You all hear about study abroad throughout the semester- from flyers in the library to emails in your inbox, study abroad is never too far out of mind. For many students, the idea of studying abroad seems amazing, but impossible. The images of stunning cliffs, dazzling beaches, and quaint towns are enticing, but the prices, time, and preparation it takes to make it there are just disheartening.
Some MTSU students, however, have figured out how to crack the code. From the distant shores of Australia and China and all the way back to Cuba, MTSU students have taken over the world with their enthusiasm and wanderlust, and they are here to share their stories.
Abbey Van den Bosch, a Global Studies and Human Geography major, carries the look of a traveler. From the bottoms of her ever-beach-worthy sandals to the top of her windswept curly hair, Van den Bosch looks like she just stepped off a plane from her last adventure and onto the next.
During the 2018 summer semester, Van den Bosch traveled to Cuba with the MTSU Signature Faculty-Led program. While there, she got to experience a culture that remains a history-shrouded mystery to many Americans, and witness the fascinating daily lives of people not so different from ourselves.
Van den Bosch sat down with the Student Voice for a Q&A to tell her story and share her love of travel, and hopes it will encourage other students to follow in her footsteps.
So first question: why did you choose to study abroad?
“Well for one thing, I was a Global Studies minor at the time, and it’s required, sooo, I wanted to do that. But I was going to study abroad anyway, even if it wasn’t required, just because I really enjoy learning about other cultures, and going and being in that other culture is always really interesting- and not just learning about it. And you get to see things that you’ve learned, and that’s really fun.”
2. What country did you go to and why did you choose it?
“I studied abroad in Cuba, and I chose Cuba because Cuba is a country that I would probably wouldn’t have an opportunity to go to by myself. Also Cuba just has a really interesting history, and it was something that I was always really interested to see in real life. And if you look up pictures of Cuba, it just looks really interesting. You’re like ‘How can it look like that in real life? Does it look like that in real life?’ And it does look like that in real life! It has all the old cars and everything, and it actually looks like that. So that was really cool. And it’s just really beautiful and I knew I wanted to go to a Latin American country, so it was kind of the perfect fit.”
3. What did you study while you were there?
“So, we studied Cuba in the 21st Century (and) about how Cuba’s history -which is extremely interesting- has affected its present and its future. So we kind of got to explore all the different parts of not only it’s politics and political background, but also how that affects the everyday life of normal people. So, we talked to a ton of just regular people who live in Cuba, and people who work in completely different areas, and so it was really lovely. “
4. What is your favorite memory from your time there?
“So there was one day when we were in a town called Viñales, and it was my favorite. So Viñales is like, a mountain area, and it’s a bit more rural, (and) it’s a where the famous Cuban Tobacco is from. So that’s, like, the good stuff. So anyways, the mountains are extremely beautiful. One day we went hiking in the mountains -and I love hiking- so that was already automatically my favorite day. But this huge thunderstorm came while we were up in the mountain, and it was awesome. Everybody was soaked, and it was muddy as heck. It was such a cool adventure because it was raining and thundering and there was mud everywhere, and we were slipping- it was just really intense. But it was so much fun. Even though my phone got completely ruined that day -5 days into the trip, and you can’t really get a new iPhone in Cuba, not that the service was that great anyway– but even though I ruined my phone, that’s how great of a day it was. It was still my favorite day.
So then we got down the mountain, and there were these farmers that our professors had spoken to before. So the farmers were waiting there at the bottom in their little shed place, and they had all this pineapple, mango, and fresh fruit waiting for us. It was still raining, so they invited us into the little shed- not as creepy as it sounds- and we sat around the table and ate fruit and talked and laughed about our adventure. It was a really fun time. And then, the farmers had these ox carts and these huge oxen, and we all loaded up into these carts while these tiny farmers drove us in the carts, in the rain, across the field back to where our hike had started. It was awesome- it was little scary, because it was really slippery, but it was so much fun. And there was this little farm dog named Johnny, and he would get the horses out of the way for us. And that night we went back and ate at an organic farm, and then went to a salsa club!”
5. Why should other students study abroad?
“Cause it’s awesome!! But seriously other students should study abroad because, I know this sounds cliché, but it really, really is a life-changing experience. Because you get to be exposed to other people that do things differently, maybe speak another language you don’t know, and you kind of get to get out of your comfort zone. Growth always happens outside your comfort zone. So it’s a really good experience, just to grow: not only in your knowledge of the world, but also just as a person. Oh, and also pics for the ‘gram!”
6. Planning any other trips?
“Yes! I’m wanting to go on the study abroad trip to Mexico next summer with Dr. Cheney, and then I really want to go on just a couple trips of my own next summer. I don’t know where I want to go. I’m also planning on taking a whole semester abroad next fall, but I don’t know where I want to go. But yes, that’s how much I enjoyed study abroad: I am planning two future study abroads.”
7. Any other thoughts you want to share?
“Even though sometimes it seems like really impossible to study abroad because money and things- if you want to go, then you can go. There are ways you can find money and there are people that will help you. It’ll be worth it in the end. Even if you have to eat fruit loops for three months. Some people do that anyway, so, each to his own!”
If you have any questions regarding study abroad, please contact Melissa Miller of the Office of Education Abroad. And if you want to see more of Abbey Van den Bosch’s stunning adventures, go follow her Instagram!