International Connections

Tegan Cotter

Major: Child, Adult, and Family Services

Year: Junior
Hometown, State: Northwood, IA

Type of experience: Thanksgiving Break Study Abroad
Experience: Explore Craftsmanship and Hospitality in Western Europe
Experience website:
Destination: Germany

Overall experience..
This study abroad experience is definitely a highlight of my time here at Iowa State. During the pre-departure course that was held weekly I was nervous to be traveling across the ocean with people that I barely knew. Our class remained fairly quiet and reserved prior to departure and during those classes we went over several things from European culture to the transportation systems used in each of the countries we would be visiting. We left Des Moines and flew to Atlanta for a quick layover before the 8 hour flight to Frankfurt. The flights were my least favorite part of the trip as I've never been on a long flight like that before and I could not get comfortable or to sleep on either of the flights. We finally made it to Germany where we spent a couple of days sightseeing and even meeting with designer Leonid Matthias. In Germany we participated in knitting, indigo dying, and felting workshops. We were then off to Paris where we made our way to the Arc de Triomphe, The Eiffel Tower, and The Louvre among many other sites. In Paris we visited the Paris American Academy where we participated in a feather workshop where we made butterfly accessories out of feathers. The next stop was Bruges, Belgium which was my favorite part of the trip. On the way to Bruges we stopped in Kortrijk to visit the Texture Museum which featured the history of flax and its many uses around the world. Bruges was a small community with buildings that reminded me of a gingerbread village. It was decorated for Christmas and we got to experience the Christmas Market full of Belgian chocolate and waffles. In Bruges we participated in a lace making workshop which required a lot of focus, but was the favorite workshop of many of us. From Bruges we made our way to Amsterdam where we visited the Van Gogh museum, the Anne Frank House, and Zaanse Schans. We also opted to go on a boat tour which featured light displays as well as enjoy some Dutch pancakes. My favorite part of Amsterdam was the Zaanse Schans because it was a more old school Netherlands experience with the cheese, clogs, and windmills. From Amsterdam we went back to Germany to finish our trip with a visit to the famous Frankfurt Christmas Market. Unfortunately, we arrived on the opening weekend of the market and it was completely packed with people. We managed to stop at a few booths but ultimately decided to return to the hotel early to get everything packed up and ready for departure. This trip not only provided me with a more broad perspective of the world, but also with great friendships and memories that I will forever cherish. It is amazing how ten short days abroad can generate such genuine friendships. It was so fun to come back to class after we arrived back in Iowa and notice the difference in how much we talked and how many things we now have in common. I am so grateful to have had this study abroad experience. It has given me the confidence and desire to return to Europe in the future and I encourage all Iowa State students to look into going abroad.

I learned...
I learned about this program simply by browsing the ISUAbroad website. I knew that I wanted to study abroad at some point during my college career, and this semester was my last chance to commit to a program. I didn't want to be gone for a whole semester or year, so this program stood out to me in terms of the length of the trip and the amount of places we would go in that amount of time. I began filling out an application and was very pleased to hear that I had been accepted! Before coming across this opportunity I also attended the study abroad fair in the Memorial Union, which is a great place to go to get information on all kinds of study abroad experiences.

An impact to my life...
This experience has impacted my life in so many positive ways. Personally, I was able to make friends that made the experience even more enjoyable. We visited a lot of famous attractions that I've always wanted to see, and many other things that I had never heard of before. I feel that I have been educated on international travel and specifically international public transportation as that was a huge part of the experience. While abroad, we kept a daily journal and once we returned home we wrote reflections of our trip as well as a presentation. I can definitely say that I am much more confident in terms of international travel and I am eager to visit more places. As far as my future career, I think the most impactful part of this experience was simply being introduced to other cultures and social norms. In my work I will meet with patients from all different backgrounds and it is important for me to have an open mind and understanding of their attitudes and beliefs.

I will never forget...
The most memorable part of my study abroad experience was our time in Bruges, Belgium. Bruges was the least populated and smallest area that we traveled to, which is probably why I liked it so much. The buildings in the center of Bruges were all lit up for the Christmas season and in the center of them was a Christmas market. Bruges was also the place where we did my favorite workshop, the lace making. It was a very authentic and traditional workshop led by two women who had seemingly been making lace their entire lives. In Bruges we did a lot of shopping and had a lot of free time to visit the many chocolatiers and enjoy samples. If I had to choose one place from our experience to return to in the future, it would definitely be Bruges.

Advice for others...
If you are on the fence about studying abroad for any reason I highly suggest taking the leap and at least applying. There are tons of resources at Iowa State for information on programs, scholarships, and other things that you might want to know before traveling. I personally loved my study abroad program because we were not responsible for booking flights, hotels, or anything else while abroad. Another important thing to note is that you don't necessarily have to be part of a certain college or major to participate in a specific study abroad experience. For example, my program was a AESHM course but on our trip we had everything from animal science majors to industrial technology, as well as some in apparel merchandising and design. I understand that some people are apprehensive about going abroad for a full semester, and there are programs like mine out there for you that last only a couple of weeks. We were abroad for twelve days over Thanksgiving Break and it was just the right amount of time to be away. If you have any interest in going abroad I would definitely recommend doing some research because there is a program out there for everyone!

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