This great article was first published by Will Samayoa on his own blog in July 2020. Thank you Will for sharing your story and how studying abroad at UEA helped you to develop!
HOW I MADE THE DECISION TO STUDY ABROAD IN ENGLAND
In these difficult times that we’re living through I often reach for a journal full of pages and photos that captured one of the happiest times of my life. This journal is from my experience studying abroad. The polaroids and ticket stubs taped in these pages remind me that my time abroad will always be with me. I will forever be grateful for the forces that helped me find both Norwich, England and the University of East Anglia (UEA). Because while my time in Norwich was short, a piece of my heart will always be in England.
From the seminars taught by leading scholars to the nights getting ready for a Damn Good Tuesday, I cannot write enough about why UEA was perfect for me. While the educational and extracurricular opportunities at UEA ended up enhancing all aspects of my life, I went there almost by accident. Honestly, I studied abroad on a whim!
1. HOW STUDY ABROAD BENEFITED ME – TEACHING ME TO BE A BETTER LISTENER
Before I even studied abroad, one of the benefits that became clear is that I became a better listener thanks to anticipating my international experience. Of all the spontaneous decisions I could make in my life, perhaps the best I ever did was deciding to leave the country! So extra, and so very on brand for Will Samayoa. My second year of college, a private liberal art in Upstate NY, I was eligible to study abroad. I attended a 1-on-1 meeting with my college’s study abroad officer to find out what program would suit me. Obviously, the meeting was very productive because I not only applied to UEA, but it was my only option.
Again, before I even studied abroad, I was becoming a better listener. In meeting with the study abroad officer I did come in with points, but I also heard her advice clearly. She told me about the unique character of not only the international partners but also of the cities we’d be living in. “Big but not too big,” she said when talking about Norwich. “Great media programs and renowned professors.” I did more than just research the numbers and sites, I heard from her testimonials of students who had ventured before I did.
In case you may not know, I went to college with a clear vision of working in the entertainment industry. I never wavered in my passion to work in media and I even meticulously designed a master plan to on how to major in writing & rhetoric with a media minor. The study abroad officer knew this, she admired my focus, and she said, “You need to go to Norwich!” I left this meeting and then went to meet with my professors and advisors. I wanted to genuinely hear them. And when I told both my writing and media faculty that I wanted to study abroad at UEA it was resounding, “Yes, Will!”
2. STUDY ABROAD BENEFITS – TEACHING ME HOW TO LIVE IN THE MOMENT
Since my semester abroad, I stay living in the moment! Before I studied in Norwich, England I had no international experience. While I studied abroad, I learned how to live in the moment meaningfully. Whether my flat mate invited me to go grocery shopping or I was just invited to join a study group, my time at UEA helped me learn how to say, “yes” to new experiences. Little did I know that in my full-time job after college traveling and having those, “OMG” moments would become my new normal.
Studying abroad benefited me in that I learned how to be present in the most spontaneous and amazing moments ever. I can vividly remember every detail of the Oscars red carpet (oh yes, I was at the 90th Academy Awards, more on that later) because I learned how to live in the moment in Norwich. Without studying abroad, I don’t know that I would even have this blog! Yes, that’s right. This blog and my love for social media flourished while I studied abroad.
Part of how I learned to capture the moment was by starting to play with writing and media. The details in my daily walks from the Ziggs to my seminars in places like the Enterprise Centre stay with me. As many moments as I could capture in words or pics I did. This helped me remember the name and pronunciation of every classmate I met. My time abroad pushed me into the unknown, but the city and people of Norwich welcomed me. My best advice is that if you travel abroad worry less and celebrate more. Celebrate yourself, your work to get there, and the moment.
3. STUDY ABROAD TAUGHT ME HOW TO EMBRACE AND APPRECIATE DIFFERENT CULTURES
I wish that everyone could study abroad because I think it could help people learn acceptance and tolerance. While I was at UEA I listened to voices from people all over the world. From classmates to strangers I met through everyday tasks, I learned how to listen, embrace, and truly celebrate diversity.
In my case, I was an American student studying British media. I figured that I was not an expert in not only these programs, and I was fine with that. Much like my point of learning to listen, I learned how to listen to voices different from anything I ever heard. What I read and saw was unlike anything my studies in America had shown me. In these seminars I had peers from different countries, different ages, and beyond different life experiences from my own.
Needless to say, my study abroad experience benefits include learning how to embrace and celebrate different cultures. I truly became a global connoisseur of media. My latest work trip included working on world premieres at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival. The films and storytellers I met came from places like South Africa, the Philippines, China, Canada just to name a few. Thank you UEA for teaching me how to respect and cherish different cultures! I’m a better person and storyteller for it.
4. EVERYONE SHOULD STUDY ABROAD AND TO KNOW WHY INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS MATTER
When I was in college, I remember an established discourse about international students. Candidly, it’s not always a fair one too. But being in the U.K., I was considered an international student. I found this super interesting because I consider myself the “norm” and here the norm has nuance things that made me stick out. “Oh, you’re so American,” I heard.
What does this even mean?! What do you mean I have an accent?! Wait why is everyone driving on the other side?! There are dozens of questions I asked myself. Learning how to embrace different is important. But actually, feeling different is an even better learning experience. At UEA I stood out and I learned how to honor my identities, as an American, as a Latino, and as a son of an immigrant family. I saw how my friends and faculty made my voice matter.
That’s why I came back to the States knowing that international students’ matter. Students from abroad at universities and colleges bring their own insights and experiences that can enrich us. And this is a dialectic relationship.
5. STUDY ABROAD TAUGHT ME TO HOW TO BE OKAY BEING ALONE
As much as I write and talk about how my study abroad experience helped me develop friendships, I’m grateful for the personal growth as well. A lot of my fear in studying abroad came from how I went alone at first. In my study abroad program there were a total of 4 of us from my home college. Granted these 4 people would grow to be some of my lifelong friends, there was a 48-hour period where I was alone in Norwich. No one lived on my flat yet and there was no one I knew yet.
I was lucky that UEA lead some mixers for international students. Because in attending these mixers I met more people who would become travel companies and confidants abroad. But I couldn’t always be around people. My flat mates had their commitments and I had to also find a daily rhythm. My days outside of class were long and I found how to fill them with my own company. Whether I went to the gym, read outside, or wrote my blog at a coffee shop, I was as happy being alone as I was in a crowd.
Studying abroad taught me how to be alone but not be lonely. What I believe is that studying abroad in Norwich, England changed my life for the better. I’m proud to write this blog and reflect on my time at UEA, the friends I made, and the experiences that have defined my life.
To find out more about Will’s experience, check out his blog and social media accounts, Instagram/Twitter @Willsshowem