Study Abroad Interview: Thailer McLeod

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The summer before his sophomore year Thailer McLeod studied abroad in France and Italy on a program designed to evaluate art and the evolution of human consciousness. McLeod’s study abroad made him eager for more opportunities to explore and experience other cultures, so much so that he successfully managed to get into another study abroad program for all of Winter 2018.

“The biggest impact my study abroad had on my life would have to be my newfound desire to experience different cultures, appreciate differences, and a new-found courage to try out and apply for things that scare me”.

Thailer in VeniceHow does study abroad have an impact on your life today?

“I would have to say my study abroad kept me open to the idea of new things,” McLeod says. He feels that by studying abroad so early in his academic career he gained the confidence to try new things and seek out more opportunities and experiences since returning. McLeod feels actively engaging in this behavior improves his life and academic performance. After spending time abroad, McLeod has been looking for other international experiences--whether it’s through UWT or somewhere else. However, he happily shared that he’ll be able to return to Rome for another study abroad during the winter quarter. “I’m really excited to be going back,” McLeod explains, “as my last study abroad only spent a brief time there.” He looks forward to immersing himself more deeply in the culture, especially learning Italian.

Explain an experience in which you gained a new skill.

Self-awareness is a major skill McLeod feels he gained through his time abroad. He explained that being in a culture unfamiliar to you really magnifies your characteristics and expectations. Being aware of these and how they might differ from the norm of the country you’re in can really help you better navigate, communicate and enjoy the area while developing who you are as a person.

McLeod also feels as though he learned how adjust to new and unfamiliar things much better than he was previously able to do. “Upon arrival in an unfamiliar country, you have to think about things you normally wouldn’t at home: food, transportation, getting along with your cohort, and a new climate.” For McLeod, this transition was difficult at first, but given time to engage with the surrounding community, he quickly caught on. “I would just follow what the locals did, going to restaurants with the most people; watching how people got on/behaved in the subways, and communicating with who I could.” McLeod feels as though the most important skills he got out of his many experiences is an ability to organize his mindset and actions in accordance to where he is and what he wants.

How has study abroad impacted how you see the world and yourself?

McLeod states that his study abroad is filled with many “expected but unexpected things.” Going to ancient cities like Florence, Rome and Paris, one expects to see ancient buildings and cobblestone roads. McLeod, however, says that nothing can prepare you for actually seeing these places in the flesh, especially when it comes to art and architecture. “There are so many stories stored in the streets and the buildings, you can really feel it” McLeod shares. Having loved ancient history his whole life, he feels as though his experience really developed his appreciation for ancient architecture. Also, on a program focused on Art and the Evolution of Human Consciousness, McLeod was really looking forward to developing his understanding of art and is very happy with his experience. “Getting to see art ranging from ancient Egypt to modern day is so inspiring!” McLeod now appreciates art and what it represents, often looking for it in his community.

Is there anything you wish you would’ve known before you went on your study abroad?

McLeod feels lucky that he had an instructor who really prepared them for key differences between the cultures and the types of transportation he might want to use. However, he wishes he would’ve better understood the different building codes and customs. For example, he was prepared for smaller houses but he wasn’t prepared for doors that didn’t have handles. Instead the key acted as the door knob and as a result the door would only open (from either side) when the key was in them. “This took me and my classmates a while to figure out!” McLeod laughs.

McLeod also would’ve liked to have known more about art and religion. “So much ancient art was from a religious point of view, so I think having a better understanding of the fables and backgrounds would’ve helped me get even more out of the art I got to see.”

Cohort in RomeHow did your study abroad impact your personal, academic or professional life?

“As a psychology major, being so aware of myself and surroundings was really amazing, especially with my passion for human development.” McLeod really appreciated seeing how study abroad helped people become more mindful and conscious and how that led to unique developments in each individual. Also, McLeod appreciates the skills he gained like problem solving, a willingness to take risks, especially because he is able to put it in his resume. McLeod thinks that his new-found confidence in taking risks and doing things he’s hesitant about are really important to who he is becoming. “I was so scared to apply because I thought I wouldn’t get in, but I have made it in to two programs now!” He feels that these experiences gave him much more confidence and has encouraged him to take less traditional routes to his academic success. “There are a lot of traditional ways that are great. But there are many nontraditional opportunities that can give you so much more if you’re willing to try them!”

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May 11, 2017