An American, a Canadian and an Australian walk by a carpet shop in Istanbul, Turkey, and spot a CU Boulder ball cap in the window.
Curious, the three study abroad students venture into the shop to check it out and end up spending two enjoyable hours with the owner, talking, laughing and drinking apple tea. He explains that customers from around the world come to his shop to buy carpets and bring him hats to display.
Go. Just go. Go somewhere you don’t know anyone. Don’t go just in college. Open your eyes to new things. You’ll never regret it.”
This is but one of the many fun, quirky, poignant experiences Tessa Powell had during her semester long CU Boulder Education Abroad trip to Sweden. Powell is a senior in public relations and advertising with a minor in business. This is her second trip. She went to Romania when she was a junior. This time she wanted to go someplace different.
“I wanted to go someplace nobody else was going,” she said of why she chose to spend her spring semester in Sweden.
Powell spent six months living in Uppsala, north of Stockholm, and attending Uppsala University, the oldest university in Sweden. Alongside students from Sweden and from other countries, Powell studied Swedish culture, history, literature, art and music, earning 15 college credits. She lived in off-campus housing similar to CU Boulder’s Williams Village.
Powell joined one of the many Swedish student societies open to international students, called nations, that provide social activities and venues such as bars, clubs, theater companies and sports. Through the activities at the nations, she made friends from many faraway places.
While in Sweden, Powell took every opportunity to visit other countries, including Finland, Norway, Spain, Ireland, Russia and Hungary. It was while walking through the spice markets in Istanbul that she had the unexpected CU encounter at the carpet shop.
Finding the shop owner charming and fun to talk to, Powell and the two friends returned to visit with him twice more before leaving Istanbul.
“That was one of my favorite times,” Powell said. “It made me realize that there are more similarities than differences among our cultures. Someday I’m going to go back and buy and a carpet from him.”
What Powell experienced during her Education Abroad semester transformed her worldview.
When she reminisces about her trip, she knows it was the spontaneous and irreplaceable activities that added depth and texture to the overall experience, such as:
“It cracked me open,” she said of her trip. “It opened my eyes to all the different cultures, and now I have friends in places that I’m dying to visit. I learned tidbits about their day-to-day lives and I became a lot more appreciative of other cultures.”
After returning in May, Powell immediately booked a one-way ticket to Melbourne, Australia, for next June. Her plans after graduation are to live with Australian friends she met in Sweden and to get a work visa in hopes of working for a public relations firm there for a year and then work for a public relations agency with international offices.
She would like to get an international internship during her last year at CU Boulder.
“Go. Just go,” she said when asked about her advice to students. “Go somewhere you don’t know anyone. Don’t go just in college. Open your eyes to new things. You’ll never regret it.”