Over 65% of students will go abroad while completing their UR education, according to the University of Richmond’s Office of International Education. For senior Amelia Karle and junior Arielle Zane, both of their choices were to study abroad during the fall of their junior year.
In a recent conversation with Amelia Karle, a physics major, she reflected on her time abroad in the vibrant and culturally rich city of Madrid at the Carlos III University during fall 2022.
Whether she should choose to study abroad was not even a question for Karle, she said. She shared how UR’s emphasis on international education and how it was embraced by so many students made it an easy decision for her.
When it was time to decide on a country to study abroad in, however, Karle believed she had limited options.
“Spain and Australia were the only two countries that had any STEM programs,” Karle said. “There's only like a couple of programs that I can get credits for. So that was also another big part of it.”
Although Richmond offers STEM programs in select countries, Karle had a background in the Spanish language which helped make her decision.
“I took intensive Spanish when I was here [with] Señor Bob. He's one of my favorite teachers. He wanted all of us to study in Spain,” Karle said.
By choosing to study at Carlos III University, Karle had the opportunity to take a variety of classes, ranging from quantum physics to women in philosophy, she said. Although her classes were taught in English, Karle remarked on the high academic standard and the hard work required to keep up with her Spanish peers.
“Academically, it really opened my eyes to just being driven,” she said.
She also shared that the campus for her STEM classes was another hour away by train, and that she was the only American third-year student in a class of Spanish second-years.
Despite this, Karle expressed that these challenges gave her valuable insight into international education and the importance of determination.
Meanwhile, finding a suitable program was not a problem for Zane, a psychology student , who is currently in the midst of her study abroad semester.
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The climate and culture of Brisbane, Australia stuck out to her immediately, and she chose to study at the University of Queensland.
“In terms of choosing somewhere for abroad,” Zane said, “I knew that I wanted to go somewhere warmer. I thought it'd be cool to have spring twice, and Australia is perfect for that”.
Immersion in a new community of cultures was also important for Zane, she said.
“I know that in Europe,” Zane said, “you end up meeting a lot of other Americans just because of the way that the programs are oriented. Because you're around a lot of different languages. And it's just kind of easier to find yourself around Americans [there]. I knew that I'd be a bit more integrated with people coming from all over the world.”
By choosing to study at the University of Queensland, Zane can take fascinating major-specific classes such as music and human behavior, social and organizational psychology, and the psychology of sports and exercise, she said.
In contrast to Karle’s experience, Zane found her classes more relaxed. She attributed part of this to the general culture of Australia, which she found to move at a much slower pace.
“I feel like Australia is a good option for people who value stability,” she said. “I feel just the overall peace here. Everybody just has a very good attitude here for some reason … Here, everybody's kind of just doing their own thing and just there for a good time. And I think that just that overall peace is something that I'll miss.”
On the other hand, the culture shocks Karle said she felt in Spain wouldn’t be considered slow.
Karle was shocked by the student culture, she said. She shared how it was completely normal for people to go out at night, stay up until 6 a.m. at a club, and then go to school the following morning.
“I swear people in Spain sleep for like, like, three hours a night,” she said.
Karle also shared that she loved the siesta culture, a custom in Spain where people stop and school around midday to rest.
“I love the siesta. It was awesome. You just kind of like drink wine for like two hours, just hang out, and then go back to work.” she said.
Despite the many differences in their semesters abroad, both Karle and Zane shared that a group trip was the most memorable part of their study abroad time there.
On weekends, Zane would explore outside the city of Brisbane and venture into some of the country’s natural sites. She described a memorable trip to a beach called Noosa.
“We went with like, 170 other international students who go to the same university and stayed in a hostel. And we hung out on the beach and played and had a paint party where we all were [dressed in] white.” said Zane. She explained that she and her friends threw paint at each other throughout the night until their clothes were completely covered with their “artwork”.
The most unforgettable moment of Zane’s semester abroad was her trip to Bali with some of her friends. She said one of the best parts was engaging in active outdoor activities like jet skiing, tubing, ATVing, and snorkeling
“We went jet skiing and tubing and ATV and snorkeling. It was so cool,” she said.
Like Zane, the highlight of Karle’s study abroad was traveling within and around their host country.
Karle appreciated the European culture of interconnectivity and the ease of traveling between countries. She took full advantage of her time in Europe, visiting around eight different countries during her semester abroad. Some of her travel destinations included Prague, Italy, Germany for Oktoberfest, and a memorable visit to Portugal, which she described as her favorite.
Karle shared that a huge part of this trip was getting out of a study-abroad-student bubble and immersing herself amongst other Europeans.
She said one of her favorite moments was sailing on a boat in Portugal with all her friends, where she met other young people traveling around Europe.
“It was just about meeting new people that I'd never met before....that's one of the coolest parts of [being] abroad,” she said.
A continuous similarity between the two student’s semesters abroad was reflecting on how studying abroad exposed them to incredible new adventures that gave them new perspectives on other cultures.
Zane remarked on the culture of sustainability in Australia.
“They're very green here. When I go [into] my room, the power doesn't turn on unless I put my card in. So when I leave, it's not using any power. And they rarely use plastic, so they give you wooden forks and stuff when you do takeout. And I think that all of the little green things are also big culture shock.” said Zane.
Karle was surprised by the amount of walking she did while in Spain and how normal it was for everyone to walk as their mode of transportation. She smiled as she came to a surprising revelation about how walking enhanced her time in Madrid.
“It's just crazy, because I don't think I know my way around any other city like I do with Madrid,” Karle said. “I think I know my way around Madrid more than I do here.”
As Zane and Karle reflected on their time in these countries, there was palpable love and appreciation for their home countries and the time they spent immersing themselves within new cultures.
Contact contributing writer Sophie Dulog at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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