Texas State students develop cultural awareness during study abroad trips


Photo courtesy of Aspen Smith

Aspen Smith (right) with her classmates Lynda Hauxwell (left) and Daniella Dattalo (middle) at the Palamidi Castle in Nafplio, Greece.

Brianna Benitez, Life and Arts Reporter

Each year, students get the opportunity to escape their comfort zones and surround themselves with different cultures and customs as they take the leap to study abroad.

Studying abroad enables students to become familiar with various geographic locations, languages and traditions. Students who study abroad can expect to undergo personal and professional developments by enhancing their global awareness and understandings of cultures and societies.

Aspen Smith, psychology junior, studied abroad in Greece for four weeks during summer 2019. Smith studied with Texas State’s psychology department and visited Athens, Nafplio and Paros Islands.

Smith said Greece is a destination she has wanted to visit for quite some time and decided studying abroad would be a great opportunity for her to take to finally the plunge.

While in Greece, Smith and her classmates visited sites like the Acropolis, the Greek Forum of Refugees and Mycenae. Smith’s trip began and ended in Athens, the capital of Greece. While in Athens, she had the chance to explore the city and attended Athens’s Pride parade.

“Athens kept me really busy,” Smith said. “We got to explore so much and had the time of our lives.”

Smith said one of her favorite memories from the trip was when she and a few of her classmates visited the island of Mykonos. She enjoyed the luxury of relaxing on the beach after a long day of class.

Although English is not the first language for many Greeks, Smith said she was surprised how willing locals were to communicate with her in English.

“Sometimes it was difficult to communicate but for the most part, many people were able to speak fluent English,” Smith said.

Maricela Castro, Texas State alumna, visited Morocco with the university’s Arabic program. Castro said she was interested in studying abroad in order to help strengthen her skills and set her apart when applying for jobs.

“I studied abroad because I wanted to have an impactful experience that would help me get a leg up in the work industry,” Castro said.

Castro and her classmates stayed with a host family in the city of Tétouan, where she and classmates were granted the advantage of engaging in traditional Arabic practices such as language and prayer.

Castro visited Morocco during Ramadan — the ninth month of the Islamic calendar — where Muslims dedicate a month to fasting, reflection and prayer.

The alumna said temporarily living in Morocco during Ramadan allowed her to become familiar with the country’s culture.

“At first I was very surprised to see all the restaurants closed, but eventually it taught to be more aware and mindful of the locals and their fasting of Ramadan,” Castro said.

Castro said studying in Tétouan has granted her the opportunity to become more comfortable in the Arabic language and has motivated her to learn other languages.

“When studying abroad, I noticed how the locals appreciated it when we would communicate with them in their native language,” Castro said. “I was able to bond easier and learned how to respect their culture.”

Unlike traditional classroom settings, study abroad programs grant students the opportunity to apply material learned in class to their daily experiences with locals in the surrounding communities.

Jasmine Dean, English senior, studied in Greece with Texas State’s psychology department this summer as well. Dean said she chose to study within this department because it offered the courses that most interested her.

Through field trips and course discussions, Dean and her classmates explored the roots of psychological concepts and gained insight into the traditions and demands of Greek society.

Dean studied the psychology of personality and human development, which focuses on cultural behavior and characteristics. Dean said material learned in class examined how a sundry of cultures act in their various ways.

“It was interesting to see what we were learning in class play out in real life when interacting with locals,” Dean said.

For more information on Texas State’s study abroad programs, visit Texas State Education Abroad online and follow @txstedabroad on Instagram and Twitter

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