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Bear Abroad Nicole

Nicole Buturla

Major: Molecular and Cell Biology

"Even if you aren't sure if you can go abroad because of academic or financial reasons, there are people available to help you figure that out. Studying abroad, or just being abroad, is an eye-opening experience, and one I recommend for everyone. You learn a lot more about the world once you leave the United States bubble."

 

 

What led you to study abroad? Why did you choose your country/program?

I've wanted to go abroad since I first started college. I'd had the opportunity to visit family in Poland, and really appreciated experiencing a different culture. Because of this, I decided I wanted to explore more of what other countries represent and learn about their history. I choose the Netherlands and Belgium because the course not only satisfied breadth requirements I still had, but also was located in the political, economic, and social hub of Europe.

What was the most interesting cultural experience you had abroad?

By far the most interesting experience I had was a dinner I attended hosted by a Flemish family in Belgium. We were randomly paired off with families, and had the chance to visit their homes and eat a delicious three course meal of traditional Flemish foods. Throughout the dinner, we discussed politics (both American and Belgian), school, and learned more about the complex divisions in Belgium based on language and heritage.

What was the biggest challenge/concern of your study abroad experience? How did you respond?

The biggest challenge of my study abroad experience was financially supporting the time I was going to be overseas. With the help of scholarships, saving up money I made through being a security monitor, and participating in studies on campus, I made it possible!

Describe a typical day for you abroad.

Normally I would wake up, eat a quick breakfast, and then join my classmates for a day of visiting museums, monuments, and political buildings. There would sometimes be a short lecture on the history, culture, or language of the Netherlands and Belgium. Lunches were free for us to explore the area, and usually after 5 or 6 pm, we'd have the evening free as well. During that time, we could go out on our own, or stay in and write our online journals.

What coursework did you take while abroad? How did courses abroad compare with Berkeley classes?

I took Dutch 177: The Amsterdam-Brussels Connection: History, Art, and Identity in the Heart of Europe. It's a 6 unit course based almost solely on just exploring and learning, not out of a textbook, but in museums and throughout the city streets. We had daily journal entries and an essay style final exam.

What was the most memorable/meaningful aspect of your time abroad?

Some of my favorite moments while abroad involved just aimless wandering through Amsterdam with the friends I made during the program. I went on canal tours, visited traditional Dutch windmills, tried Indonesian food for the first time, and nearly was run over by bikers numerous times. All of this made me feel at truly at home.

What impact did studying abroad have on you personally?

Since studying abroad, my travel bug has only gotten greater! I visited Spain and Portugal right before my course started, visited Paris during my winter break, and am planning on working in Poland over the summer, and traveling to different countries throughout my time there. I'm hoping to visit China and Thailand within the year as well! Travel has become a priority for me, and I've learned that I'm more than able of making my goals come true through hard work and being financially responsible with the money I make while working.

What would you recommend to students considering studying abroad, especially to your country or program?

First of all--apply! Even if you aren't sure if you can go abroad because of academic or financial reasons, there are people available to help you figure that out. Studying abroad, or just being abroad, is an eye-opening experience, and one I recommend for everyone. You learn a lot more about the world once you leave the United States bubble. I HIGHLY recommend the program I participated in. If you want to truly learn about the heritage of the country you'll be living in, this program does exactly that.