My year as an exchange student at San Diego State has truly been a unique and revealing experience.
Going abroad is always a big decision that might seem scary at first. But I found that I totally enjoyed it once I allowed myself to step out of my comfort zone and to dare to try.
“It is not only about leaving your hometown and going somewhere new for a year. It is really about the experiences and the relationships that you build while being abroad.”
Going abroad has given me the chance to travel to many other cities outside of San Diego and even outside of the United States. I was able to make amazing friends and meet great people who added to my social network and helped me a lot in my academic life.
What I really enjoyed about this experience were the different perspectives that I got from different people; I was able to give a lot and gain at the same time. I guess the term “exchange” really gets at the concept — you’re giving part of your culture and receiving an amazing experience back. It is not only about leaving your hometown and going somewhere new for a year. It is really about the experiences and the relationships that you build while being abroad.
For me, the SDSU campus was a totally different experience from my own campus in Canada. It was lively and beautiful, full of joy, fun, clubs and sororities and fraternities. I was also really pleased with all the amazing opportunities for students to get involved on campus, particularly through student organizations, the Women’s Resource Center, and the International Student Center.
Academically, this year has given me a lot in terms of knowing what I want to do in the future. Taking the course Politics of Modern Africa (POL 364) has really influenced a lot my academic choices and I became particularly interested in the international security and conflict resolution (ISCOR) program, which is not (to my knowledge) offered in Canada and which would potentially give me an excuse to come back to San Diego.
Being an international student student abroad has taught me to open myself and make the most out of this year. Although being new and alone somewhere can be a challenging experience, I think it also brings you a lot of personal benefits and gives you the ability to adapt to different experiences. I looked at everything with an open mind and an intersectional perspective, which allowed me to experience things that I never imagined.
My advice to incoming exchange students is this: Do not be afraid to be yourself, but also dare to step out of your comfort zone. Experience new cultures while also sharing your own with the people around you.
To American students: Know that going abroad is a unique experience that will change your perspective on the world and let you experience the many cultures our planet has to offer.
This year has truly been amazing for me and I am thankful to everyone who made it better and made me feel at home.
Radia Mbengue is studying at SDSU on a yearlong exchange from the University of British Columbia in Canada. She is originally from Senegal.