I had the amazing opportunity to go to Kenya this summer. This trip was unique because we were working with entrepreneurs with HIV AIDS to innovate for their small businesses. While abroad I met incredible people, like my entrepreneur partner, Jane. I was also able to learn about myself by reflecting on my experiences. We were immersed in their culture throughout the trip. Some of my favorite experiences include the three day safari on the Maasai Mara, the home visit with Jane, and our city life experiences. I cherish my new friendships with the people who went on the trip with me; we went as almost strangers but came back having shared a life experience. I believe this trip afforded me the chance to grow and develop my own values and how I look at the world around me. It is interesting to be the person traveling because you get to see a new world different from your own which opens your eyes to look differently at the world you call home.

One thing I did not expect was all the misguided advise I got from all of friends and family. When you study abroad people give you the all the tips before you go, tips you never asked for. They seem to feel this need to share with you like you are an innocent and uneducated child, which is true more than you realize or want to admit. No matter how much you prepare, studying, reading, practicing beforehand, you do not actually understand what is going to happen. The issue is that usually people are not aware or educated enough to be giving you advice either. As cheesy as it is, I’m very glad I had a pre-trip class and outstanding professors to help guide me and prepare me as best they could. Yet there are still moments that you cannot prepare for, they are different for everyone– which is what makes the whole experience so priceless.

There is this known, but un-described, part to studying abroad, a part that touches your soul. It changes you on a level that you cannot quite grasp or understand even in the tiny recesses of your mind. It’s perplexing to feel something so real yet you can’t seem to put your finger on what is different, what has changed you, or how to resolve it with who you are. The most important thing you can do to prepare for a trip abroad is to open your mind and plan to be surprised in good ways and bad ways– it’s an emotional rollercoaster but well worth it. It was extremely helpful to be able to call my family and talk to them when I was really struggling with different parts of our group project.

I believe that this was one of my most formative life experiences up to this point and am hugely grateful to be able to have gone through it with the emotional, educational, and financial support of my friends, family, professors, EduAfrica, UTC Study Abroad office, and all the other people who helped make it possible. I loved every second of my experience and would go back in a heartbeat. It was priceless and truly a once in a lifetime opportunity– including all the horrendously beautiful complications and missteps. To anyone who is not sure if they want to go on a study abroad trip: “Go. You never know when you’ll have this chance again. It’s one you don’t want to miss.”

Isabel Gray is majoring in Biology (pre-professional) with minors in Public Admin/Non-profit and Spanish. She participated in a faculty-led trip to Kenya through the College of Business and Honors College in May, 2018. Isabel had the following to say about her time abroad, “I loved every second of my experience and would go back in a heartbeat; it was priceless and truly a once in a lifetime opportunity – including all the horrendously beautiful complications and missteps.”

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