Why did you pick this program?
LeadAbroad has been on my radar for quite sometime. Back when it was called Global Lead, my older sister spoke to me about an amazing study abroad program that a group of college students her age decided to begin. When I got to college, I looked into it by watching their videos and learning more about their story. It really stood out to me compared to other programs because it combined adventure, leadership, AND service. The service part was hard to come by in other programs and the fact that it's a strong element of LeadAbroad really represents what the entire organization is about: helping others. Whether that is helping the community or helping the students on the trip, as well as the incredible input from the staff, there is so much growth and learning occurring throughout the entire program.
What do you tell your friends who are thinking about going abroad?
I always suggest they take a look at the LeadAbroad site. There are so many study abroad programs provided here at UGA, so I highlight how this one is completely different. It pushes students out of their comfort zone through travel with students from different universities around the country. What usually gets them hooked is the idea that this is a once-in-a-lifetime experience to go abroad with people from all different backgrounds, who they may never have the chance to meet otherwise. Even if they may not chose this particular program, I point out that study abroad is the one thing from my college experience that has fully changed me for the better. It is so rewarding to dive into a culture that is so foreign and fully embrace the beauty of that country. There is truly nothing like it.
What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?
My biggest suggestion is to branch out. Dive into the people who are part of the program that you did not know before. I found the most growth in stepping away from the people I knew coming onto the trip, and meeting those I didn’t. Once you make that jump, new relationships will grow from the willingness to meet new people, creating a family feeling amongst everyone in the program. It just takes that first leap of faith to create the magic of the community you will get as the program progresses.
What's your favorite story to tell about your time abroad?
I’m always reminded of a trip a took with a new friend, Mimi. While it could be counted as a disaster, looking back it has turned out to be one of our favorite and possibly the funniest memories from the trip. It is what we like to call a "Series of Unfortunate Events: Venice Edition". We had decided to buy a ticket to Venice thinking it was for 6pm, but discovered it was actually 6am. We had to leave our dorm at 4am; no, we are not morning people. We arrived in Venice around ten and went on a walk to find our hostel. Four hours later - with all our luggage, in 100 degree weather - we finally found the hostel! The “lobby”, which consisted of an incredibly old couch, only one small blacklight as lighting, and lacked wifi, was occupied by a woman working reception. We asked, “is this Youth Venice Palace?”, to which she didn’t have an answer to, as it was her first day. We couldn’t help but think - you don’t know where you work? Eventually a man walked in to help; he spoke no English and we don’t speak Italian, an hour later we were finally checked in. Before walking into the room, they mentioned it needed to be cleaned. “Cleaning” meant giving the room a quick spray of Lysol, and leaving us to it. We found hair and tooth pics everywhere. At that point, Mimi and I were dying of laughter at the absolutely ridiculous situation we were in. We went out to dinner (during which we got ripped off, paying an extra 30 Euros each for our meal), after returning to the hostel to sleep our friends finally arrived waking us up, and I spent the rest of the night with food poisoning. I think I managed to get about 10 minutes of sleep.
While our visit to Venice was a disaster, it ended up being a blessing and a lesson to learn from. I realized traveling comes with many bumps and bruises, but keeping your head up and pushing on can show you that you’re stronger and more positive than you think. Now, Mimi and I look back and laugh about all of the absurd things that happened during that trip, and admire the fact that we were able to smile through it all, taking the unfortunate events as they came. I can say I will forever keep that day in my memory. Thank you Venice.
How did you decide on a program location?
This was a difficult question for me to answer when deciding on a program, it all depends on what you want to get out of the trip. For me specifically, I had always dreamed of traveling to Italy and seeing the incredible history as well as art it provided. I had seen some of it in books, but being able to see it first-hand was a completely different experience. I recommend taking a look at the countries listed, and aligning the experiences, history, and elements each provides with the items on your travel bucket list.