Today is International Men’s Day! The day celebrates worldwide the positive value men bring to their families, communities and the world. Today we’re highlighting the experiences and thoughts of some of our amazing male-identifying study abroad alumni.
We’re also hoping to start a conversation around young men studying abroad. Here’s why:
According to one study, in 2016-2017, women accounted for more than two-thirds of American students studying abroad. Another statistic: although the number of students seeking global experience has risen steadily over the past decade, the number of male students seeking to go abroad has remained the same. One reason colleges cite for this disparity is that many myths surrounding study abroad still exist (for example, the idea that study abroad programs only cater to arts and language majors, when in fact STEM and other programs are growing in popularity). Today we’re hoping to break through those myths & concerns, by sharing the stories and experiences of API alumni.
Jon Barnes’ experience studying abroad in Wellington, New Zealand
“Embarking on my study abroad journey to New Zealand, I was excited to go on a new adventure and see amazing sights. What I learned through my experiences is that studying abroad is about so much more. Being my first time leaving the country, I was overflowed with emotions and not sure what to expect of the upcoming months. Immersing myself in a new country allowed me to appreciate the subtle nuances of life that are different in day to day living away from where I grew up. From the activities happening on the weekends, options at the grocery store, to different slang used when talking with locals, it was all a change of pace.
Studying abroad broadened my perspective and was an extremely influential time in my life. It was liberating to navigate a foreign country, make new friends, and continually challenge myself to step outside of my comfort zone. It was not always easy, but difficulties foster personal growth. My journey was filled with adventure, laughter, and beauty, but through interacting in a unique environment I also further developed emotional intelligence and self- awareness. Studying abroad was the best decisions I made in my college career and I would encourage everyone to take the leap and create an experience of their own!
One of my favorite memories during my time in New Zealand was a camper van trip. New Zealand is renowned for the adventurous spirit, outdoor thrill seeking, and stunning landscapes; what better way to explore it all than through living out of a van! Three of my best friends and I packed a camper van and ventured to the South Island for a 10-day trip. Our journey included waterfalls, volcanoes, fjords, sunrises, trekking up mountains, and sounds of the ocean waves crashing down while lying in bed reminiscing about the day and eagerly discussing the plan for tomorrow. It was an ultimate bonding opportunity!”
Khaalis Smithers’ experience studying abroad in San Jose, Costa Rica
“Costa Rica is beautiful, and it is definitely a place where a lot of growth can happen. I believe that Costa Rica has done well to help me gain a new sense of self. One with which I identify more strongly with my roots, seeing as to how Costa Ricans themselves are very prideful and celebratory of their own heritage(s).
There are things that I find really unique about Costa Rica that I have come to value deeply. For instance, the tranquil haziness that each day brings is absolutely gorgeous to me. The days here feel longer. Because of that, I feel like I have a lot more time to get things done in a more efficient manner. In addition, the sun generally feels amazing and you can pretty much wear whatever you’d like on any given day.
I like how the people are more intimate with each other, and how a part of the culture is getting to know your community; compared to the states where most people don’t even know their own neighbor. The culture of intimacy and romantic expression of platonic relationships is intriguing, and day by day it is helping me become more in tune with the side of me that yearns for human interaction.
I also love the food and the way that the food is holistically cooked. It tastes so much cleaner and healthier, and I haven’t felt immense losses of energy as much as I would have back home. In relation, I absolutely love and adore my host-mom, Lizbeth, because she is quite literally the epitome of what good people aspire to be like. I would have to say that living with her and being under her tutelage has broadened my horizons, and made me a more considerate person overall.”
Josh Weaver’s experience studying abroad in Seville, Spain
“Studying abroad has completely changed my perspective of the world and how I interact with it. There are some parts of Spanish culture that I like more than the United States, while the opposite is also true. Spain is an industrialized country like the United States where one has to work in a job to survive, but at the same time money and a person’s job is not the biggest factor in their life. It was really hard to see the amount of importance American culture puts on the importance of work and financial well-being throughout our entire life. Study hard in school and save to go to a good college so you can get a good job to pay off your debt, climb the ladder of success in your job, make enough money to buy xyz, save to help pay for your children’s tuition someday, and have enough money to retire comfortably and finally enjoy the golden years of life.
While financial stability is really important, I also am starting to be much more wary about how much my career goals impact the other areas of life. Materialism is probably just as prevalent in Spain as the US, but at the same time I felt that experiences were more important than monetary and physical items to the Spanish people. I have read that enjoying life and its experiences brings more happiness which leads to less stress and longer lives, which may be one of the reasons why Spain ranks 4th in the world (2018) compared to the US at 26th for life expectancy. I am now trying to be cognizant of the motivations for why I do what I do, and not let my career goal of becoming a physician dictate my entire life.
I had to abandon almost everything I knew to travel half-way around the world with no one I knew for nearly four months. Jet lag, homesickness, a new system of education, new foods, new cultures, making new friends from the US and Spain, saying goodbye to everyone I came to love dearly, say goodbye to a way of life I had also grown to and loved, and everything else in between were some of the ups and downs to my time abroad.