Ed Abroad Student Creates Website for College Travelers
- Jan 11, 2024
- Alex Briseño
Senior journalism student Dina Barrish knew she wanted to study abroad long before her program led her to Madrid in Spring 2023. What Barrish wasn’t expecting from the experience, though, was for it to lead her to develop a website geared specifically for college students studying abroad and navigating a country for the first time. Postcards, Barrish explained, is a travel hub built by a college student for college students.
One semester after returning from Madrid, Barrish realized her original idea for the website was also perfectly suited to serve as her honors capstone project at the Moody College of Communication.
“It’s not like I was this seasoned traveler who arrived in Madrid with all of my tips and tricks prior to studying abroad. It was my first time in Europe, so exploring outside of Madrid was all new to me,” Barrish said. “Learning to navigate around cities in countries you are unfamiliar with is definitely part of the adventure, but it always helps to have some insider knowledge.”
That’s what motivated Barrish to create a one-stop resource for college students who, like her, want to explore countries and experience other cultures during their studies abroad without breaking the bank.
Postcards draws inspiration from The New York Times’ ”36 Hours” series — a traveler’s guide to a city’s culture, must-see destinations and dining experiences — and gives it a more affordable and realistic approach for college students getting to know their new surroundings and nearby travel destinations.
“I kept up with the series and thought, ‘OK, I love The New York Times, but who my age is going to eat at these Michelin-starred restaurants during their one weekend in Paris?’ ” Barrish said. “It’s not going to happen, so what are some realistic travel recommendations for college students? Finding vetted hostels in new cities was also tricky, so the website assists with that, as well.”
The website currently highlights 10 destinations: Amsterdam, Cinque Terre, Costa Rica, Egypt, Greece, Madrid, Reykjavík, Tel Aviv, Tokyo and Vietnam. Each destination page offers recommendations for vetted hostels, restaurants, excursions, safety and public transportation systems, alongside interviews with other students Barrish connected with through her education abroad program and an internship with United Airlines the following summer. The capstone project also allowed her to expand the website by including an “Industry Insights” page, featuring interviews with flight attendants and writers on tips, tricks and best travel practices.
Texas Global interviewed Barrish about her website, advice for UT Austin students who are interested in studying abroad and her experience abroad through Academic Programs International (API), a UT Austin affiliate.
What did you enjoy about your study abroad program?
I loved that API set us up in a dorm that was not connected to any university. Most of the students from my program were there, and many had Spanish roommates. That was a really cool and immersive experience for me. I became good friends with my roommate. I will say that her English was also very good, so that was definitely helpful. She would help me with my Spanish, and she’d even correct me and make fun of me in a playful way. By the end of the program, my Spanish had significantly improved.
What courses did you take?
I took three courses at Nebrija University in Madrid: modern art and architecture, European cinema and international relations. I really enjoyed the European cinema class. I had never watched so many foreign films before this course. We worked our way around Europe to see how different countries’ cultures are portrayed in cinema. It was really interesting.
What was it like being the only UT student on this program?
I was so excited, but I was also nervous. I was not expecting to make actual, lasting friendships, but that’s exactly what happened. Someone from my abroad program visited me for a weekend during the fall semester. I took her to her first Texas football game and gave her the full game-day experience. I was not expecting to come away with the friendships that I did.
What did you learn during your time abroad?
The world feels a lot smaller when you're in Europe. It sounds like a silly thing to say, but going from Spain to Portugal is like going from Texas to Oklahoma. You learn that the people in Europe seem to be more aware of the world and the various cultures surrounding them. It makes you want to be that way, as well. Generally, I learned that I love a sense of adventure. That carried over to my summer travels as well, during my internship with United Airlines. It became less and less scary and more exciting to find myself somewhere new. I quickly started looking forward to exploring new cultures and countries.
How was your internship with United Airlines?
They loved the travel experience I’d gained during my abroad program, so that helped me land a corporate communications internship. It was the most incredible thing ever because I was able to fly for free! It was also a crazy experience because all of my flights were standby. I was taking 10-hour flights to be somewhere for one or two days. The interns would show up to the office and ask each other, ‘All right, where are we going?’ We’d arrive at work with luggage, ready to go. I went somewhere every single weekend of the internship. I went to Iceland, Belgium, Maui right before the devastating fire, Tel Aviv, Brazil, Florida, Los Angeles and New York City.
Is there anything you’d like to share with students who are considering a study abroad program?
I want to study abroad again. I want to be back in Madrid. While I was preparing during the winter break leading up to my program, the anticipation was fun, but the actual experience was even better than I thought it would be. You will shock yourself with how quickly you will grow comfortable with your new surroundings. You’ll make friends and connect with people from all around the world.