My Meaningful Summer Abroad

Unlike many students at DU, I did not study abroad in the Fall of my Junior Year. Instead, I looked for a reason to travel over the Summer, but I didn’t want to be a tourist and spend a lot of money, but I also wanted to have a purpose in the place I travelled. It doesn’t sound like an easy thing to find, does it?
After quite a bit of searching, I found an AIESEC opportunity to teach English in Croatia. It was such an easy application process, I thought it was a fake. I had a Skype interview and they offered me the position. Fast forward to June and I was on my plane ride to Osijek, Croatia, hardly knowing anything about where I was going and how I would teach English when I did not speak Croatian. My first night in Croatia, I stayed in an amazing hostel in Croatia’s capital and met people from all over the world. I was a little nervous about being alone, but I made friends very easily. When I arrived in the small city I would be living in for the next 6-weeks, a group of students stood there holding a paper American flag that they made to welcome me. All of them hugged me and asked me questions. I was pleasantly surprised that everyone spoke English.
It was so interesting to be in another country, but feel so at home with this large group of students who were all apart of AIESEC. They all wanted to get to know me and wanted to know what America is like. They were very comfortable with me and all of my anticipation and nerves had dissipated as we sat at a café bar outside patio in the small town getting to know one another. There were the group of students from Osijek (which I found out I had been pronouncing wrong) and there was also a group of students from all different countries on a different opportunity doing social media marketing for the city to attract tourism. This team included someone from Brazil, India, Turkey, Canada, and Portugal. Not only did I get to learn about the culture of this small city in Eastern Croatia, but I also had the opportunity of learning more about these cultures as well.
It is difficult to articulate and quantify the vast knowledge I gained about other cultures during my 6-weeks and what I learned teaching English to adults and living with a host family. I do know that I will never forget my weekend trips to the Croatian coast and other Balkan countries with my fellow teachers in the program (and now, very dear friends, from other countries teaching who taught their native languages.) I will never forget the bonds I made. I will never forget the high level of awareness I had while traveling and observing people and my environment. Most of all, I will never forget my deep level of ease and confidence about my ability to travel alone that most people fear so much. This trip had a profound impact on me and my identity and I am so glad that I extended my travels at the end of the 6-weeks to travel more on my own and meet even more people at hostels and continue to learn about different backgrounds. If you have the time this Summer or next, I strongly suggest looking into AIESEC opportunities abroad. You will not regret it!