The Transfer Student Interview Series continues with Lexie Munevar, past community college student leader and now university transfer student who recently studied abroad.
Back in September 2014, I had the pleasure of interviewing UC Davis undergraduate Lexie Munevar before she went on her first study abroad experience at the Universidad Nacional de Cuyo in Mednoza Argentina. You can read part 1, Aggie in Argentina, here. Before she left on her trip, I asked Lexie some questions about what she was looking forward to, what she hoped to learn, and I promised that I would interview her once again when she got back. Now she is back and I’m happy to share my second interview with you.
In this interview, Lexie provides us with some excellent insight of her life now, great advice on what to do before you study abroad, and insight on the American habits she was happy to let go of when she was in Argentina. Enjoy!
1) Now that you have been back for 2 months now, what have you noticed about yourself? What has changed? (Lexie spent her 2014 fall quarter at the Universidad Nacional de Cuyo in Mendoza, Argentina)
What I’ve noticed about myself is that my outlook on life has been altered a bit. I definitely experienced counter-culture shock upon arriving home – I wasn’t ready to leave! I compare my adventurous life there where every minute seemed well spent to my routine life back in the States. Yet like all things, you simply get back into the flow of past behaviors even though it had been months since I had driven a car, shopped at a chain grocery store or used a smartphone to get in touch with friends and family. These and many other luxuries were things I forgot about the first week being abroad and not until it was over did I notice that I never missed these things to begin with. I can say I now view and value things differently from the way I used to before my experience living abroad.
2) There is a trend on Travel Blogs to share what American habits they lost when they moved to a new country. What were some of yours?
- Stopped Checking My Phone. I definitely stopped checking my phone as much as I am used to doing in the States. In order to avoid any security issues, I left my smartphone and laptop at home and would go out with my old flip phone provided by the program. Because I didn’t have much of an interest in it, I wasn’t much of a texter and would actually look at my watch to check the time! I also found myself talking a lot more to people around me because of this and was more observant of my surroundings.
- Being Fashionably Late. A habit that I obtained being abroad was being fashionably late everywhere. It was definitely part of the culture and as our time there progressed our outings would start later and later. We all got used to this eventually.
- Started Using Cash More. An American habit that I lost was the famous card swiping habit! Because a lot of places only accepted cash, I got used to carrying pesos around with me at all times whereas in the States I never would have cash because I would always rely on using my card everywhere.
3) What did you learn about international education? Were the classes harder? Same?
I absolutely loved the public university I attended while abroad. My favorite professor there was one of my Argentine professors that taught our Literature & Culture class and Argentine Cinema, both in Spanish. She really engaged us into the material and brought us to all be confident in using the language to the best of our abilities. My two professors that came with us from UC Davis were also excellent professors and proctored the classes just as they would if we were at our campus. The courses were dense, but a lot of it was participation and practicing our literacy skills. Although they were demanding, the professors were understanding that we were abroad and wanted to sightsee and travel as much as possible during our time there so they were somewhat lenient with deadlines. I was proud of myself because despite the heavy load, I was able to pull a 4.0 while abroad.
4) What did you learn that has changed your life?
This one is a tough one because every time I travel somewhere it always makes me feel like I’ve changed in some way although it is difficult to pinpoint exactly how. Argentina was an interesting country because although I was in Latin America there was a strong European influence. The Argentines definitely prided themselves in being of Italian descent. I was prepared for not my typical Latin American experience (or so I thought) but I definitely learned that you can’t really expect absolutely anything to be one way or another when you travel. You just have to go with the flow and try everything! I’ve traveled to Colombia for several consecutive years now and it is familiar territory. Argentina was the first time I was “on my own” for I wasn’t staying with family, had no idea how to navigate around the city upon arriving, and had to learn the new dialect of different words here and there. It was an amazing growing experience and for the first time I felt like I could travel anywhere in the future. It’s all about your mindset and letting go the fear many people, especially women I might add, have of traveling on their own. There is a lot of false misconceptions around Latin America and I think it is important to stress that it’s all about educating yourself prior to travel and utilizing common sense upon arriving.
5) What advice would you give to someone who is planning on studying abroad this summer or fall?
Advice to those going abroad in the future:
- Research where you will be going! Although there is the folk that loves to dive into the unknown, a little background information never hurt anyone! Take advantage of review websites such as TripAdvisor and Lonely Planet for helping you choose where you will stay (if you are not doing homestay), what is worthwhile seeing, conversation hour exchanges, etc.
- Look up how their economy is doing. It’s a good idea to see what their currency is valued at and figure out the exchange rate beforehand – You don’t want to get ripped off in a taxi upon arriving! I used OANDA.com which you can also download onto your smartphone.
- Have a backup plan in case you run out of money abroad! Take some cash with you and if possible also take at least ONE card with you to use abroad in case of an emergency. If you run out of money a great website to transfer money to yourself or have parents send you money is Xoom.com.
- Have copies of all forms of identification. I strongly recommend making copies of all forms of identification you take on the trip with you – Passport, drivers license, etc. To play it safe, I would leave my IDs at home and take the copies with me when I went out.
- Keep in touch with family members and/ or loved ones back home! It is very easy to get carried away in your adventures and forget to keep in touch. But you don’t want to leave on a 10-day excursion where you will be without communication to the States and have family members frantic over your whereabouts!
Final Thoughts? These are all common sense tips I learned abroad that I think are very useful and worth emphasizing. Don’t deny yourself the opportunity of traveling anywhere due to fear of the unknown or stereotypes the country may have. There are so many beautiful countries out there with so many things that are worthwhile living and seeing for yourself!
Thank you Lexie! To read more from Lexie’s study abroad experience, you can visit her blog at Aggie in Argentina