WHOA – Meghan Lamba

March 04, 2021

Portrait of a person

My name is Meghan and I am a Biomolecular Engineering student. I participated in the UCSC Exchange Program at the Technical University of Denmark (DTU) just outside of Copenhagen, Denmark. Studying abroad as a South Asian female in STEM was eye-opening. I’ve always had an itch for adventure and traveling and knew that going abroad was something I wanted to do. As an engineering student, I found it hard to plan out how to go abroad but I was determined. When I first heard about the DTU exchange program and that I could take major classes, I instantly knew that it was meant to be. I learned so much about myself and the world around me and truly believe in the ever-popular, “going abroad will change your life” statement.

Immersing yourself in a new country and its culture comes with its challenges. Scandinavian countries, such as Denmark, are known to have homogeneous populations, with a majority of the population being of European descent. This was something I’d expected, but to experience it was new to me. Growing up in the diverse Bay Area, California, I’ve never experienced what it’s felt like to be a minority since I’ve always been surrounded by others like me. I found it even more challenging when people would be confused about my ethnicity since I had an American accent, but looked Indian. One of my best friends I made abroad was also a first-generation whose parents immigrated to The Netherlands. We shared experiences and challenges we’d faced in our home countries and found so many similarities between our lives. We’d share different parts of our culture and this is where I learned to embrace my background and share it with everyone. I hosted a little Thanksgiving with all my friends since they’d never experienced an American Thanksgiving and heard so much about it and also hosted an Indian-themed dinner party to have my friends try Indian food.

Danes are known to be very accepting but tend to keep to themselves. A lot of interactions with strangers are nonverbal and, coming from a country where strangers interact, was new to me. I took classes with mostly Danish students and found it to be challenging at first. I remember feeling anxious after the first week of school since I’d felt like an outsider. The majority of classwork involved group projects, however, and this gave me a chance to become friends with Danish students in my group and also connect with other international students I’d meet in class. I enjoyed befriending Danish students, they’d recommend Danish foods to try and teach me Danish!

I ultimately found my confidence, learned to embrace my identity, and get out of my comfort zone. I realized how important change is and to live in the moment. Studying abroad helped me slow down my life and look at what makes me happy. My exchange program focused on building connections with other international students, and I’m so thankful to have friends who live all across the world. When I start doubting myself, I always remind myself that if I was able to fly to a new country and live there for five months by myself, I can do anything!