Imagine sitting around a table in Italy, Ecuador, or Japan sharing new dishes with a host family or new friends. What could be better?
Our IES Abroad Ambassadors are giving thanks for study abroad because of how it increased their understanding of other cultures. Through new foods, new habits, and new traditions, our Ambassadors learned that the world is bigger than they thought – yet time and again they made meaningful connections with people wherever they went.
Read their study abroad stories and reflections below:
"I was able to experience Thanksgiving last year in my host country; while I celebrated with American friends, I did cautiously bring a pumpkin pie to my Italian workplace – at first skeptical, my coworkers really enjoyed the foreign dessert! It was moments of exchange like these, over the course of the semester, that allowed me to develop a lens through which to understand better my own culture and that of my host country."
"Living with an amazing host family and taking multiple classes about the history and culture of this amazing place (with some in French!) has allowed me to gain an incredibly deep understanding of the French people, culture, language, and history. It has truly changed me for the better, and it wouldn't have been possible without IES Abroad!"
"I’m thankful for studying abroad because of how study abroad affected my understanding of different cultures. I got to visit so many places during my semester abroad. With each trip, I learned more and more about different cultures."
"From kissing everyone on the cheek, to eating a four course meal at lunch, to staying out until 5 a.m., my eyes were opened to the different customs of Spain that I never would have expected. Although there were many differences, there were countless similarities between Spanish and American cultures. I am so thankful for my time in Spain because I know that I would never would have had a more authentic experience."
"Before my time studying abroad, I had only known the ‘American’ way of life, per se. After, I realized there is so much more out in the world than just my small bubble. There is no right way to live one's life as I learned abroad, but instead everyone needs to be open to new possibilities."
"I lived in a homestay, and my host mom was very different than my biological mom. This experience helped me to adapt to new surroundings, as well as to see how different families in different parts of the world function. The Spanish are a lot more blunt than American people, and it was interesting to learn this first-hand."
"I’m thankful for the ways in which study abroad taught me not only about people living in a foreign country, but Americans, as well. I lived and interacted with a number of Americans who had very different views and backgrounds than I did, which was almost a culture shock in itself."
"Through interactions with my host family, local students, and other madrileños, I gained an appreciation for the power of inter-cultural dialogue. My IES Abroad courses helped provide important perspectives about the history and culture of Madrid, Spain, and Europe. We didn’t shy away from tough political and social issues, and I realized that many of the conversations that we’re having in the United States are also occurring throughout the world."
"While there are stark differences in the culture it was also humbling to realize the similarities. I was living halfway across the world, but my host family watched some of the same movies and TV shows as mine back in the States; they enjoyed the same sports that I did; we both appreciated good Italian food, loved dancing, surfing, and spending time around a dinner table. I felt that this experience allowed me to gain a new perspective on the world. For that I am extremely thankful."
"Studying abroad was such a valuable experience, not only for my personal growth, but also because it provided me with a lens to understand other perspectives. By living in another country for several months, even another Western country like the Netherlands, I was challenged to practice cultural relativism in not judging cultural practices by my own standards, but by looking at them in their own context. This is a skill that has followed me home – I now come from a better place of understanding when interacting with people different from myself, and I wish everyone had the opportunity to study abroad and experience this."
"It may sound simple, but taking the time to hear what someone else has to say can truly change the way you see things, and make your world just a little bit larger. We do our best to imagine the lives of others around the world. But when you're standing in front of someone, listening to their views in the place that they call home, you get a fuller picture, and it's wonderful, priceless."
"I met so many people and was able to travel and experience so many different cultures that now the world doesn’t seem like such a big place. I’m so much more appreciative of cultural diversity and strive to continue learning about other people and places."
Follow along with our Grateful for Study Abroad series as recent alumni share the many incredible ways their study abroad and internship abroad experiences changed their lives:
- IES Abroad Ambassadors Share How Study Abroad Benefited Their Careers
- IES Abroad Ambassadors Discuss Friendships Made While Studying Abroad
- IES Abroad Ambassadors Reflect on Their Personal Growth from Studying Abroad
- Why Past Students are Thankful for Their IES Abroad Academic Experiences