Processing the Study Abroad Experience: IES Abroad Ambassador of the Month Leigh Wynveen

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Anna Egan
August 25, 2017

Headshot of Leigh Wynveen, IES Abroad Ambassador of the Month

Meet Leigh Wynveen, our August Ambassador of the Month! We’re happy to chat with her and hear her take on how she slowly adjusted to her shifting worldview and how she processed such a life-changing experience. 

Leigh is a rising senior at Hope College, where she majors in Political Science and International Studies. She participated in our Paris – Business and International Affairs Program in Spring 2016. Following graduation, she will be pursuing a Master's degree in International Relations.

IES Abroad: Why IES Abroad?
Leigh Wynveen (LW):
As an International Studies and Political Science double major, study abroad was an important aspect of my undergraduate studies. I wanted to pursue a program that would allow me to witness the sociopolitical environment while staying on track to graduate from my home school in four years. IES Abroad gave me the flexibility to pursue classes that would that would assist me in my understanding of international relations, while still meeting the general education requirements of my home school. 

IES Abroad: What would tell someone who’s on the fence about studying abroad?
Studying abroad is an opportunity to learn about a different culture, but also a chance to learn more about yourself and your home culture. Living and studying abroad in a new country gives new perspectives and viewpoints that enrich the way a person sees the world.

Studying abroad also gives you personal insight into how you adapt to new situations. It allows you to explore corners of the world that you have dreamed of visiting. You not only soak up culture and local cuisine, but also have the opportunity to become entrenched in the daily life of a foreign city and culture.

IES Abroad: What one piece of advice would you share to those who are returning home from study abroad?
It takes time to completely make sense of the entire semester. Take the time to truly think about how you and your worldview may have shifted. This debriefing will not come all at once, but rather trickle out through memories over the next few months.

Leigh Wynveen selfie abroad on a bridge

There is not one exact way to make sense of all the different memories and experiences. It may come through researching a topic related to your study abroad experience in a later class or through comparing stories with another friend who has studied abroad. Sometimes, it seems easier just to let the memories remain without trying to make sense of the entire experience.

Eventually, though, the whole study abroad experience will become clearer and it will finally feel like you've reached closure. The memories of jetting across a continent on weekends or immersing yourself in a foreign language will finally harmonize with the daily tasks of "normal" life back at home. By making sense of your adventures, you will truly be able to see how the experience shaped who you are.  

Thanks, Leigh!

Do you have more questions about what it’s like to study abroad? Contact an IES Abroad Ambassador. They’re recent IES Abroad alums with a lot of study abroad expertise, and they volunteer to answer your questions. They’re here to help!

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Anna Egan

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