Slugs of the World: Austin

Another Slugs of the World feature!  This time we talked to Austin Downs, a second-year Politics major at UCSC.  For the past year he’s been participating in three different UCEAP programs across three continents.  Following a summer program in Argentina, Austin then studied at University College London for the fall, and then finished his year long tour at the University of Auckland in New Zealand in the spring.  We sent some questions his way and you can read his answers below.

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Q: How did you decide to participate in three different programs in one year?

A: I got my original love for travel from my parents growing up. When I came to UCSC, my sister at UC Irvine participated in a UCEAP program in Madrid and I saw how much fun she was having along with how much she was advancing her undergraduate career. When she returned, I knew I desired to take advantage of the opportunity that UCEAP offered. After talking it over with my parents and getting a lot of help from my sister, we realized that I had the capability to spend an entire year abroad and we seized the moment! As for what made me decide which programs to decide, I chose Argentina to help solidify my secondary language of Spanish and study Latin American politics. For England, I knew I wanted to spend a semester in Europe and the UC Center London had everything I was looking for – a politics course alongside British social classes. Lastly, I chose my program in New Zealand mainly because Oceania was one of the regions of the world I had not seen and had heard such amazing things about New Zealand from friends and past participants.

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Q: How have you managed being immersed in a different culture every few months for the last year?

A: Being immersed in a different culture every few months has been quite challenging but equally rewarding. To best manage this, I have come to find that engaging in a physical cultural activity really helps me feel like I belong and also imprint on to me the meanings behind cultures. For instance, in Argentina I took private tango lessons and a Maori dance class while in New Zealand that, when combined, has helped greatly in immersing myself into a country’s culture. Above all, it’s great to know that I can now impress all of my friends with either the tango or an empowering warrior dance!

Q: Have there been any particularly challenging times abroad?

A: The most challenging times abroad have not been challenges that have arisen from my current program, but rather from preparing for my next one! As I was nearing the end of my second program in the UK, I was already well underway for getting things in order for my third program in New Zealand – applying for university housing, classes, and my student visa. In fact, being an American citizen in the UK while trying to apply for a New Zealand student visa was some of the most nerve-wracking weeks of my entire life. I only got my passport back two days before leaving for New Zealand and was almost certain I was going to be late for my program’s orientation. Additionally, keeping care of myself was something more difficult than I could have anticipated. Halfway through my summer program in Argentina, I was diagnosed with a severe toe infection that rendered me bed-ridden for the remainder of my program. Sadly for me, the infection carried over into my fall program and after months of treatment and a hospital visit while holidaying in Florence, Italy, I finally underwent surgery to remove the infection towards the end of my second program. Take care of yourself Slugs and familiarize yourself with UCEAP health coverage!

Q: What has been one of your favorite memories?
A: Out of the countless unforgettable memories I have made during my year of travels, one stands out to me above the rest: playing for the University of Auckland’s volleyball team. After failing to make University College London’s soccer team in the fall and the University of Auckland’s soccer team in the spring, I gave international sports one last shot and gave it all I had. Upon hearing the news that I had been selected to the team, I was so proud of myself for my persistence that I couldn’t stop dancing in my room for at least thirty minutes! When I received my university jersey for the first tournament of the year, I remember holding the jersey so tightly in my hand and beginning to tear up. Before going abroad, it was a dream of mine to play for a sport’s team abroad and it felt so unbelievably rewarding to see that dream realized.

 

Q: What would you say to someone considering studying abroad?

A: Studying abroad during your undergraduate career is one of the best choices you can make. In addition to being able to travel the world and see places you’ve always dreamed about seeing, it really changes you on a personal level. Before going abroad, I didn’t really know the kind of person I was or what my academic passion was. Through the courses I took and immersion I participated in, being abroad really showed me what I wanted to do once my time was up. Whether it be maturing and growing as a person or wanting to pursue my postgraduate education internationally at one of the school’s I attended, the benefits are truly endless. The only real way to know what you want to do with your life back in California is to leave it and filter out what is or is not important to you.
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Thanks to Austin for sharing his experience! If you’ve studied abroad we want to hear from you. Send us an email to programsabroad@ucsc.edu and tell us where you studied!
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