DIS Copenhagen – Fall 2021

After having my first study abroad in Aberdeen, Scotland in Spring 2020 cut short due to COVID-19, I knew I HAD to go again. This time I chose the DIS Copenhagen program. During the enrollment process at DIS, you will choose your “major” (core course). I chose a course entitled New Media & Changing Communities. My other courses were called Glued to the Screen, Food & Identity, and Danish Language & Culture. All my classes and professors were wonderful and made the classes enjoyable and memorable. By the way, one aspect of Danish culture that was a little strange at first was calling professors by their first names, but I soon learned that is the Danish way.

During the enrollment process you will also choose living accommodations. Because I wanted to live with other international & DIS students, I chose an apartment-style arrangement called Kollegium. However, home stays are also available, and I have heard nothing but positives from students who chose to live with Danish families. The flat in my Nimbus Kollegium was comprised of a big kitchen, common space, two bathrooms, and four bedrooms. Although I shared a bedroom, there was plenty of space. The best part of housing is that the apartments were FULLY stocked, down to dish detergent, cookware, linens, and bedding. We also received a starter food stipend because Copenhagen food tends to be pricey. My Kollegium was convenient, as it was right across from a grocery shop and a short walk to public transportation (Fasanvej Station). I was also near a large park and the Copenhagen Zoo. Besides Nimbus, there are three other Kollegiums located at various greatlocations throughout the city. However, wherever you will live in Copenhagen, the city is extraordinarily safe and easy to navigate.

DIS has a set arrival day for all students. If you arrive that day within their certain time frame, you will be greeted at the airport by friendly DIS staff wearing DIS t-shirts and waving Danish
flags, so they are easy to spot. They will then offer you light snacks, water, and present you with a personal packet with your DIS student ID, stipend card, and sim card. Then, they will transport you to your housing for free!

Because I went to Copenhagen alone (recommended!) I felt a bit unsure at first, but that nervousness lasted just a short time. Of course, many DIS students come with friends; however, just as many come alone and are seeking friendships. You WILL find your friends because everyone is open and friendly! In addition, all classes involve experiential learning, so you will be eating and traveling with classmates as well. And even before you arrive in Denmark, there are several DIS GroupMe chats so you can meet people before you even leave the U.S.! When abroad I met some of my best friends, who I still keep in touch with daily.

The classes were all experiential learning which I loved. DIS includes two all-expense paid trips for travel in your core course: the first, usually in other areas in Denmark, and the second, elsewhere in Europe. My core course visited Aalborg and Aahrus Denmark and Dublin Ireland. Everyone in DIS has classes every day but Wednesday, which is “field study” day. These days include travel around Denmark and/or visits from guests. On Wednesdays with no field studies, students are free to explore Copenhagen. There is also a travel week where you and your new friends can travel to various places in Europe or stay in Denmark and explore!

1. BUDGET. Copenhagen is very expensive, and money goes FAST.
2. If you’re a coffee lover, buy instant coffee. A typical cup of coffee in Copenhagen is anywhere from $5-8.
3. Don’t pack unnecessary toiletries: they are heavy and can be bought in Denmark.
4. Pack light so you have room for souvenirs.
5. Download Google translate.
6. Buy food for 2-3 days at a time at most (if you are close to a grocery store)! If you try to stock up, food will go bad because Europeans use fewer preservatives than in the U.S.
7. Save bottles with A, B, or C on them because you can return them to a store through a machine thing and get money back.
8. DIS pays for a commuter card or rental bike. I recommend the commuter card for more options. If you choose a Metro commuter card, you can still rent a bike for the semester (Swapfiets gave good student discounts).
9. If you want to join a gym, SATS DK gave a DIS discount. (I paid $171 USD for the semester)
10. If you get a MetroCard do NOT forget to renew your card every month or you will be fined $116 U.S. dollars by the metro workers.

I fell in love with Copenhagen. It is sustainable, clean, efficient, and gorgeous. It is a perfect mix of modern and historic. I recommend renting a GoBoat and seeing the city through a self-service canal tour. I chose to take the Metro (train) to class, about a 20-25 commute, which soon became second nature and quite pleasant. On some weekends, I visited other areas of Europe: Prague, Portugal, Vienna, and Turkey. These visits helped me become exposed to different cultures, but I loved just being in Copenhagen. It always felt comforting and cozy…just like home. In retrospect, I would have been just as happy spending every day in Denmark because the people and country all demonstrate “hygge” in their own ways.

In terms of social life, there are many options. If you choose to go out, be sure to finish the night like a typical Dane–go to a local hotdog vendor grab yourself a hotdog! However, if that isn’t up your ally then Copenhagen offers so much to do, whether alone or with friends, whether by day or by night.
I could go on and on about every memory I made in Copenhagen or every tip I could offer. However, I’ll stop and just say GO ABROAD!! The experiences and memories you make will be held close to your heart forever. You will also be so proud of yourself getting out of your comfort zone and venturing off into a new country for 4 months! Those months fly by way too fast so take advantage of every moment you can 🙂

1. Go alone! → EVERYONE is looking for friends. So many people came in alone and they have best friends by the end of the program, and you will too!
2. Say yes to everything → some of the best memories come from just saying yes
3. Budget → only buy what you will use and learn to not waste food!
4. Take Danish Language and Culture → I loved my professor and the class, and I thought it was a good introduction to Danish.
5. Go to smaller towns/cities You’ll experience more of the Danish culture and lovely Danish people.

If you want more information, I’d be happy to answer questions: kristinamcgee@callutheran.edu

By: Kristina McGee

University of Aberdeen, Scotland – Spring 2020

Coming into college, studying abroad had never crossed my mind. The thought of leaving the U.S. for four months and venturing into the unknown alone made me nervous to even think about. However, I am so grateful I decided to take the leap into what turned into an unforgettable
adventure full of cherished memories, unique learning, and lifelong friendships. Even though my semester abroad was cut short by a month due to COVID-19, I wouldn’t have traded the program
for anything. I met some of my best friends for life. I also grew as a person, pushing myself to do something I originally thought was out of my comfort zone.


The process was simple, thanks to the Cal Lutheran Office of Education Abroad, which helped every step of the way…starting with deciding what international program would be best for my major and my personal preferences. The office kept students on track with completing necessary documents, arranging travel, getting health insurance, finalizing finances, and having academic
credits transferred back to CLU. A few weeks before the semester abroad begins there is a pre-departure dinner that allows students to interact with alums of their programs for last minute tips.

Also, The University of Aberdeen has fantastic staff who kept in touch every step of the way with advice for admittance, travel, living, and academics. They were also on call once on site for any concerns, large or small.

On January 1, 2020, I left LAX for the journey of a lifetime…through London to Aberdeen, Scotland. I immediately felt relieved that Aberdeen is friendly, comfortable, and easy to navigate. There were taxis in a queue to transport folks to residences, all easy to arrange. I personally arrived in Aberdeen a few days early and stayed in a small hotel in the city first, to overcome any jetlag, but also to familiarize myself with my new home. I noticed that because of the latitude, in early January it became dark about 3:30 p.m., but as the semester went on, the days became longer and more beautiful.

– Wow! The flats (dorms) were so nice! Each unit had a shared kitchen and living room with five single bedrooms, each with a full bed, desk, shelf, and private bathroom!
– The University of Aberdeen conducts a one-day orientation for meeting fellow international students. There is a full day of information, activities, and social events.
– Walking and taking the bus are main modes of transportation. I liked the 20-30 minute walk to class through a park filled with other students. However, the bus is also convenient: students show their ID and transport to campus is free! After hours bus service to town has a fee, but it is minimal and can be arranged through a prepaid app.
– If you want to join a gym the University of Aberdeen has a great gym with a pool, tons of cardio
machines, free weights, machines and classes!

Because I was a sophomore, I took mostly Core 21 courses. There were many, many choices, but I ended up taking “How Should One Live?” (Philosophy), “Death” (Archeology), “Scottish Folklore” (Literature), and “Humans and Animals” (elective). However, there were also more specialized courses for those further along in their programs. The class structure in the U.K is a bit different than at Cal Lutheran: there are fewer assignments, each counting for a larger portion of the final grade. Even though that took some adjustment, I appreciated being pushed to learn in new ways.

I loved living so close to a safe city and being able to enjoy many aspects of Aberdeen by walking. My favorite memory (which I 100% suggest) was a weekend trip farther north to Inverness,
Scotland, home of the (famous but never seen) Loch Ness monster. I and some friends took a 12-
hour bus trip around Inverness the Isle of Skye. Not only was the scenery breathtaking but we
got to feed hairy “coos”, view castles, eat fish and chips, and explore the beautiful coutrysides. From Aberdeen it is simple to visit other locations in Europe, and I took short trips to Milan, Italy and Budapest, Hungary. That said, I would have been just as happy exploring friendly, beautiful Scotland!

Aberdeen Specifically
1. Groceries: Lidl grocery store is right down the hill from the dorms and quite reasonable.
2. Fish! For fish lovers, Scotland is home to inexpensive and fresh salmon!
3. Bedding and clothes: In Aberdeen city, Primark has bedding and other room necessities at decent prices. For Californians who do not have winter wear, this is also a good spot.
4. Phone plan: I went to the Aberdeen mall and chose the cheapest phone plan I found: 20GB a month for 15 pounds.
5. Finances: I did not get a European bank account; instead, I used a Capital One Student Journey card (just look for a credit card that does NOT have foreign transaction fees because those add up!) I also suggest (if possible) getting a credit card with the tap feature because it easier for buses.
6. What to pack: I recommend bringing no toiletries (except of course necessary medicine). Most toiletries can be easily purchased at pharmacies such as Boots.
7. Sundays: Most establishments are closed on Sundays (in Aberdeen and throughout Europe).

General Thoughts for Anyone Going Abroad
1. Go alone → you WILL make new friends (everyone abroad is looking for friends. Push
yourself and get ready to meet new friends who will become best friends very quickly). Traveling with someone from your home university can limit your outreach to new people.
2. Budget! → Money WILL go fast. Budgeting will help you stay on track. That said, allow yourself to budget for fun activities too 🙂 Live like the Europeans and buy food for one or two days only so none goes to waste. Also, spend money on experiences and not stuff.
3. Explore your host country → I regret not venturing into Scotland more; I hope to return one day and finish my journey
4. It is possible financially Don’t rule out studying abroad because you are afraid of the cost. Cal Lutheran’s Office of Education Abroad can help with resources and guidance.

It will be the BEST decision you ever made. Thereare many people who look back years later and are sorry they never studied abroad in college. BE the person who took the chance!

By: Kristina McGee

Combating Reverse Culture Shock

Studying abroad was one of the greatest experiences of my life, and I will forever cherish the memories I made in Panama. One of the hardest things for me was coming back to the states and re-adjusting back into life that is so different than the life I was living in Bocas del Toro. As soon as I landed back in the United States, it still did not feel like I was actually leaving the place I called home for three months. After a few days, it finally started to set in and I realized that I was going to have to get back into my real life.

Since I had such an amazing time in Panama, I found myself wanting to talk about my experiences all the time. This became something that I quickly realized, and had to make sure that I was not constantly talking about going abroad, but that I was also listening to my family and friends’ stories while I was gone. I found that people are often interested in your stories but they do not need to hear every detail of every day constantly. To help remind myself of my semester abroad I made a photo collage of some of my favorite memories and hung it in my room so that way I could remember my favorite moments without having to talk about them all the time. 

I think my reverse culture shock would have been much worse if I had not been busy as soon as I came back to the United States. I had a few days to decompress, but then I started working and volunteering to help take my mind off of thinking about Panama. Keeping busy really helped me find my rhythm and reinstate some of my passions that I was not able to do while abroad. Doing things that I enjoyed as well as fun things that were not available to me while I was abroad reminded me of why I was glad to be back in California. 

Studying abroad was quite possibly the best decision I have ever made, and it really helped form my opinions and ideas and allow me to see the world in a more global light. Readjusting to life back in California has been difficult, but it is possible as long as you keep in mind that studying abroad and your home life are most likely very different, so adjusting from one to the other will be hard. Focusing on things that you are passionate about, staying busy, and making little mementos of the time abroad helped me significantly when trying to readjust back into my home life. Even with the possibility of experiencing culture shock, I would strongly recommend anyone considering travelling abroad to do it, as it will likely be life changing.

By: Natalie Mansergh

Studying Abroad on a Budget

In order to achieve my goal of studying abroad, I had to find an option that accommodated my need for a shorter and financially attainable program: International Business Seminar was able to meet both of these needs. These seminars are brief experiences abroad in which you, as a student, get both the opportunity to tour companies and travel internationally for a reasonable cost. The costs include all travel expenses, including flights if planned by IBS, and the only additional costs are lunches, dinners, souvenirs, and activities outside of the schedule. If properly budgeted and managed, this experience is worth the investment. Every day was filled to maximum capacity with activity. No minute was spared sitting around in the hotel. If the group was not on a company visit, we all went out into the city to find local food, see local sights, and interact with the local vendors.

Budget Beginnings 

Before committing to a program, I attended several information sessions did some online research, and spoke with coordinators from IBS. I wanted to accumulate as much information about the seminar and the costs involved before making a final decision. Once I was certain that I wanted to attend the Winter Southeast Asia program, I set out to discover ways in which I can raise personal funds to cover the costs. To fully prepare myself financially, I had started to look into attending an International Business Seminar over a year in advanced. This was because I already knew looking into study abroad it was not inexpensive.

The process of accumulating funds started in January of 2019, giving me nearly a year to accumulate funds before the final payment deadline for the Winter programs (November 15th). With a timeline for financial planning established, I could strategically plan how to pay off my trip. I set regular goals for myself to track the progress I was making every month to ensure I stayed on track. IBS also sends a confirmation email with an updated invoice for the travel costs, which became my new benchmark for fund raising. 

Is 100 Pennies Less Valuable than a Dollar? 

I primarily relied on my monthly income to pay for my trip. You can make larger sums of money via jobs, such as I did, and make extra through work such as tutoring, babysitting, and more, but on the other side, a great deal of accumulating money is also penny pinching. There is a common saying, “Money saved is money earned.” This is where a majority of my funding came from. My monthly payments consisted of money saved from the following: not eating out and attending on-campus events or free events rather than going to events I had to pay for. 

With this penny pinching mindset, I made the conscious decision to shift my habits to reflect a more frugal attitude with spending throughout the year. Rather than spending money on items I do not immediately need (items like a new phone case or that new pair of Nike Air Force Ones), I choose to invest the money into a savings account. These small adjustments both reduced spending, but also did not impact my overall satisfaction with my daily life. Small adjustments seem insignificant at first, but they accumulate into larger financial savings: if you collect enough pennies it eventually becomes a dollar.

Scrapping Up Scholarships 

Additionally, through avidly applying, I accumulated funds through scholarships. On average, I submitted about 2-3 scholarships each month in hopes of receiving at least one.  The third, and smallest, source of funding came from crowdfunding. For my birthday, I established a GoFundMe. Instead of allocating money towards gift cards that may sit unused for months or buying me trinkets of some kind for my birthday, I reached out to family and friends and told them I’d rather the money go towards my seminars’ expenses. 

Both of these means of funding are sporadic and require a lot of initiative and constant sharing. I lacked dedication in regards to the opportunity of crowdfunding, which I could have capitalized on to support a larger amount of payments. Additionally, scholarships and crowdfunding are not guaranteed. You can submit the scholarships and spread the word you are funding for the program, but others have to be willing to contribute. However, it only takes one or two scholarships to make a difference financially and to make studying abroad a possibility. 

What Happens to My Money??

If finances are a concern, but you still want to study abroad this is a great alternative because the programs are during the Summer and Winter terms. For most undergraduate programs, they typically occur during breaks, and for some graduate programs, they take place immediately after or before the start of the new term, depending on the program and university. Since the seminars do not require a full semester’s commitment, you do not have to take an extraordinary amount of time off from your job to attend the program either, allowing you to save more before the financial pay-off deadline. 

Being that I prepared well in advance for this program, I allocated enough time for myself to properly save up funds for the program; however, in the event that I was unable to afford the program, IBS has the policy that you can receive a refund until the second week of October, for the Winter programs. This was a “pre-deadline” so to speak for me. This date gave me more confidence in my ability to pay for this program because I knew that I could back out of the program before that date if I felt unsure about it. Then, with the funds I had already saved, I could wait a little longer and save enough to attend a different program that I liked at a later date!

Getting Paid Back With Educational Interest 

A major appeal factor of this studying abroad program was the lack of a classroom. At no point on this trip did I sit in a classroom to listen to a lecture, yet I still received educational value. I earned college credit simply by visiting six companies and spending anywhere from 2-5 hours with their representatives discussing their marketing tactics, their branding, the company structure, the state of the economy, and anything else that we, the students, wanted to ask about. This type of open-forum discussion with high level Directors and CEO’s would be challenging, if not impossible, to accomplish without the scheduling of tours and visits through organizations such as IBS.I finally had the opportunity to utilize the business theories and knowledge I learned in my lectures halls at California Lutheran in a real business setting.

Time to Explore the Cities! 

The only other obligation you have is to arrive at the designated time for scheduled tours of the city and local sites. IBS programs have built in city adventures, such as meeting local Vietnamese students while learning how to properly eat and prepare the dishes served by the street markets and food vendors. I floated in the rivers of Thailand to see the Damnoen Floating Market and in Vietnam to a remote location where I saw how local candy, Kẹo dừa, or coconut candy, was made from start to finish. I biked around the Ancient City in Thailand and walked around a 360⁰ view of the entire city of Ho Chi Minh from the 50th floor of the Saigon Sky deck. 

Combined, the balance of business and cultural discovery provided me with a well-rounded and unforgettable experience. I came to South East Asia with only research knowledge and came back to America with the experience of engaging with the business hub and the local people of Thailand and Vietnam. Prior to this seminar, traveling to Asia was unobtainable for me. It was too much of a cultural gap for me to try and navigate these countries by my own means and planning. IBS made something that was challenging for me not only easy, but enjoyable. I found myself loving the countries I never even imagined visiting.

By: Karlee Cuddy

Going Abroad as a Student-Athlete

I got past the common myths about study abroad (that it’s too expensive, dangerous, or wouldn’t fit in my schedule) through insight from study abroad returnees, but for me the biggest barrier was being a student-athlete. I was afraid of letting down my coach and my team, missing a precious season, and being out of shape when I got back. Despite all my concerns, I ended up taking the leap, and studying abroad was well worth missing a season of Track & Field! I interviewed two other California Lutheran University student-athletes and below is our experience and advice about how to make study abroad work as an athlete.


Will Taylor has played football at Cal Lutheran for four years. He studied abroad his sophomore year at The Hague University in the Netherlands Spring of 2018. The program was arranged by our school, so all of his scholarships traveled with him.

Cortez Espinoza, also a senior, plays baseball. He studied abroad in Lismore, Australia in Fall 2019 at Southern Cross University, a partner-affiliate school with CLU.

Olivia Becker, the author of this blog, is a junior on CLU’s Cross Country and Track & Field teams. She studied abroad in Granada, Spain through AIFS during Spring 2019, her sophomore year.

Coach and Teammate Reactions

Cortez: My coach was supportive of me travelling to Australia because it was during the fall, which is our offseason. My teammates were excited to hear about my journey abroad. They wanted to hear about my experience and things that I learned while abroad.

Will: My coaches and teammates were supportive. They were excited for me when I told them I was going and welcomed me back after.

Olivia: My coach is a CLU alumnus, and when I told him I wanted to study abroad he encouraged me because one of his few regrets from college is that he didn’t study abroad. My teammates stayed in touch while I was abroad by FaceTiming me during some track meets and I was surprised how much extra attention they gave me when I got back

Staying in Shape While Abroad

Olivia: My coach worked with me to email a weekly training plan when I was abroad, and Granada had plenty of gyms to choose from. The AIFS Resident Director got me a discount to his gym, which I joined for the second half of my semester abroad so I could do strength training before the summer. Running in the city was trickier than at home, but I found a couple trails and a park that was exactly 1 kilometer around, perfect for repeat workouts!

Cortez: While in Australia, I played with a local club baseball team on weekends. I was able to play against college and adult players as a fun, competitive opportunity.

Will: I went to the gym at my university in The Hague almost every day when I wasn’t traveling. I knew what lifts to do and how to do them because I was there the previous offseason, so I kept up with the workouts. Every Tuesday and Thursday there was an open gym for basketball, so I played pickup games with other students. It was fun playing with guys from around the world.

Workout Buddies

Cortez: Our campus was known for its athletic facilities. Many athletes and students came to our gym to work out, which allowed me to meet athletes to lift weights and stay fit. We would challenge each other in basketball, beach volleyball, and soccer games each week to stay in shape and enjoy the outdoors.

Olivia: The AIFS team actually planned sports every couple weeks, including soccer, beach volleyball, basketball, and flag football. There was also an option to play on an international student intramural team for the entire semester and the winning team got a trophy at the end. There were a few student-athletes in my program and more people who just liked to run, so it was easy to find a workout buddy when I wanted one.

Will: I had some friends who would come to the gym with me, but I typically went alone. While it’s great to have a workout partner, I didn’t want to get tied to a gym buddy. At my program there weren’t any other student athletes because there were very few American students, and other countries don’t have college sports like in the U.S….I think it’s important to find your own motivation and be comfortable working out alone.

Satisfying your Athlete Appetite

Will: I lived in an apartment with a kitchen, so I cooked my own meals. There was a small grocery store across the street that I sometimes went to, but for my weekly grocery shopping I rode my bike to a bigger store. It was pretty cheap to buy groceries. I tried to keep a healthy diet. I ate plenty of meat, especially fish, which was far cheaper than it is here. I tried to eat local specialties often, which often weren’t the most healthy.

Cortez: I was fortunate to have a kitchen in my dorm. So I would go to the grocery store each week to prepare meals that would sustain me for the week. I also took a nutrition course for my Exercise Science major which allowed me to learn the benefits of food, to sustain a healthy lifestyle as an athlete.

Olivia: I lived with a host family that provided breakfast, lunch, and dinner, along with small snacks I could bring to class. Many of my friends’ host families were older couples who had lived during World War II and knew what it was like to be hungry, so now they made so much food that my friends had to learn to politely say they were full. My host family was younger and more concerned with their weight, but I definitely wasn’t starving. It did take me awhile to get used to Spain’s small breakfasts and late lunches (around 2-3 pm), so often I would stop at a cafe on the way to school and buy a tostada.

Readjusting to Sports in the U.S.

Olivia: It’s all about timing. If you’re a dual-sport athlete like me, you could look into summer programs, which last anywhere from 2-12 weeks. I normally train in the summer for Cross Country, so I decided I would rather miss a season of Track, then train all summer and come back strong for Cross Country.

Will: It was an easy adjustment for me. I got right back into the swing of things. Despite missing the previous offseason, I still knew the playbook and was in shape and ready for camp.

Cortez: I was able to join the team during January for our spring training, which is the main starting point for the baseball season.

Final Words of Advice

Cortez: I would advise every student-athlete to study abroad because you only get one opportunity to go to another country to learn, have fun, and experience the world outside of your university. There are opportunities for athletes to play sports while abroad, so it is important to reach out to the campus and community of desire to make playing sports abroad a reality.

Will: Pick a time to study abroad that affects your sport as little as possible. If you can avoid missing your season, do so. I would also advise going as early as possible. I went my sophomore year because I didn’t want to miss the offseason before my senior year. Work with your coaches to ensure that you’re keeping up with offseason training and don’t fall behind. Continue to develop your game in whatever way you can while you’re abroad.

Olivia: Studying abroad as a student-athlete was much easier than I expected it would be. My coach was supportive, my team enjoyed hearing my stories, I ran my fastest times in Cross Country during my first semester back, then became team captain the following semester! Study abroad may actually help your athletics if you embrace it as a nice mental break from the intensity of being an athlete. Whatever you’re scared of, stop hesitating and take the leap. It’s worth it.

By: Olivia Becker

Studying Abroad in the UAE

The United Arab Emirates has always had a special place in my heart since I was six years old, so when I saw the option to study abroad there, I didn’t think twice about it. I attended the American University of Sharjah (AUS), which is ranked as the second-highest university in the country. I focused on my Marketing Emphasis courses in the School of Business Administration which gave me a whole new perspective of the field. The UAE is a fairly new country and was officially established in 1971. Since then, the country is now known for being a business and tourism hub while holding Guinness World Records for the tallest skyscraper and largest shopping mall. In all their glory, this country still holds on to the rich Bedouin culture of hospitality, camping in the desert, and fishing off the coast.

After class, I loved to stroll through historical districts, souqs (markets), and visit beautiful mosques. During my stay in the UAE, I was able to branch out and explore other cities like Muscat, New Delhi, and London which is one of the greatest parts of studying abroad!

What I valued the most about my experience was building relationships with faculty, staff, and peers within my program. I now have friends across the United States, the United Arab Emirates, and London. As someone who loves to stay within my comfort bubble, studying abroad in the UAE pushed me to open up and network which is an important part of being a business major. I worked on market research reports, presentations, and product development while connecting with UAE locals and residents on campus.

By: Wehida Niazi

My First International Experience: The Build-Up to My First International Experience

Growing up, I never traveled outside of the United States, so I knew that when I started college studying abroad was definitely an experience that I wanted to have; however, being that I am graduating early, a full semester was not an option for me. This led to a hunt for another alternative. After countless hours of research and speaking with the Center for Global Engagement at California Lutheran University, I came across the opportunity to do a brief 2 to 4 week seminar in which I not only got to experience a new country, but I also had the chance to visit companies, such as Intel, Osprey, and Ikea. I not only spoke with directors and executives, but I also toured the company facilities within their respective countries. International Business Seminars enabled me to experience the out of classroom, out of country experience I craved as an undergraduate student, but to experience this I had to get to the country.

Let Your Dreams Take Flight

After attending the first information session held by IBS at my university, I was intrigued because it highlighted that IBS is an affordable, brief travel seminar abroad that I could earn college credit for and also build my resume. Once I reviewed the various program options, I decided to pursue the Winter Southeast Asia trip. Before the introduction of IBS, I never thought I would travel to Asia. What changed my mind was the ability to travel to Asia with a group of experienced leaders who would be readily available while I was in country, meaning I could ask questions every step of the way if need be. Rather than asking questions for assistance though, I found myself having personal conversations with the group leaders and they became mentors as well because I could connect not only on a professional level, but also a personal level. 

Furthermore, although the seminar is only a twelve day excursion, this option felt suiting for a couple of  reasons:

    • This was my first time going international and I did not know how I would handle it. Being more of a home body, I did not want feel overwhelmed once I got in country and realize I overcommitted.
    • Based on the itinerary, there was a healthy balance between free time, scheduled company visits, and scheduled attraction tours. My afternoons and evenings were almost always free, so all of the sightseeing that I wanted to do outside of the scheduled tours was possible. And I found this to be true while on the trip. The only time I was in the hotel was to sleep, otherwise I was walking the streets of Bangkok and Ho Chi Minh city because the hotels were within walking distance of main attractions!

After the first week, I knew a shorter trip was perfect for me. Every day I would wake up around 7-8am and would not go to bed until about 12am. After company tours, the group would change and go out for food and exploration, whether it was visiting the Ben Than Market in Vietnam or Terminal 21 in Bangkok. Every minute was capitalized on while abroad. 

Soaring Through the Stress

Upon finding this opportunity, I expressed excitement, but before leaving America I steadily became nervous because this entire journey was brand new to me. I was unfamiliar with navigating the international flight check-in process, I had never experienced a 20 hour, trans-pacific flight before, and I had no clue what I should be packing or preparing for the trip. 

Being that I had never been to Asia, I did not know what to expect in regards to the cultural immersion I was about to experience either. I had a lot of concerns regarding the language barriers and being a respectful visitor while I was in country. To alieve these concerns, I learned customary greetings to have positive, first impressions on the locals. Then, while I was in country, I made the effort every day while walking the streets to embraced the hustling people, the buzz and honks of the cars, the uneven sidewalks, and more. Thailand and Vietnam were completely different environments than what I was surrounded by growing up, but this juxtaposition proved to be enlightening. The differences in culture forced me to recognize characteristics about myself and how I interact with my environment.

Being able to enjoy the experience did not occur until after I landed in country. Before landing in Thailand and then Vietnam, the mere idea of leaving the country became intimidating. So what did I do? I looked to the resources that I had available to me.

Getting Comfortable in Your Seat of Resources

Throughout the months leading up to the departure for the trip, various members from IBS check-in with you regarding paperwork requirements, providing helpful hints and tips for traveling, and expressing their availability to reach out any time with questions. The constant virtual presence of the IBS team through email and text  in the months leading up to my trip eased my mind because through them, I had all of the tools necessary to be successful during my stay in country. With that, checking emails and keeping an eye out for the communications was important. The individuals sending those emails provide valuable information, such as how to obtain a visa and basic information about the country, and more. And more importantly, this communication continues during the seminar, but its in-person communication instead. 

Additionally, to reduce stress even further for myself, I allowed IBS to handle my travel affairs. By having IBS book my flights, I did not have to worry about monitoring prices, finding reasonable connections, or concerning myself with the stress of coordinating the timing to ensure I arrived in country at the proper time for events on the first day.  I capitalized on the knowledge that the IBS team collectively had regarding what to expect and prepare for once I landed in Southeast Asia.  

However, I did not stop there. To help myself prepare even more, I did some self-research online:

    • Weather,
    • items to bring in case of emergency (hard copies of travel documents, allergy medications, comfort medicine in case of illness, etc),
    • types of internet coverage available in country (wifi-only, sim card, or a plan through your phone service),
    • and of course, places to visit! 

Furthermore, I travelled with a group of 16 peers. Each person within our group contributed to the family dynamic we formed. We had two medics, several wander lusters, a couple of navigators, some right-hand mans who never left anyone behind or alone, and also the go-with-the-flow journeyers.  Since most of us were first-time international travelers, or at least first-time being in SE Asia, it was easy to overcome any discomfort in getting to know each other. We all faced similar struggles and questions while in the country, thus we quickly became comfortable with each other because it enabled us to communicate better in a foreign location. Within this group, I developed friendships that will last a lifetime.  Also, I was able to explore various areas in both Bangkok and Ho Chi Minh without ever being alone. 

Collectively, all this information provided a solid foundation of resources that I could use to mentally preparing for leaving for my trip and while I was in country.

Earning Your International Wings

Despite maintaining communication with the constant check-ins and asking clarifying questions, I still made errors along the way. It is challenging to ask the “right” questions when you hardly know what to even expect. There was a huge learning curve each step of the way. 

Prior to this trip I never had to go through a check-in process. Consequently, I had a moment in the airport in which I got the pleasure of hearing my name being called overhead by the airline because they needed to speak to me. I confusedly walked up to the desk at the gate I had been waiting at for my flight with my passport and boarding pass in hand and the gate officer informed me I did not check-in to the airline. I had managed to bypass this vital step. Fortunately for me they checked me in at the gate right before I boarded the plane. In this moment I learned that for all international flights, you have to check-in with the airlines, which is before security, and in foreign airports you pass through immigration and passport control afterwards. 

Another new experience was meals on a plane. Foolishly, I had selected meals through the airline website check-in because I thought it was a requirement. I later learned that it was only required for dietary restrictions: reading instructions in full is always helpful! I was able to correct this for my returning flights, but I got stuck eating meals on my way to Thailand that contained foods that I was not familiar with because it was food based on the local culture, in this cause Thai cuisine.  In eating local street foods and looking around local markets I later learned what I was served on the plane. 

I learned a lot through the experience of even just getting out of America. Throughout all of it though, I absorbed each mistake and rather than being harsh on myself, I took a lesson from every moment to make the necessary improvements for later. In going on this trip, I knew I was taking on a new journey and stretching myself. Just like a plane ride, you know there may be a change in wind and in turn some turbulence, but eventually with the proper navigation, the plane will exit the weather system and return to a calm, smooth flight. The key is to remain calm and look for other pathways when the route you’re taking is leading you to constant failure.

By: Karlee Cuddy

Why You Should Choose SFS​

When I was looking to study abroad, I had three main conditions that I wanted from my experience. First, I wanted to have an academically challenging environment that would allow me to think outside the box. Second, it was important to have a sense of community involvement and third, I wanted something completely different that I would remember for the rest of my life. SFS was the organization that met all of these conditions, and it has been a once in a lifetime experience. SFS was the organization that met all of these conditions, and it has been a once in a lifetime experience. SFS is one of the most unique study abroad programs offered, and the blend of cultural experiences and academic field work is a perfect balance.

In Panama, I can spend the morning at an indigenous community talking about land rights, and then transition to an afternoon of snorkeling or exploring mangrove systems. The hands-on field work is an extremely rewarding experience for passionate scientists and environmentalists alike. The structure of SFS classes allows me to shift my perspective on global issues, and think outside of my own personal opinions. Studying abroad is the perfect opportunity to become more of a global citizen and SFS can help you become more aware of global issues.

Becoming involved in local communities is one of the main reasons I wanted to study abroad, so I knew I would need to find a program that allowed me to engage with the local culture. SFS offers many opportunities to become involved with local groups and organizations. I have spent Saturdays teaching local girls English and how to swim, there have been opportunities to play games like volleyball and soccer in local communities, and visits to different islands have been extremely beneficial in understanding the local customs and cultures of Bocas del Toro.

Coming to Panama, I understood that it would be much different then in the United States, and I welcomed that change. I wanted to experience life in a different place, with a different history, and a different perspective. I have grown significantly from this experience, and I know I will continue to grow and change during the rest of my semester here in Bocas del Toro. Bocas is one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen and I am surrounded by beaches and beautiful rainforests. The people I have met here have become my family, and I know that I have a massive support system within the SFS community.

SFS as a whole has been an unforgettable experience, and over the course of the semester, I will continue to appreciate all the amazing things that I will do as a SFS student. If you are looking for an unforgettable and unique study abroad experience, the School for Field Studies is the perfect program. There are so many once in a lifetime opportunities that I have been able to complete due to the programs that SFS offers, and I will always remember my semester in Bocas del Toro

By: Natalie Mansergh

Thoughts Before Moving to Scotland

My name is Kristina McGee. I am a sophomore at Cal Lutheran and I will be leaving in 10 days for University of Aberdeen, Scotland! What a New Year’s experience…My flight will take off from LAX on New Year’s Day, 2020, and I will be abroad until June… a long time. (The Aberdeen program for Spring 2020 is from January 4th – May 15 I just wanted to have some extra time to explore Europe after finals.) When I started college last year, the thought of studying abroad did not even cross my mind. However, the one phrase I kept hearing from friends and my family about their college experience was, “The one thing I regret about college is not studying abroad.” Therefore, I took their advice to heart. I did not want to continue the trend of having regrets.

Right now, two weeks pre-departure, I admit I am a little anxious. At the end of the last semester, it was sad saying goodbye to friends at Cal Lutheran, but I know I’ll see them again and we can stay in touch throughout my travels. Also, in terms of preparation for the trip and study experience, study abroad offices at Cal Lutheran and University of Aberdeen have been amazingly helpful. Therefore, I already know my class selections and my housing arrangement. 

Even so, I won’t know how I feel until I am there. I do know I’ll be nervous about flying 10 hours, away from my home and family. However, to help calm my nerves I remember that when I started at Cal Lutheran I lived in a town outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania called Swarthmore. Coming all the way to California was a big step, and it all ended up for the best.

The one thing I am definitely prepared to face is the dark, damp, and chilly weather of Scotland. As a Pennsylvania native, I am used to brutal winters (below freezing on many days), so am not as uneasy about the weather as some Southern California students. Also, Cal Lutheran students who studied previously at the University of Aberdeen were helpful in terms of packing advice, recommending that I pack light and buy what I need when I arrive, from clothes to bedding supplies, kitchen necessities for the dorm, to textbooks. Therefore, I will carry one large checked suitcase, one carry-on, and a backpack. I do know that I will need my raincoat, rain boots, and umbrella for the misty Aberdeen climate, so into the suitcase they will go

Aside from the early jitters, I am very excited to be in another country and to experience another college system. I can’t wait to explore Aberdeen, the rest of the U.K., and even other European countries. A lot of that, I realize, will be stepping out of my comfort zone: becoming enmeshed in other cultures, trying new foods, learning about other traditions, and making friends from around the world. 

My plan for when I first arrive in Aberdeen (after getting over jet lag!) is to explore the city of Aberdeen—not just the tourist areas, but also the local neighborhoods. This is so I will soon be comfortable calling Aberdeen…now just a dot on the map…my home for the next 5 months. 

Overall, I am extremely excited for Aberdeen. I thank University of Aberdeen for the opportunity, and am grateful to Cal Lutheran for the information, help, and encouragement. I can’t wait to make new friends, explore, and create memories for a lifetime. Other Cal Lutheran students who attended the University of Aberdeen in prior semesters have nothing but positive comments about every aspect of their experiences. I will be eager to share my stories when I return and pass along my adventures and advice…hopefully, wiser and looking forward to even more experiences as a citizen of the world!

By: Kristina Mcgee