This post is courtesy of Bria Woodyard, ASU Study Abroad alumni. Bria studiedin Denmark and the United Kingdom on the faculty-directed program ASU: Sustainable Food Systems, Community Development, & Happiness in Denmark during the summer 2016 months. Bria was also the recipient of the SAO Travel Grant.
What inspired you to study abroad?
I’m a masters student in a two year program. During undergrad, I’d gone abroad for a week at a time for forensics tournaments but, personally, I did not think that was enough time for me to truly engage with a new culture and place. I knew it would be harder post-graduate to go abroad, so I decided to take the opportunity offered by ASU and participate in a study abroad that not only gave me the time to indulge in a new country, but also the structure of academia to study internationally.
Tell us about the program you went on.
I was a part of the pilot UK/DK study abroad. A group of approximately twenty of us aided Dr. Hodbod and Dr. Cloutier. We researched what part community happiness played in urban agriculture in Denmark and the United Kingdom. The research we culled was added to a larger study that added Phoenix to the comparison. While the academics were rigorous, none of it felt like a chore. We got a firsthand understanding of how the word “urban agriculture” holds different significance from city to city. The best part though was tasting our way through the two nations. We ate food that was foreign to us, but
commonplace to our host countries and found new favorites. As well as discovering the satisfaction of working on a plot of land for some time and being able to literally reap what we’d sewn at the end of the day for the freshest dinners we’ve ever had.
Describe your experience as a minority abroad.
Having experience being abroad, I was hyper vigilant about doing my research before leaving for my trip regarding racial climate I could expect. In terms of negative reactions though, I got none. The Danes, particularly in Aarhus, found delight in our collective group of Americans taking such interest in their small endeavors. Amongst the younger individuals we interacted with, they didn’t find issue with me, but were more interested in my perspective on things as mundane as the food, to how I felt about Donald Trump. Similarly, the elder ladies and gentlemen we came into contact with seemed to have the same pride about my participation as my own grandparents back home. They just wanted to ensure all of my questions and inquiries were answered to the best of their capabilities.
How did you pay for your study abroad experience?
My study abroad was financed through a combination of my own savings from work, the SAO Travel Grant, and a small portion of student loan money.
What was your biggest concern regarding study abroad? How did you overcome it?
My biggest concern regarding study abroad was having no real knowledge of the Danish language, and being able to navigate around the country; specifically to my hostel on the first day. I overcame it by asking people and using context clues. Fortunately the Danes, unlike the French, are pretty understanding if you don’t speak the language. They set me on my initial way, and then I trusted my navigation skills (and GPS) to orient my from then on out.
Describe your favorite memory abroad.
I don’t know if I have one favorite memory. With a group as large as ours, each day brought something new; big or small. A woman from Aarhus and a man from Exeter in particular stand out though. One of the first days in our Aarhus dorms, one classmate discovered a small bakery down the street that sold everything we could possibly want to fatten us up on a food study abroad. With the sweet tooth I have, I made a point to personally make sure everyone knew about it, frequently taking them myself. Every time I went I’d order something different, and make a point to try to pronounce the item in Danish. It was a comical effort, but the woman behind the register each day was tickled by my attempt and took her time to help me correctly sound out the words with a smile and laugh. This became such a habit that on the last day I made sure to go by once more, and when I told her I wouldn’t be back we were both a bit sad. But she smiled and laughed in surprise when I asked if we could take a picture together to show my mom back home.
Each city we were assigned gardens to survey and interview its gardeners. In Exeter, I was assigned Cowick Lane where I met a man named George who’d used his allotment to innovate and create a number of tools and gadgets to better his garden. George was very generous each time we went by to survey, offering us food and drinks anytime we swung by. The last day we had to interview at Cowick, myself and a number of classmate asked George if we could help him in any way. He set us to work weeding which would up being more satisfying than any of us could’ve anticipated. George then taught us how to harvest potatoes which tickled him to see our enthusiasm for such a mundane task. By time we left, George had sent us off with potatoes, beans, strawberries, and a number of laughs we’d remember for years to come.
How has your international educational experience impacted your life, academically, professionally, and/or personally, since returning?
My international education experience has first and foremost given me a new set of friends. As a graduate student, I’m typically pretty reserved to those in my cohort and the School of Sustainability in regards to friends. However, through the study abroad, I met and befriended a number of other individuals from different disciplines and backgrounds who added to my experience both abroad and now that I’ve returned home. Professionally, the trip gave me the opportunity to connect with organizations abroad I wouldn’t have otherwise been able to.
Describe your future career and how you think your experience abroad has prepared you for that career.
My studies and future career focuses on the intersection between sustainability and the performing arts. While my study abroad didn’t directly correlate to this, a number of things I learned I know will be applicable as I continue towards my career. Adaptability in a situation where I’m the minority, language comprehension, cultural awareness are all skills I know will transfer into the workplace. Additionally, a main factor for my program choice was the 6-week time scale. I’d never been that far away from home for that long. I wanted to push myself to see if I could consider global job opportunities. While I was homesick from time to time, I was surprised with how quickly I adapted and adjusted during my time abroad.
What is one thing you wish you would have known before studying abroad?
I wish I’d known a bit of Danish.
What advice would you give to future study abroad participants?
-Convert your money before you leave.
-Know where the US embassy is and how to get there.
-Indulge in the experience entirely, you’ll likely never get it again.
-Take pictures. Your mom will want to see them.
-Be open to unexpected adventures. They’ll likely make for the best memories.
If you are a future study abroad participant interested in hearing more about Evvan’s experience abroad feel free to contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.