Aggies Abroad: Protesting with Greta Thunberg, Stockholm’s Midnight Sun, German Gelato

Aggies Abroad Blog - Primary Photo
A solo shot in the iconic Nyhavn district of Copenhagen. (Photo courtesy: Christine DeLong)

Name

Christine DeLong

Major and Class Standing During Your Program

Senior in Managerial Economics (Emphasis: Environmental Economics)

Program

UC Davis Summer Abroad Europe, Sustainable Cities of Northern Europe (Sweden, Denmark, Germany, Switzerland)

What motivated you to participate in a study abroad or internship program during your time at UC Davis

Studying abroad always seemed like an enticing opportunity, but it took a breakthrough moment of confidence my junior year for me to actually enroll. With a year and a half remaining in college, I realized I wanted to do something entirely for myself. I wanted to travel, expand my mindset, and make new memories before I graduated. Looking back now, I can confidently say that study abroad was the most exciting and adventurous thing I did while in college. I’m thankful I took the leap.

Aggies Abroad Blog Photo
A lesson on water quality at Islands Brygge harbour bath in Copenhagen. (Photo courtesy: Christine DeLong)

What led you to choose the program you participated in? 

I was about halfway through my degree when I decided that I wanted to pivot in my field of study. I wanted to find a program that allowed me to study sustainability through an economic lens while also building out my environmental economics emphasis.

Sustainable Cities was the perfect program because it was a unique blend of my interests. It also brought me to four amazing countries, which was a huge bonus for me as a first time traveler. This program introduced me to the intricacies of sustainable urban development and helped me understand the political, social, and cultural conditions that enable successful sustainability initiatives.

Aggies Abroad Blog Photo
A sweeping panorama of Lake Lucerne. (Photo courtesy: Christine DeLong)

What advice do you have for someone considering your program or an international experience in general? What would you like to share with students who may share similar identities or experiences as you

For those considering studying abroad, I would absolutely recommend it. It was an incredible confidence builder, both personally and academically. I came back from my program full of gratitude for the friends, experiences, and memories I made. It’s an amazing adventure. My advice would be: don’t wonder what it would’ve been like—go and see for yourself.

Aggies Abroad Blog Photo
A group photo in the newly constructed urban district of Hagastaden, Sweden. (Photo courtesy: Christine DeLong)

What was your biggest concern in regards to the time and cost of your program? Were you able to overcome that concern, and if so, how? What advice would you give someone who has similar concerns

Programs can be costly. The good news is that there are scholarships, grants, and even GoFundMe campaigns to help with that. Moreover, there’s many opportunities to save on discretionary spending while you’re abroad (dining, drinks, recreation, souvenirs, etc.).

For me, I saved on food by alternating between grocery shopping and dining out. I saved on flights by booking with budget airlines and only traveling with a carry-on and personal item. I saved on purchases by using a credit card and debit card without foreign transaction fees. I’d also recommend crowdsourcing tips and tricks from family, friends, travel blogs and even Facebook travel groups (one of my favorite groups is Girls LOVE Travel).

What was it like to be you in your host country/region? What did you learn from your experience interacting with other cultures, people, and places?

One of the biggest takeaways from my time abroad relates to communication. Specifically, I struggled with the fact that so many different languages were spoken in the countries I visited (Swedish, German, Danish, Swiss German, French, and more!).

Because I wasn’t able to learn verbal skills in 5+ languages before going, I picked up on some non-verbal skills that I found universally helpful across countries. Whether it was ordering food, asking for directions, or initiating conversation with a local, these tips helped me overcome some of the barriers created by language. 

  • Have a humble disposition.
  • Display some effort (this might mean pulling out Google translate, showing pictures, or using body language to indicate meaning).
  • Express gratitude (this can be as simple as learning to say please and thank you in the local language, or smiling when someone helps you).
  • Be willing to learn.

What was a typical day like on your program?

Each day started early—between 7-8 a.m.—with everyone eating breakfast together at the hotel. We would venture out into the city by foot, bike, bus, train, or boat. Transportation was one of the themes of our program, so our days were as much about the transportation experience as they were about the destination itself.

Either our professor or a local scholar led our guided tours. We toured a waste-to-energy facility, glimpsed remote island sustainability and cooperative style living, and discussed solar energy at a photovoltaic research facility. We also visited many different housing development communities. We’d stop along the way for questions, pictures, group discussions, and lunch.

Depending on the schedule, the structured part of our day would end between 2-5 p.m. This left plenty of time to make dinner plans, relax, work on your assignments, or go on another adventure entirely. I was definitely tired when class was over, but there was always something to do or see that kept me out and about until later in the evening.

Aggies Abroad Blog Photo
The midnight sun over Stockholm Harbor. (Photo courtesy: Christine DeLong)

What is one of your most memorable experiences from your program?

It’s too hard to pick just one experience! I’ll mention a few that make the highlight reel every time I reminisce.  

  • Protesting with Greta Thunberg outside Swedish parliament.
  • Experiencing Stockholm’s midnight sun.
  • Conquering the 5 meter diving board at Islands Brygge harbour bath.
  • Touring the waste-to-energy facility that powers all of Copenhagen.
  • Relishing the gelato, biergartens, and historic feel of Freiburg, Germany.
  • Standing on Mount Rigi and marveling at the Swiss Alps.

How do you think your program experiences will benefit you in the future, thinking academically, future career goals, or personally?

Study abroad has been (and continues to be) hugely beneficial to me. I’ve gained a sense of personal confidence that I carry with me every day. I have the confidence I need to navigate unfamiliar circumstances, embrace new people, and be resilient when faced with challenges.

This is something everyone notices, employers included. In just about every interview I’ve had, study abroad comes up. It not only boosts your resume, but it also says a lot about you. It shows that you’re comfortable trying new things, getting out of your comfort zone, and going the extra mile.

 

Aggies Abroad is a student-driven storytelling effort of the Global Learning Blog where students can share their global experiences with fellow Aggies considering a study abroad programSubmit an Aggies Abroad Profile to be considered for a web and/or social media feature. Search all global learning programs and funding across UC Davis.

About the Global Learning Hub at UC Davis

Through the Global Learning Hub, each and every UC Davis student can find global learning opportunities available on campus, in the region, virtually, and internationally. The Hub offers global learning programs, workshops, and resources that enhance all UC Davis students’ academic and career pursuits through four broad areas of opportunities: Community Engagement; Global Skills and Leadership; Internships and Research; and Study Abroad. UC Davis is committed to preparing the next generation of global problem solvers and change makers. As such, we aim to prepare our undergraduate, graduate, and professional students to solve global challenges collaboratively, equitably, and sustainably.

As a part of Global Affairs, the Global Learning Hub aims to inspire global curiosity, understanding, and engagement.

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