fact that the first floor is the ground floor always surprises me. People also walk really slowly compared to Londoners. I think re-entry shock has had more of an impact than the initial culture shock. It’s because going to the UK the differences were new, but coming back things I used to accept are now unusual.