The sun was rising and the city of Seville, Spain was desolate compared to the crowded cobblestoned streets just the night before.
Kansas City native Alexis Kulash would normally still be sleeping like her other 21-year-old peers, but she was bound and determined to make the most of her time abroad.
Kulash’s backpacking dreams came true last spring when she studied abroad for the semester with her boyfriend. Their destination choice came after months of research.
“I have dreamed about studying abroad for years,” Kulash said. “I wanted to find a program that was more independent and a location that was central enough to travel to other countries.”
Today, there are a variety of destinations available for students to study abroad. Along with choosing a country, students must decide what type of program and living situation works for them. Students can live with a host family, in a dormitory or off campus without any assistance from the program. Kulash and her boyfriend chose the solo route.
“I like the flexibility and independence that living in an apartment of my choosing provides,” Kulash said.
Being able to come and go as they pleased was important to them. The couple went to school during the week and traveled to new cities and countries almost every weekend.
“We’d wake up and leave for the airport at 4 a.m. on Friday some weekends, and return late on Sundays,” Kulash said. “It would have just been disruptive if we were living in a home-stay or 4-person dormitory room.”
The self-proclaimed “power traveler” wouldn’t change a thing about her experience in Spain.
“I traveled to 11 countries and 36 cities with my best friend, and made tons of memories, all while staying in our own beautiful apartment in Sevilla overlooking the gardens of the Royal Alcazar,” Kulash said.
UMKC student Isabel Evans, 20, had of a different experience this past summer while studying abroad in Lyon, France.
Evans chose a home-stay program because she has studied the French language since high school and wanted a different perspective on life.
“Living with a host family was great for me because I got to see the dynamics of a French family,” Evans said. “It was a great culture experience.”
Living with a French family also helped Evans with her French speaking abilities because she had to push herself everyday to use the language.
“It can be a little hard at first,” Evans said. “But I had a wonderful experience with my host family. They helped me get around places and I had the chance to see other cities in France with them.”
Evans not only learned more about the French language, traditions and lifestyle from this experience, she learned more about herself too. Evans learned that she can be independent and perform out of her comfort zone.
Living with a host family can be challenging at first. Adjusting to a new city, new culture and new family dynamics can take time. It is normal to feel overwhelmed, nervous and homesick.
Both girls can agree that no matter what country, program, or living situation chosen, studying abroad will not be regretted.