Written by Elizabeth Weitzel (U.S.-Michigan)
My experience abroad may be a little different from what you’re used to hearing. I didn’t study abroad through a university, and I didn’t spend time backpacking through Europe after graduation. To fulfill my own desire to travel, I decided to go abroad as an au pair. Now, you may be wondering exactly what an au pair is. Some people I talk to kind of know what I mean because of the classic 90s movie, “Au Pair” (that’s the only reason I knew what it was when I first came across the idea). And some people have absolutely no idea what I’m talking about.
On a surface level, it’s a pretty simple explanation. An au pair is basically a nanny, but a nanny who is from a foreign country. The most important part of the job is that you teach the kids you’re looking after how to speak your native language. In my case, I moved to Pescara, Italy, and taught two boys, ages five and three, how to speak English.
As I said before, I didn’t study abroad in college, and I had never been out of the country other than to the Bahamas. Like most young people, I ached to travel and experience a culture other than my own. Being an au pair was the perfect combination of jet-setting and working. I knew I could see some of the places I had always wanted to see, all while being paid to do so.
After chatting with another au pair and doing some online research, I ended up making an account on aupairworld.com. I didn’t end up going with any of the families I met through the internet, but I will say that this is the most common way for potential au pairs to get set up with a host family. Personally, I got a summer internship I had been vying for and decided to go with that instead. Luckily, one of my college friends picked up on my au pairing idea, and found a family herself through the site.
Fast forward three months: I finished my internship and was more confused than ever about what I should do with my future. Coincidentally, my friend was wrapping up her time as an au pair. She reached out and told me that friends of her host family were looking for their first-ever au pair, and she wanted to see if I was still interested. It made me nervous, but I jumped at the chance to do what I had really wanted to do all along.
Before saying yes, I facetimed my potential host family numerous times to see what they were like. I think that doing this, getting to know your hosts beforehand, is crucial. That, and going with your gut. If you don’t click with the family, or the living arrangements don’t seem right, or the kids seem like too much, don’t feel bad saying no. Lucky for me, I fell in love with my host parents, their two boys, and the grandparents I lived with. The language barrier was difficult at times, there were some tough cultural differences to get used to, and I experienced the usual homesickness, but my experience was overwhelmingly positive.
Written by Allie Parker (U.S. - Indiana)
Study abroad changed my life. I know, I know. Everyone who has ever studied abroad claims that the experience changed their life. Here is how it changed mine:
I’ve always been the kind of person who prefers to be busy. I like to feel that I’m doing something or being productive. But, I’ll admit that sometimes I make myself too busy. I’ve struggled with slowing down, until I came to Scotland.
I studied abroad at the University of Edinburgh, through the Institute for Study Abroad-Butler University (IFSA-Butler). The program handled our housing, transportation, etc. I was matched with an apartment for 12 students and these people became my best friends. For many reasons, I chose to stay in Edinburgh with them instead of jetting off to a different city every weekend. Because my friends were from Britain, I was able to truly learn what it meant to live like a local instead of feeling like a tourist, which allowed me to tour and get to know the city like a local too.
While I was abroad, my only commitments were go to class and explore. I knew that this experience was going to end, so I tried to absorb every moment by doing something I’ve never done... slow down. I walked everywhere! Instead of being a tourist in my host city, I embraced the culture like it was my own. I walked back alleys, found amazing views, ate at different cafes every week (although I do have my favorites), and was able to enjoy the present. I was in charge of my life. Not the clock, not my obligations, but me. I found joy in being by myself, in finding my own experiences and taking my time.
Scotland will forever hold a place in my heart, and I am so grateful for the lessons that I continue to learn a year after returning home. Study abroad has changed my life for the better; even though I need a reminder sometimes, slowing down is something I try to practice in my everyday life.
Restaurants & Cafes:
*Hover over each picture to reveal the restaurant's name
Written by Olivia Sutton (U.S.-Indiana)
As a girl who couldn’t even sleep over at friends’ houses as a child, I was the last person you would expect to study abroad. So when it was time to board the plane from Cincinnati to Atlanta and then finally to Stuttgart, Germany, emotions were running high. It was a strange mix of excitement, nerves, and fear, but most of all I couldn’t wait to see what Germany had in store for me.
Now that I'm back home in the Midwest, I can look back on my study abroad experience and know without a doubt, it was the best five months of my life. Here are some tips that I think help in guaranteeing that your study abroad experience is second to none!
1. Pick the right school
Some people have a specific country, language, or program in mind that weighs heavily on which school they pick. Whatever your reasoning is, be sure to research your options thoroughly. I knew I wanted to study in Germany, so I looked at programs with a strong business curriculum, but also schools that weren’t too “American.” Some universities teach exclusively in English or are in touristic cities, so the authentic German atmosphere I wanted would have been missed. Tübingen was the perfect blend of business courses and a whimsical, storybook German town that welcomed me with open arms.
2. Be all in
Before I embarked on my journey, my mom gave me some good advice: “say yes to whatever is offered.” Of course, don’t partake in illegal activities or anything that makes you really uncomfortable, but if something is outside of your comfort zone, give it a shot. A few times when I thought I was too tired or something was happening too late, I remembered that advice and said yes!
My trick to breaking out of my comfort zone was to be all in during my study abroad experience. I wanted to make great friends and experience new things, and if I was afraid of that or always stayed at home, I would’ve missed out on some great people and times. If you always say no to new things, then why are you studying abroad?!
A study abroad trip is so short, so put all of your energy during this little time into your adventures. Live in the present and put your heart and soul into your new home; I promise it will pay off. Leaving Germany, I have never felt so comfortable in my own skin and it’s all thanks to being all in and living it up every day.
TIP: Rainy weather? Grab a trash bag from the hostel before you leave (or anywhere!) and protect your suitcase!
3. Treat everyone you meet as a future best friend
When I landed in Germany, I knew a few acquaintances from Butler, but that’s it. My first priority after surviving and not getting robbed was making friends, which is good because friends actually help you survive and not get robbed. I am not a judgmental person by nature and typically get along with everyone, but when studying abroad, it’s so important to treat everyone as your future best friend because they just might become one! You don’t want to burn any bridges or not put yourself out there. The people I met abroad are the reason my experience was so amazing, and I am so lucky to have a long list of best friends from all over the world.
Written by Emma Frasier (U.S.-Indiana)
As soon as I returned home from my first trip to Guatemala, I knew I had to go back. I immediately began saving my money and before I knew it, I was packing my bags the summer after my junior year to head back for two more weeks. I had such an incredible trip the year prior that I was wondering how this year would compare. Little did I know that this year’s trip would leave an even greater impact on my life. T
his time around was filled with even more laughs, adventures, and above all, a growth in confidence that I had never found in myself before. I spent time with a new host family who I was actually able to converse with (through many bumps and bruises in grammar and vocabulary….) They were a family of teachers and were so patient with me as I fluttered my way through making full sentences. I came to Guatemala this time with the mentality that I would use Spanish whenever I could, because as long as I was practicing and trying my hardest, I knew that people would see my effort.
In addition to having an amazing host family, I lived with my friend Claire, who traveled with me both weeks on last year’s trip as well. We talked about life here in Guatemala compared to the states and because of her, I really began to understand the impact we were making in peoples’ lives. Our entire group this year was so close-knit. We all clicked well and spent our time making the most out of every possible adventure. Traveling with friends is a beautiful thing, and I would not have traded the people I got to know so well and all of the memories we made on this trip for anything.
We studied Spanish for five hours each day again, and I even got placed with my same teacher from last year, Alexander. He was so patient as I struggled my way through conversations. He’s in a Spanglish band called Pa’Que, and a group of us went to a bar called King & Queen and watched him play. They played a mixture of Spanish and English songs and were phenomenal! It was a night I will never forget.
Written by Emma Frasier (U.S.-Indiana)
Two years ago, I made the decision to step outside of my comfort zone and travel to Guatemala for a week with the Timmy Global Health chapter at Butler University. Timmy is an organization that works to expand access to health care both locally and globally and encourages students to tackle the various global health challenges occurring around the world. As a member of the club since my first year of college, I quickly developed a passion for the organization and everything that it stands for.
Each year, a group of Butler Timmy students travel to Quetzaltenango (Xela), Guatemala for one week to set up medical brigades in different rural communities and provide health care to those who would otherwise not receive it. I was extremely excited to participate in the trip and experience the impact first hand. Along with this excitement, however, came a multitude of nerves. This would be my first time flying on an airplane, my first time traveling outside of the United States, and doing all of this without knowing any Spanish.
A few months before the trip in May, one of the trip-goers discovered the opportunity to spend a week in Guatemala prior to the Timmy trip studying Spanish at Pop Wuj Spanish School. Due to my nonexistent knowledge of Spanish, I thought this would be an amazing opportunity to get comfortable with the country before the medical trip. My original one-week trip suddenly turned into two and I was even more excited than before.
When I got to Guatemala, I was in awe. This mountainous country was nothing shy of beautiful. Our group spent the day traveling four hours from Guatemala City to Xela, where we would be for the next two weeks. Once we got to Xela, we arrived at Pop Wuj and were immediately sent off with our host families. My host mom was the first one to show up, so after a short conversation in all Spanish between our coordinator and my host mom, I was on my way across the street to the home I would be living in. The walk over was one I will never forget: My host mom was speaking to me in Spanish, and I had absolutely no idea what she was saying. I felt awful. The only thing I could say was “I’m so sorry… no hablo español.”
She continued to speak in Spanish as she showed me around the home, where the main entrance and living area had no roof. I was in 100% culture shock. On the verge of tears, I said thank you to my host mom as we finished looking around the house, then I went into my room and began breaking down. I had never experienced such a feeling before. I had been so excited to be there, but in that moment, I didn’t even know how I was feeling. An amalgam of home-sickness, guilt for being home-sick already, and doubt hit me hard. As I did my best to get my emotions together, my host mom knocked on my door saying “cena?”—translation: dinner. I remember thinking to myself, Okay, I can do this. I’ll go to dinner and get it together and just do my best to connect with the family.
"If anything can go wrong, it will". -Murphy’s Law
This quote is the perfect summary of my year abroad in the US. From a tornado on my first day of class to being forced to stay in Indianapolis alone for Christmas, I nearly experienced everything - from good to bad. But not a single time did I regret my decision to study at Butler University. All these experiences made me become closer with my friends.
The blog posts featured in this section are written by friends we've made around the globe that want to share their experiences, lessons they've learned, and tips and tricks.