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Ouachita Stories


From culture to culture

Study abroad has taught me what we have in common

Sean and friendsFebruary 27, 2019 - Sean Carney

Ouachita, which many of us affectionately call “the bubble,” is its own world and culture, of sorts. Many of us come from different backgrounds, states and even countries, but we can relate because we are studying for the same CORE classes, practicing for Tiger Tunes and standing out in the cold to cheer for the tigers during Battle of the Ravine. We enjoy our Ouachita world that is safe, fun and full of weird nicknames for all of our campus buildings.

It can be hard for people outside of Ouachita’s world to understand it until they have experienced it for themselves. In the same way, it is impossible for me to truly know the culture of another university without visiting my friends there, and it is impossible to know the culture of the state of Washington if I don’t travel there. I wanted to truly know and appreciate other world cultures, and that is why I chose to spend a semester studying abroad in Spain at the University of Alicante.

Life in Spain is amazing. In Alicante, it is sunny 360 out of 365 days of the year. The people are super friendly and the food is delicious. What’s really cool, though, is that there are many international people here; they are drawn to Alicante for the university so that they can learn Spanish (like me and my friends), or they are drawn here for vacation. I am in class with representatives from all over the world – people from the U.S., Ukraine, Russia, Algeria, Japan and Korea!

Honestly, one of my favorite moments so far was on a day when we were all waiting outside our classroom, and one of the Japanese students brought candy. So, of course, we ate all of it. Here we were, people from all over the world, gathered together around a bag of candy and speaking Spanish. We love to learn about each other’s countries and customs but, not only that, we also love to laugh together. Despite the language barriers and cultural differences, we can always laugh about the same things, whether it be a language issue or when one of our classmates tries to explain a grammar answer with his mouth full.

What’s super cool to me is that, in reality, people from other countries are not much different than people from the U.S. Everyone loves to laugh, everyone loves to go out to eat, everyone loves to spend time together. Yes, our languages are unique, our foods unique, our countries’ histories unique – but we have so much in common. I had to leave the U.S. to truly learn and appreciate this.

Of course, I also love traveling and living in a different city where everything is new and different. To get to my favorite coffee shop, I get to walk by a cathedral built in the 1600s. To get to school, I pass by a fort built in the 900s. I have traveled to and stood in cathedrals with ceilings higher than JPAC, and I have stood in plazas that are hundreds of years older than the U.S. As amazing as all of this is, what I am most thankful for is the perspective I have received.

If you are considering studying abroad as a student, remember: you may never again have the opportunity to live in another country for four to six months. Take advantage of the chance to see the world and learn about other cultures!

Sean CarneyBy Sean Carney, a senior music and Spanish double major from Little Rock, Ark.