Study Abroad: IES Amsterdam, Netherlands
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Bria Leyden

Hometown: Queens, NY
Major: Psychology
Minor: Neuroscience

How did you learn about this opportunity?

I started looking into international programs my freshman year, because I had always wanted to study abroad. In my junior year I went to the Education Abroad office to look for opportunities in countries that sparked my interest and that would be a good fit for me academically.

Tell us a little bit about your experience.

Studying abroad in Amsterdam was nothing short of an amazing, life-changing experience. I went alone without any friends or anyone I knew, and do not regret it at all. Being in a strange place, not knowing anyone and not being able to speak the language forces you to become close with other students in the program. Over the course of four months, I went from saying I was studying abroad surrounded by random students from all over America, to saying I was traveling with those same people who I now refer to as lifelong friends. Being able to take a train from one country to another, embarking on journeys and exploring the city, long weekend trips with other students to Barcelona, Paris, and London, program excursions throughout the Netherlands and learning about Dutch culture in the courses I took, all provided me with an amazing study abroad experience. The people I met and the memories we created did not leave any room for homesickness. I find myself deeply considering going back to Amsterdam to live, perhaps for graduate school. Being immersed in Dutch culture made me love, appreciate and connect to the people, the city and its customs. I absolutely loved my time abroad and truly wish I had chosen to do a year, as opposed to a semester. I became attached to the city, and the friends I had made. Those were truly the best four months of my life thus far.

How did this experience impact you academically?

After my experience abroad I find there are many things I now perceive differently. Being in a classroom with other international students as well as Dutch students was much different than my academic experience at Penn State. Learning about the Netherland's history, social trends, problems and policies, and its cultural norms was a truly enriching experience. The classroom environment was different in terms of openness as well as diversity, being that I was one of the few native English speakers in each of my classes. I now have extensive knowledge about the European Union and its relation to the world, as well as how the EU state came about. Industries that are not tolerated and are illegal in the U.S such as the sex and drug industries, were also a major part of my studies.

"I absolutely loved my time abroad and truly wish I had chosen to do a year, as opposed to a semester. I became attached to the city, and the friends I had made."

What are your career goals or plans? How did this experience impact them?

Prior to this experience, my career goals were not set in stone. I had a plethora of things I was interested in: criminal psychology, international relations, and gender studies to name a few. After going abroad and studying in a place that sees over 1 million tourists a year, I had the pleasure of meeting and speaking with many people from fields I had never previously heard of. Being able to connect with these people made me realize that a career goal does not have to be a straight and narrow path, a traditional occupation, nor does it have to be limited. This experience helped me to realize that whatever career path I choose, I want traveling to be an essential component. Traveling for a job I love is now my goal, and studying abroad helped in making me realize that.

Would you recommend this experience to other liberal arts students?


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