The Geography of the European Union education abroad program in Cyprus educated students on the political, economic, and social relationships of European nations. The geographic factors that define the relationships of these nations with each other and the rest of the world were assessed, and current global events were discussed in this context. The major landmarks and rich culture of Cyprus were also showcased through planned group excursions and individual exploration.
This education abroad program has greatly impacted both my understanding of myself and the outside world. As a Biology major, I have mostly focused on studying the sciences throughout my academic career. This class allowed me to explore an academic area that I had no previous experience with, and I found the experience to be extremely informative. I feel as though I have a much better understanding of global politics and relationships because of my Signature Project. Before taking this class, I am not sure that I would have been able to say what the European Union was; now I believe I can describe its role and duties confidently and accurately. I did not know how greatly European policies differed from those in America, and it has been eye opening to see how progressive Europe has been on key issues, such as climate change and immigration. This has also allowed me to realize how easy it is to lower my own impact on the environment, as conservation was a key priority of the resort we stayed in. I have become more conscious of my energy and plastic use, and I am determined to implement changes into my daily routine.
This study abroad has also increased my sense of self confidence. I have never traveled alone before, but this program forced me out of my comfort zone. I had to work to build friendships with strangers and trust myself to navigate a new country. Through this program, I have gained friends that major in fields of study far different from my own; I was pushed to approach people I never would have given thought to, and I am grateful to have learned alongside them. I also was able to form relationships with the two professors that led this trip, which has allowed me to become more comfortable with approaching staff members. Overall, I have become more confident with the process of expanding my network, and I have learned to trust my abilities in social situations.
The events that most heavily contributed to my increased sense of global awareness took place during an excursion to the capital city of Nicosia, Cyprus. Nicosia is a divided city, with one half lying in the Turkish occupied Northern Cyprus, while the other is in the internationally recognized Republic of Cyprus. Professor Constantinou led us on a walk along the “Green Line” that divides the nation and city, which was an eye-opening experience. Although the Turkish invasion of Cyprus occurred in 1974, its impact was shockingly apparent. Buildings riddled with bullet holes, rubble from bombings, and an extended length of barbed wire lined the border. Graffiti denouncing the governments that failed to unite the country covered nearly every wall. I have never traveled somewhere with so much political tension before, but I am grateful to have seen both the best and worst of Cyprus.
While in Nicosia, we also visited the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to learn more about the country’s role as an active member in the European Union and global society. There, a spokesperson for the ministry detailed the failed negotiations between Cyprus and Turkey, as well as the growing relationship between Cyprus and the United States. Prior to this trip, I felt as though I was uninformed on foreign issues; the opportunity to speak with government officials in Cyprus was definitely a transformational experience in regard to my global awareness. The group also attended a lecture at the House of Europe, where representatives from the European Union meet in Cyprus. This lecture covered the purpose and duties of different committees within the European Union. I have never learned anything about European politics before, so this was also an incredibly educational event. Cyprus is located at the crossroads of Europe and the Middle East, so understanding its role in foreign relations is integral to understanding larger global issues.
My sense of self confidence was also transformed as a result of this education abroad program. I have not been in an airport since I was a young child, but I was forced to navigate through foreign airports by myself. While somewhat intimidating, the process of international travel was much easier than I expected, and I was able to handle the bumps in the road (a 24-hour flight delay and complete itinerary reschedule) well. This has taught me to be less anxious in new situations and trust my abilities. I also tend to be intimidated by professors, which has kept me from asking for additional help in some classes in the past. However, the professors that led this study abroad were extremely approachable and I was able to form connections with them over the four-week course. This experience will hopefully allow me to become more comfortable with approaching staff members in my classes in my remaining semesters.
My primary academic goal is to earn a Doctorate in Pharmacy so that I can work as a specialized pharmacist in a hospital. In a clinical setting, there will be interactions with people from diverse cultures, political ideologies, and socioeconomic statuses. These interactions will occur daily with both patients and other professionals, so I will have to be able to be considerate of other viewpoints. Participating in this program allowed me the privilege of interacting with a culture completely different from my own for four weeks. The coursework also taught me a considerable amount about the political and economic relationships of the European countries in the European Union and how their location effects these relationships, as well as problems that a region may face due to their geographic characteristics. This has led me to gain a greater understanding of the factors that define the lives of many Europeans. In turn, I believe that I will be better able to consider different perspectives and appreciate diversity in my future profession.