Name: Ethan Ahnen
Major: Business Administration, emphasis in Marketing
Year in School: Sophomore
Program: Glasgow, Scotland – Spring 2017
Why did you choose to study abroad?
I chose to study abroad because I wanted to absolutely push myself out of my comfort zone. This is one of the most difficult disciplines to put yourself through, but the fruit it bears is immeasurable. Living my whole life in Green Bay, I also wanted to take this opportunity to travel out of the country. The longer you wait throughout life, the harder traveling is to do.
Why did you choose to go where you did?
I chose Glasgow, Scotland by narrowing my options down. This was my first time out of the country, so I wanted to live in a country where I spoke the primary language. This narrowed my choices down to the UK. I am also one who loves beautiful scenery and nature, so I chose Scotland. I finally picked Glasgow because I believed it was the biggest, most international, and most exciting city in the country.
What’s the best part about studying abroad? Favorite experience?
While living in another country was very interesting, my favorite experiences are from my trips. For the first three months, I went on a day trip around Scotland almost every weekend. They were with Student Tours Scotland (a company I highly recommend) and it let me see pretty much all of the country I was studying in. The University of Glasgow’s spring break is three weeks long. Thinking this might be my only chance to travel extensively, I traveled around Europe for all three weeks. My sister came with me to Italy for a week, but then I traveled my myself for the last two weeks. I then came back to school to finish my classes. After that, I went on one more weekend trip to Paris and Dublin before I had to come back as I wanted to make sure I got to visit France and Ireland.
What did you struggle with? How have you overcome it?
I’ve not only grown up in the same house in Green Bay, I still live in it because I commute to UWGB. Since that was the case, I struggled at first getting used to living on my own money. If you live on campus and have already dealt with this problem, it probably won’t be an issue for you. This was not as difficult to get used to, but it just took time. I also had troubles adapting to a new culture, especially academically. At UWGB, I’m used to continuous testing or assignments to keep my course knowledge in-check. This is extremely different, however, at the University of Glasgow. At that school, they only give you lectures and then they grade your whole work for the class based on usually one paper and one final exam. The work put in is also much more than I thought. It was hard at first, but it just took some discipline and thought to adapt to how students do work over there. Once I got used to it, it was just a continuous process like it is at UWGB.
How has studying abroad personally helped you?
Studying abroad may have gave me an invaluable insight into how the world works and a more cultured world view, but I am the most grateful to how it has developed me as a person. This may sound cliché, but it is absolutely true. Like I stated earlier, I was somebody who still lived at home, never left the country, and almost never went anywhere without somebody else. There was nobody else from UWGB going to Scotland when I went and I had no friends that were coming or were living there. I traveled by myself to another country, lived by myself for the first time, made new friends, and thrived in a new environment. Even though I spent a lot of time with my new friends, I wanted to travel to places they didn’t. I was not going to miss my shot. After traveling through Italy with my sister, I again traveled solo across Europe for two weeks straight. Then, I traveled to France and Ireland by myself once again. Did everything go according to plan? Absolutely not. I hurt myself while traveling, I missed a flight, and I had to find my way back to my hostel in Budapest without a map after my phone died, to name a few. To overcome these setbacks, I had to find new routes, change plans, and problem-solve on the spot. I am no longer the guy that only knows what it is like to live with his family in Green Bay, Wisconsin. I am now the guy that has traveled across 20 different cities and 10 different countries by himself. I am the guy that adapted to a new culture and life-style on his own. Not only has studying abroad made me a better intellectual, it has made a better individual in my everyday life.
Be the change you want to become. I wanted to be more of a risk-taker and live in the moment, so whenever there was an opportunity to do something, I seized it. Because I did this, I either have funny stories if they were failures, irreplaceable memories if they were a success, and no regrets. Make sure you reach out and really get to know others around you. Almost all the friends I made abroad were either my flat mates or other students I knew from the university. They also don’t have to be people from a different country as all of my friends were from the United States, but they were all from different parts of the country. On a more personal note, make sure to bring a journal or write a blog. I am not a writer in any sense of the word, but my sister (who also studied abroad) made sure to get me a journal to write in. Write down places, dates, people, and experiences you encounter. It will give you a neat view of your thought process at that exact point in time. I didn’t journal every day, but I made sure to write about all my traveling and certain experiences with friends. I am also not a picture person, but I took over 3,000 photos while abroad, so make sure you are not shy about using your phone or camera. I took an SD card for physical storage and used Google Photos (free unlimited cloud storage on any device) for my online storage. Lastly, make sure you seize and cherish every opportunity you have. You will eventually leave your host country, your friends, your travel destinations, and your experiences. They, however, will never leave you.