Meet Elizabeth Vanegas (she/her/hers)

Program and Location:

Fall, NC State European Center in Prague: Classic Fall Program: Prague, Czech Republic

Major/Minor:

Science Education: Middle Grades Science

Why did you choose to study abroad?

I chose to study abroad because I wanted to step outside of my comfort zone. I was born and raised in the small city of Sanford, North Carolina and did not have the chance to travel very much growing up. As soon as I found that study abroad was an opportunity I could pursue, I decided that I wanted to make it happen!

What did you learn about yourself?

Honestly, I could go on and on about all of the different things I learned about myself while studying abroad. However, the main thing that I learned about myself is that I am a lot more independent than I thought I was. I gained a lot of self-confidence from my experiences abroad since I had to figure out a lot of things on my own.

What was one of your favorite parts of your program?

One of my favorite parts about my program is the actual host city itself. Prague is an incredibly beautiful city and I am so grateful that I had the chance to enjoy it for a few months. My family had the chance to visit me and we all agreed that Prague is one of the most stunning cities we have ever seen!

What was your experience with navigating COVID-19 abroad?

Before going to Prague, I was a bit nervous about traveling around with COVID-19. However, I found that NC State gave me enough resources in order to for me to make my way around. Since I was vaccinated, NC State staff helped me get a COVID-19 EuroPass that allowed me to travel to multiple countries outside of my host country.

How were your classes abroad different than if you would have taken them at NC State? Did you take any field trips or do anything outside of the traditional classroom?

I had at least one field trip in each one of my classes while abroad. This is an experience that I never had before while in college. For my astronomy course, we actually had the chance to go to another town outside of my host city, Prague. This was a really nice experience as I got to explore more of the Czech Republic outside of the capital.

In what ways did your identity have an impact on your experience abroad?

Definitely! There were some instances where I felt as though I understood more of the culture in my host city because of my identity. Being from an immigrant family and growing up in the United States allowed me to understand cultural differences in my host country.

Is there any advice you would give to other students who share your identity?

Try to make friends with other students in your program who may share your identity! If this is not possible, try to find events or places that remind you of your cultural identity. For me, I was lucky enough to meet a fellow student who was also Hispanic and we were able to share our culture with one another throughout my trip. We visited both a Hispanic restaurant and store while in the Czech Republic. I will always be grateful for that friendship as it made me feel a lot more comfortable on my trip abroad.

Where did you find support to navigate any challenges you faced abroad?

I had not faced any challenges while abroad, but I would have felt extremely comfortable approaching either of our instructors, or our program guide (who stayed with us for the entirety of our program) with any issues I faced, since they were extremely caring and considerate of their students.

Where did you find support to navigate any challenges you faced abroad?

I was grateful to make a friend on my trip abroad who shared my cultural identity. This made it a lot easier to have support while facing challenges abroad. However, I also reached out to family and friends back home to feel grounded when dealing with obstacles.

What advice do you have for future study abroad students?

Make your host city your home away from home! I made the mistake of realizing this the last month of my trip abroad. Once you start to treat your host city as your actual home for the few weeks or months you are there, the easier it is to navigate any personal, emotional, or mental challenges you may face.

Would you do it again?

ABSOLUTELY! I have even considered moving abroad after graduation because of the incredible experiences I had on my study abroad trip.