Maia Griswold, Peer Advisor
The first time I studied abroad I went on Semester at Sea in the fall of 2013. Semester at Sea is a unique program where a group of about 600 students live on a ship that sails to different ports. The voyage that I participated in brought me to England, Russia, Germany, Belgium, France, Ireland, Portugal, Spain, Morocco, Ghana, South Africa, Argentina, Brazil, and Cuba.
While the ship is at sea there are classes and when the ship docks students explore the port. The schedule change was not the only academic difference, I found classes during my semester abroad to be smaller and much more discussion based. The classes on the ship also focused on the different countries we visited so the information was extremely relevant to where I was and created a more engaging environment. The ship also had a diverse population of students and faculty from all around the United States as well as internationally, this brought in new ideas, discussion and friendships that I never would have encountered before.
Every country was a new and exciting experience, however my favorite aspect of the trip was the people that I met. While on the ship I was with a group of students who were excited about learning about new cultures and having new experiences everyday. I also was surprised by how many friends I made in port that I am still in contact with today. Being on Semester at Sea I was unsure if I would make as many international connections as I would have if I were in one place and I was shocked how quickly I formed connections in the countries we visited.
After Semester at Sea I had a serious travel bug and so in the summer of 2014 I participated in a faculty led engineering program in China. This three-week program was extremely different to any academic setting I have ever experienced; it was one course but instead of being taught by the CSU faculty, professors from Hunan University lectured on different topics everyday. I found this extremely valuable as I was constantly challenged to think about all different aspects of engineering and how they related to the different culture we were experiencing.
Along with the engineering lectures we also visited different mega-engineering projects that have taken place in China, such as the Three Gorges Dam and Broad Engineering who constructs skyscrapers both in China and worldwide. These excursions were extremely interesting and eye opening, however my favorite part of the trip was visiting some of the historical places in Beijing such as the Summer Palace and the Great Wall. Seeing these ancient places and then having engineering based discussion on them really brought together the entire experience for me because it combined both my interest in culture and history as well as engineering.
Studying abroad was the best decision I have made, it opened me up to a world of new friends and experiences that I never knew were there but now cannot imagine living without.