GVSU student Kristale Braxton reflects on her study abroad experience

GVL / Courtesy - Kristale Braxton

GVL / Courtesy – Kristale Braxton

Tylee Bush

Studying in a foreign country can be both challenging and exciting for any Grand Valley State University student—just ask Kristale Braxton.

Braxton began studying at GVSU in the fall of 2014, and she is on track to graduate at the end of the semester with a degree in political science and a minor in criminal justice. She remembers always having a strong desire to travel the world and study different cultures. It was no surprise, then, when she made the decision to study abroad in the spring and summer semesters of 2017. 

Braxton spent three months studying in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and she said the experience was incredible.

“Of course, I was nervous and scared,” she said. “There are so many dangers to traveling to different countries.” 

Braxton confessed that she experienced a mugging incident during her time abroad, but she said it didn’t impede her overall experience. 

“My excitement outweighed my fears,” Braxton added. “By the way, I chased the guy down and got my wallet back, thanks to the help of a random bystander.”

For Braxton, the best parts of her trip were the excursions.

“I did things that I am generally too afraid to do,” she said. From rafting the Neretva to hiking in the mountains, camping out in cabins, wandering cities and even participating in a peace march on a seven-hour walk, Braxton truly had a once-in-a-lifetime collection of experiences. 

One obstacle that Braxton had to overcome during her time abroad was coming to the realization that she was a minority. 

“A challenge was adjusting, coming to terms with being the only black person in the entire city,” she said. 

Braxton remembers only ever seeing two other black people during her entire stay, and she became used to the staring locals. 

“It was as if they had never seen a black person, especially the children,” she said.

Despite the discomfort, Braxton took a lot away from her experience and gained a global perspective.

“I learned to not judge a book by its cover,” she said. “This is something that many of us learn as a child but naturally still do. During my experience studying a completely different culture and learning a new language and Muslim traditions, I discovered the art of socially interacting with just about everyone without judging their character in the back of my mind.”

Braxton emphasized the importance of studying abroad and encouraged other students to take the same leap.

“It is a wonderful experience that simply can not be taught in the classroom,” she said. “Studying abroad really gives you a well-rounded education.”

For students who are stressed about the financial component of studying abroad or worried about being away from home, Braxton said all of the support and services necessary are available between scholarships and the assistance of the study abroad office.

“If it is something that you really want to do, then stop procrastinating and embark on an amazing journey,” Braxton said. “Trust me, you will not regret it.”