I would like to start off this post by thanking CEA for providing me with such a great opportunity studying abroad in Barcelona, Spain. Everyone from the program was extremely helpful in making my experience as amazing as it was. Every employee was genuine and showed care throughout each step of the process. Being a college student in America, going away for a whole semester in another country can be stressful and even scary at first. I had no idea what to expect, and I knew I was definitely going to like it, but as soon as I stepped into the CEA building on my first day I knew that I was going to have the time of my life. We were all instantly bombarded with information about the city, transportation, land marks, restaurants and excursions that the program offered. These tips that we were given the first couple days of orientation turned out to be so valuable as my study abroad experience continued. The purpose of my excerpt today is to try to show students at the University of Alabama how great studying abroad is, because it truly is the opportunity of a lifetime.
I remember when I first came onto campus at Alabama how I felt unsure of what I wanted to do and which things on campus I wanted to get involved in. When I finally decided that I wanted to join a fraternity, I was so excited and could not wait for what was to come the next few years. Greek life at the University of Alabama is simply amazing. The houses are beautiful, the events are great and it gives kids the chance to meet friends they will have forever. Ever since I took a couple trips to Europe in high school I always had a dream of studying abroad in college. However, I was having so much fun in college that when it came down to applying for study abroad, I definitely second-guessed it. Many of my friends called me crazy for "missing" a whole semester, but they did not realize just how great studying in Europe could be. I ended up getting a small group of friends together from my fraternity and we all applied to study abroad with CEA. Looking back on it all now, it was one of the best decisions of my life to go abroad -- and I am so happy that I got to share it all with my fraternity brothers.
Moving forward, I really want to encourage students involved in Greek life to consider going abroad. I think it’s an amazing way to make memories and build friendships. My group only had four people in it, but we met so many amazing people there and built more friendships than I could have ever imagined. I know how fun a semester at Alabama is, especially while being in a Greek organization; however, branching out and going abroad was so much more rewarding for me. I was really surprised about how many other people we met abroad who were also in fraternities at their schools. I met groups of 20 or 30 kids and it really made me wish that I could have gotten more of my buddies on board. So, the only way I can think of making up for that is to spread the word and try to get as many people as possible to experience this opportunity. I went to Spain with three other friends and came back with more than 20. The bonds built while studying abroad are like no other, and traveling the world with your best friends is honestly unbeatable.
Even if you are not in Greek Life, studying abroad is a great way to meet people and have a blast. I think it’s important to go outside of your comfort zone and do new things. Experiencing new and different cultures and traveling from country to country has taught me more than a class back home could ever. I want to encourage all students to at least give it a try; ask some questions about it and get more information about all the possibilities that it has to offer. The more people that I can get to have the same experiences I did, the better. I hope this was helpful to anyone considering pursuing an education abroad!
Mitchell Shafer is a CEA alumnus who studied abroad in Barcelona, Spain, during the Spring 2019 semester. He is currently a student at the University of Alabama.
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