We caught up with Jennifer Halverson, an AIFS alum who studied abroad in Salzburg, Austria back in the Spring of 1993. Check out what she had to say about her experience overseas and how it has made an impact on her to this day.
How has your study abroad experience impacted your educational goals and career?
My study abroad experience greatly impacted my views on my life and the people in it. We were a group of strangers from different schools all over the U.S. and we became a community. Everyone has gifts, talents and strengths and no one need be judged for their differences. This lesson has served me well in my adult working life, especially now in my health coaching career.
How has your study abroad experience impacted other areas of your life?
My experience abroad gave me the confidence to do anything I put my mind to. It showed me that anything is achievable, if you want it, and that courage and bravery have little to do with being, doing and having what I want out of life. Determination, perseverance and clarity about what it is I truly desire came out of traveling abroad and putting myself into an unfamiliar situation.
Have you been back to your study abroad location since your time abroad?
I have not and that’s a sad thing. I would absolutely love to visit Salzburg sometime. It is so gorgeous and charming and I can remember it vividly in my mind.
Are you still in contact with other students or anyone you met during your time abroad?
I wish. It was the 90s, so no email, no Facebook, only snail mail to stay in touch and most of my friends from that time have moved out and on. I’m hoping the AIFS alumni Facebook group will help me reconnect with some.
Are there any activities or traditions from your time abroad that you have continued back in the US?
No traditions, but I did acquire a love of hiking in Salzburg and I definitely do that here at home in SoCal as often as I can. I also love to visit farmers markets here as I did there. That was one of best ways for me to get my conversational German down pat.
What are your top destinations for future travel?
Asia. Never been. Must see. Bucket list!
Any advice for students who are considering studying abroad?
Do it! I only did one semester, which was for sure memorable and impactful, but I would recommend a whole year. And the number one advice that AIFS gave me that really helped: everything there is different (wherever you go) than the U.S. The food, customs, culture, everything. So don’t judge anything as worse or bad, it’s all just different and that’s OK. You may feel uncomfortable at times, but just embrace the differences and unfamiliarities with an open mind and heart and you’ll have an amazing experience.
Any advice for recently returned study abroad students?
Take it easy, take your time and don’t make any major decisions until you’ve been home and re-acclimated for a few weeks, at least.
Anything else you want to add?
Studying abroad is a life-altering, once in a lifetime, unforgettable experience and I highly recommend it to everyone, even if you’re scared — especially if you’re scared! It changed me in ways I couldn’t imagine and opened me up to infinite possibilities. The world is very small, so go out and see it!
Thinking about studying abroad in Austria like Jennifer did? Consider a semester, academic year, or summer in Salzburg with AIFS!