Fall is the most popular quarter for Cal Poly students to venture to other countries to study abroad. During Fall 2017, 694 students studied abroad in 32 countries. According to International Center Director Cari Vanderkar, there was an 18 percent increase in the amount of Cal Poly students who studied abroad in Fall 2017 compared to Fall 2016.
As winter quarter begins, Cal Poly students who studied abroad are readjusting to life in San Luis Obispo. With them they carry reminders of their months long journey— a journey that is difficult to justifiably commemorate with solely words and mementos.
Sociology junior Daniela Freccero studied abroad in Sydney, Australia and brought back a yoga mat with Byron Bay on it, her favorite place in Australia.
“It’s such a good reminder every single time I look down and it kind of just reminds me, like when I’m in that place and when I’m practicing, to get back in that mindset where it was so peaceful and I didn’t have much anxiety about anything,” Freccero said.
Business junior Paula Kyin studied abroad in Turin, Italy and enjoyed Italy’s world-famous gelato and chocolate. “Besides the 10 pounds I gained from gelato every day … I got to take home some chocolate; they have a specific kind of chocolate because hazelnut is really popular there too, it’s called Gianduia,” Kyin said.
Mountains of memories
Not only are students returning to Cal Poly with cherished keepsakes and a taste of their second homes, but also with a recollection of their travels.
Nutrition junior Noelle Kovalevsky who studied in Chiang Mai, Thailand Fall 2017 shared her experience traveling to Bali and seeing the sunrise.
“In Bali, we hiked a volcano called Mount Batur, and you hike it at, like, 3 o’clock in the morning to get there for sunrise, and you hike it in the dark,” Kovalevsky said.
Kyin also recounted her travels on a spontaneous trip to Portugal.
“I think my favorite place I went to was Lisbon, Portugal because we kind of just had an empty weekend and picked the cheapest flight, and it happened to be Portugal. It was so beautiful, colorful, a beach town, sunny, I loved it,” Kyin said.
What may carry the most weight out of all the things students have brought back with them is what they have gained mentally. After living in a foreign country with other cultural practices and most likely another native language, students yielded insight on what they brought back with them as far as the metaphysical.
“I think I gained a sense of independence that I didn’t have before because doing all this traveling and getting on a plane every weekend or almost every weekend and traveling just by myself with my friends, you really learn how to take care of yourself and be more aware and be more socially conscious of things,” Kovalevsky said.
English Junior Natalie Truong spent Fall 2017 on a ship participating in the “Semester at Sea” program.
“I’m way more, like, appreciative of the people in my life and the things I have here in America, just having running water, having hot water, having drinkable water,” Truong said.
Freccero also expressed a sense of newfound perspective.
“Just meeting so many people all over the world, for me it was just so inspiring, and I realized you don’t have to live the same exact life as everybody else. You don’t have to do the same route, like go[ing] to college, then maybe go[ing] to grad school or get[ting] a job right after where you sit at a desk all day … Everybody has so many different stories,” Freccero said.
Amidst studying abroad in Bilbao, Spain and learning a new language, Business junior Scott Ho was inspired to live in another country again.
“I’ve been talking to my mom about moving to China for six months to a year after I graduate to learn Chinese and that’s one of the biggest things that I wouldn’t have even considered if I hadn’t studied abroad. I’ve always wanted to know the language of my culture and seeing just how much Spanish I learned in just three months, I talked to my mom about learning Chinese in Beijing or Shanghai,” Ho said.
Truong had the opportunity to visit 10 countries during her semester at sea, including Vietnam, where her mother grew up. Seeing her roots firsthand coincided with what she felt she gained most from her experience. Truong got to visit the village and see the elementary school, middle school and high school her mother went to.
“I’m just way more confident in myself, especially going to a school like Cal Poly where the majority is white. Traveling has shown me that white people are the minority of the world, even though they’ve been the majority most of my life, especially after visiting my motherland and seeing other people like me,” Truong said.
Words of advice from the wanderers
Equipped with souvenirs, snapshots and a broader perspective of the world, Cal Poly students who have just returned from studying abroad leave anyone wishing to study abroad with some food for thought.
“You will get out as much as you put in, I know a lot of people say that, but it’s so true. If you try and immerse yourself in the culture, you will be in the culture … Now it’s really cool to say, now I’m in America but I do feel like I have another home on the other side of the world,” Kyin said.