Posted by: Bryony Wardell, firstname.lastname@example.org
Posted on: December 10, 2018
Happy people, warm island breezes, colorful festivals and the taste of pastechi are just a few of the things Zahria Barber discovered she loves about Aruba. But what’s more, she discovered a love for meeting new people and exploring the world.
Barber was born and raised in South Carolina. Originally from Rock Hill, the Northwestern High School graduate has always called the Palmetto State home and, until recently, never traveled too far from it. When the time came to go to college, the University of South Carolina was the perfect choice for a world-class education within driving distance of Sunday dinners with family.
Now in her senior year, the hospitality management major has found her choice to stay in state was her ticket to traveling to new countries. For the first time in her life, Barber got her passport this year and studied abroad — spending a semester living and learning in Aruba.
“I really learned a lot about myself and got to explore a new culture,” Barber said. “It surprised me how friendly and happy everyone was, and it taught me to open up and feel more confident about meeting new people and making new friends here on campus or anywhere I go.”
Friendly and happy defines Aruba’s culture. The 70-square-mile Dutch island nation is located in the southern region of the Caribbean Sea off the coast of Venezuela. It has a rich history dating back to A.D.1,000 when the earliest inhabitants were thought to have moved to the island, and then European settlement began in the 1400s.
When she wasn’t in class or enjoying time by the ocean, Barber took in historic and natural heritage sites, learning about the country’s economic history in gold, aloe production and tourism. She also got to enjoy one of the most festive times of year, Carnival, including colorful parades, live music and dancing in the street with food and craft vendors.
“I really learned a lot about myself and got to explore a new culture. It surprised me how friendly and happy everyone was, and it taught me to open up and feel more confident about meeting new people and making new friends here on campus or anywhere I go.”
— Zahria Barber, hospitality management
While it was a bit of a plunge to go from never leaving the state to being in another country for four months, Barber said Aruba offered the perfect opportunity.
“The flight is pretty short from Columbia to Aruba, and I love the beach and the warm weather,” she said. “Traveling was easy. I got my passport and rented a car while I was there so I could explore the whole island.”
UofSC’s College of Hospitality, Retail and Sport Management has a partnership with University of Aruba’s hospitality management program, so Barber was able to participate in a direct enrollment exchange. The partnership between the two sister schools is designed to advance global knowledge and collaboration, and makes it easy for students to take courses that match up to degree requirements. Barber even saw some of her UofSC professors on campus while she was there.
“I studied strategic management in hospitality, business research methods, organizational fundamentals of international business and psychology,” she said. “The professors were all really friendly and helpful, and it was a different learning environment with small classes and lots of essay writing and analyzing.”
Helping to make the experience financially possible, Barber applied for and won a $4,000 Erasmus Grant to go towards her travel and tuition.
“There are lots of scholarships available, you just have to do a little research and apply,” she said.
With graduation on the horizon and her sights set on an event management career, Barber is glad she had the opportunity to travel internationally as part of her college experience and is already thinking about where she will go next.
“I’ve been considering the Netherlands or Cuba, and decided on Cuba where I will be studying culture and the economy over spring break,” she says. “If you’re a student thinking about studying abroad, just do it. It is totally worth it.”
For more information about studying abroad opportunities with the College of HRSM, visit our study abroad page.