Get out of town! Study abroad

Yvette Cho '19 relives a little of her own study abroad experience in Sweden, and explores the journeys of some other Brandeisians.

Yvette Cho '19 on her study abroad in SwedenPhoto: Yvette Cho
Yvette Cho '19 with the family who hosted her during her study abroad in Sweeden
Photo: Yvette Cho

My host dad took me and a group of visiting friends to a famous museum on an archipelago!

This time last year, I was a self-declared world traveler. My days consisted of eagerly exploring international cities, going on wild adventures with newly-made friends, and truly living my best life. Today, as a self-declared former world traveler, the most exciting part of today has been finding a couple of extra quarters in my pocket for laundry day.

I think it’s safe to say that I have been feeling a bit nostalgic.

My opportunity to travel around the globe as a college student was all thanks to a study abroad program in Stockholm, Sweden during my second semester of junior year. Just like many other fellow Brandeisians (around forty percent of us!), the prospect of seeing what else the world had to offer was too enticing to pass up.

My program was through the Danish Institute of Study Abroad (DIS) where I traveled to Scandinavia to learn about the impact the current refugee crisis has on the public health system in Europe. There were field trips all across Stockholm to learn about various public health institutions, and we even had the chance to fly to Geneva, Switzerland to tour the United Nations and World Health Organization.

When I wasn't focusing on my academics, I lived in a quaint townhouse outside of the city with an incredible host family that treated me like one of their own. My host dad was casually busy being the number one squash player in Sweden, my host mom loved teaching me about their culture at dinner time, and my host siblings’ favorite activity was laughing at me and my failed attempts at speaking Swedish.

Alisha Cardwell, Assistant Director of Study Abroad, at Machu Pichu
Photo: courtesy of Alisha Cardwell

Alisha Cardwell in Machu Picchu. Not only does she help students go abroad, but she has a love for travel herself!

All of these experiences that I had in Sweden would not have been possible without the supportive staff of the Office of Study Abroad. Alisha Cardwell, Assistant Director of Study Abroad, played an integral role in my and many other students’ journeys toward choosing the right program and taking the appropriate steps to get there.

“I get to see the full cycle of a student from when they first start thinking about their options to when they get back to campus,” Cardwell told me. “From my perspective, I can see changes in students, such as improvements in confidence, communication, and independence, and that is a really incredible thing to see and to experience.”

Throughout her six years working for Brandeis, Cardwell’s experience in international education and her passion for working with college students have made her a valuable resource for students who seek to experience new cultures.

“I’ve always found Brandeis students to be so passionate and unique in that they want to go out and not only see the world, but change the world as well,” she explained.

Emmy Thiem ’19 on a hike in New Zeland
Photo: Courtesy of Emmy Thiem

Emmy on one of her many hikes through New Zealand.

Emmy Thiem ’19 is no exception to this. Majoring in Health: Science Society and Policy with a minor in Environmental Studies, Emmy participated in the Boston University Program in New Zealand where she worked as a neonatology research intern.

Her decision to study in New Zealand came down to what country met her criteria: warm, predominantly English-speaking, and offering a copious amount of outdoor activities. Quite the opposite of my glacial experience in Sweden during the dead of winter. During her time abroad, Emmy was able to visit areas of environmental and cultural significance that furthered her studies and her overall experience.  

“I would spend hours at night looking at some of the brightest stars we had ever seen. I once had a colony of baby seals came right up to me on a hiking trip, and on another hike my friend had her trail mix stolen by a weka [a bird that looks like a prehistoric chicken],” she described.

The lessons she took away from her time in New Zealand not only benefit her on an everyday basis, but she expects to apply what she has learned throughout her career.

“Through traveling and meeting new people, I understand what it means to respectfully integrate yourself into another culture and become aware of all the traits that make me distinctly American. I will also take away skills and experience in my desired career field that will last me a lifetime because of my internship,” she explained.

Cooper Setterlund '19 on the island of Pualu Ubin, Singapore
Photo: Courtesy of Cooper Setterlund

Cooper on the island of Pualu Ubin, Singapore.

Economics major, Cooper Setterlund ‘19, had the unique experience of studying abroad in two countries: in Denmark through the Brandeis in Copenhagen: Business and Economics Program, and in Singapore through the National University of Singapore Exchange Program. Having traveled the world since he was stricken with wanderlust at eleven years old, he has valuable insight to offer those who are looking to seek out adventures similar to his.

“Observe and embrace cultures that maybe don't yet make sense to you. Make friends with people who you never could've imagined being friends with. It's human nature to be afraid of change and trying new things. Those new experiences are the ones that will define you, and will be the ones that you'll remember forever,” he told me.

Having fun while shouldering the responsibility that comes with more independence is an important takeaway that Cooper wants to share as one of this year’s Study Abroad Ambassadors.

Part of this growth comes from learning to make your study abroad destination feel like home by truly becoming immersed in the new environment.

“While I enjoyed the opportunities to travel and explore my country and others nearby, my best moments always came from the little parts of my daily routine,” he explained. “I loved getting my coffee and bread in Copenhagen with my friends every morning, and loved my long afternoon walks back to my dorm after my classes at NUS.”

Although we all traveled to what seem like totally different parts of the world, we share the same feeling of personal development that came with stepping outside of our comfort zone and living in another country. Learn more about the various programs and financial resources that Brandeis offers its students by visiting the Office of Study Abroad.

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