Studying abroad: Tips for doing it right

Studying abroad: Tips for doing it right”

by Savannah Steele via “The Red & Black

Last semester, I studied abroad in Seville, Spain for four months. I traveled every weekend, became fluent in Spanish and made memories that will last me a lifetime. I learned firsthand what it takes to wash and dye leather, what the sound of the daily Arabic prayer sounds like at 5:30 a.m., which type of gelato is the best tasting and what shoes are comfortable to walk along cobblestone streets in. I learned that saying you’re American is not always a good thing, lunch is at 3 p.m. and daily siestas are not only welcomed, but also necessary. 

I would not change my experience abroad for the world, but looking back, there are a few mistakes I could have avoided if I’d had some advice.

Savannah Steele

 First off, once you pick the program you want, call them. Each organization has guidance counselors to help your transition flow much easier. I asked my counselor questions concerning what types of foods Spaniards eat, what classes were most popular, facts about the city and what it’s like to live with a host mom. You want to be as prepared as possible before departing or you will suffer from culture shock. As long as you prepare ahead of time and feel ready to take on this journey, you will love it.

 Second, I wish I had looked more into my class schedule. Like you would here at UGA, you need to carefully consider your availability during the application process. The last thing you want to do is get stuck with a difficult class on Friday afternoons while all your friends are traveling around Belgium for the weekend. The key to scheduling classes is to leave room for travel; after all, class is important but this experience is about stepping out of the classroom and into the world.

Next, be mindful of . . . .


Interview with Featured Study Abroadist ~ Lauren Hall!

Lauren in Prague

Yeah! We have a new featured Student Abroad Interview!  Ladies and gentlemen, meet Lauren Hall, author of the blog “I’m Coming For You, Prague

This lovely young woman has been blessed with the opportunity to give European culture a try, more specifically Prague in the Czech Republic.  You heard that right, the beautiful land of classic and varied architecture, delicious foods, beautiful art, centuries of history, and more.  What a chance!  

Although she’s busy being awesome and having amazing fun times, she was kind enough to agree to an interview about her study abroad experience — why she went, why this program, the country, and more.  Thanks Lauren!

Also, please don’t forget to check out her blog “I’M COMING FOR  YOU, PRAGUE” for more information about her trip abroad!  She’s a great story-teller!



Where are you in Your Education? (Sophomore, Junior, Etc.–Highschool/College)

Lauren: “I am going to be a senior in college. “

What have you decided to/are you interested in studying? 

Lauren: “I am majoring in Communication Sciences and Disorders and minoring in Child Development and International Studies. I want to get my masters degree in Speech Pathology and become a Speech-Language Pathologist. I do not know if I want to work with children or older adults yet.”

Why did you decided to study abroad; what sort of things did you consider?

Lauren: “I always wanted to travel Europe and I knew that once I graduated college, got my masters and got a job, doing this would be very difficult. My school has a very good study abroad program and I knew that I would not let myself miss out on this. “ Continue reading

Distance, difference and appreciation in studying abroad

“Distance, difference and appreciation in studying abroad”

by Allanah Avalon via “Stuff

I have been studying abroad since August 2014, at New York University – Abu Dhabi, an American institute in the United Arab Emirates. I have just completed my first year and have three years remaining at NYUAD, from which I will graduate with a Bachelor of Arts in political science and theatre.

Since leaving New Zealand not only have I encountered all of the typical problems one might face when moving away from home, such as homesickness and lost luggage, but I have experienced life lessons I would not have dreamed of going through if it were not for delving into the unknown – studying away.

I have grown as a person, but what has surprised me the most is how my appreciation and pride for being a New Zealander has developed.

Being immersed with students from all around the world, I am constantly questioning others on their culture and being questioned about New Zealand’s – questions  I would never have had to answer if I were studying at home. This has forced me to learn more of my own culture in a way that I would not have done if I had not decided to study abroad.

While studying away one meets and makes amazing friends and learns invaluable life lessons, but it is the lessons you learn about yourself that are the most important. These lessons have taught me to appreciate the place where I was fortunate enough to have grown up, New Zealand, while also gaining a deeper understanding into my culture, history and heritage.

Studying abroad means representing both yourself and the country you come from and, because of my experiences since being abroad, I am more of a patriotic New Zealand citizen than I was before beginning my studies in Abu Dhabi.

It is not that I was not a patriotic citizen while I was in New Zealand, it is simply the lack of time I had at home to acknowledge the true beauty of what New Zealand is.

This lack of time at home, between work, studies or daily errands, can force one to forget how important the culture one lives in is. If anything, since moving away I have become more aware of my cultural identity and my country. Due to this I feel closer to home than I ever did while at home, simply because of . . .


Study abroad: More to be gained than just class credit

“Study abroad: More to be gained than just class credit”

by Megan Corriveau via “Red & Black”

Paris, France

We all have that friend who studied abroad two years ago and hasn’t stopped talking about it. Or everyone you know has disappeared to Europe this summer and Instagram is littered with their experiences.

Well, they may have something to say that’s worth hearing.

Last month, I was sitting in a restaurant in the Czech Republic listening to German patrons and the host speak in broken English, trying to find a language both parties were comfortable with. If it were me, and probably many other American students who didn’t take a higher foreign language class than was absolutely required, my native language is really all I can offer. This exchange was incredible to observe and to ponder—and I wouldn’t have this experience without studying abroad.

I just returned from the six-week UGA-à-Paris program. I decided to study abroad to be inspired and challenged, to gain a new perspective on life and to get to know myself a little better. As much as I love Athens, I couldn’t expect this experience with the same old college routine. Was it life-changing? Yes. Did we all gain weight from the baguettes? Without a doubt.

If nothing more, studying abroad shows you life outside of the U.S. I haven’t taken a world history class since the tenth grade, and even my vague remembrance of that doesn’t do the real world justice. In the U.S., we don’t focus on matters outside of our country, let alone our continent. I was amazed at how many people in France recognized Georgia as a state, knew where it was and even knew about Atlanta. Whereas I started my trip not even knowing that France has both a president and a prime minister.

I can’t help but feel offensive. France can take the time to teach their students about U.S. history and current affairs but we don’t take any more time on their country than a single chapter on the French Revolution.

As spoiled Americans, it can be frustrating too. It’s nice that Europe is so much more energy conservative, but some days you just really want ice water after walking all day. Or ice served in your water at all.

But this exactly why you should study abroad. Especially with the longer programs, it comes to the point you are no longer are a tourist, but adapting to an entirely different culture.

And this leads to my main advice: don’t leave Hartsfield-Jackson with a closed mind, stereotypes or a preconceived notion that American culture is the best one there is. Trying to learn and follow the norms of where you are is imperative. I knew zero French, but I memorized several phrases, never assuming that English would be so commonly spoken. And it was appreciated that I at least tried.

As far as missing home and Chick-Fil-A, I was always aware of the six week-long commitment I made and never lost the feeling of awe of being in a new place. And I did not complain for things being done differently from my schemata, but welcomed it. . . .


My view: Studying abroad leads to more understanding

“My view: Studying abroad leads to more understanding”

by Isabel Young de Katona via “Santa Fe New Mexican”

First, there was a two-week delay due to visa problems, then the flight was rescheduled because of a technical problem, which lead to two more hours of waiting, and finally, we take off. As the plane soars through the night, I strain my neck to catch one last glimpse of the New York City skyline — though sitting in the center row of the airplane prevents me from doing this. The glimpse I never got would have been my last view of my country — the United States of America — for nine months. I was headed to Turkey to live, eat, sleep and breathe as an exchange student.

Fast forward 24 hours and I am in Istanbul. Contrary to the excitement I thought I would be feeling, I am filled with dread and a burning desire to know why I ever thought studying abroad would be a good idea. Culture shock did not affect me so much as a deep feeling of not belonging, though binge-watching Harry Potter-related videos on YouTube helped me. I felt like I was living an entire life condensed into one year, with normal emotions enhanced because of the unfamiliarity of the land.

Following the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the animosity garnered towards Muslim people, two former U.S. senators — Democrat Ted Kennedy and Republican Richard Lugar — crossed party lines to form the Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study Abroad program. It uses Department of State funds to bring high school students from countries with significant Muslim populations to the United States for an academic year on a full scholarship. Eventually the scholarship was extended so that American students could study in those countries as well. The program is going on its 12th successful year.

Educators and politicians have advocated for study abroad as a form of education not available within the classroom and identified it as a crucial aspect in our continuously globalized world. In a time when communication is easy, and conflicts around the world can be broadcast in countries miles away within seconds, human connection is a primary source to peace and understanding. . . . .


On Studying Abroad as a Person of Color: Don’t Believe Everything You Hear

“On Studying Abroad as a Person of Color: Don’t Believe Everything You Hear”

by Thomas Noah via “Huffington Post


As I prepared to study abroad in Florence, Italy, in 2014, I planned for the semester-long trip by reading relevant travel literature and speaking with other students who had traveled overseas. I did all the research I could get my hands on, poured over student presentations, and I liked most of what I read and heard. But, as an African-American, I was taken aback when a few sources mentioned to me that Italy had a reputation for open racism being exhibited by some of its citizens. Florence, being in the north of the country, was not a good place to be black, several folks had noted.

The pre-travel reading I did was very helpful. However, one of the most valuable lessons I learned from actually making the trip is that much of what you hear before going abroad might not be accurate, and that you can gain the best insights about a country, by far, from actually being there. During my semester in Italy, I had no problems — and encountered what may have been the least amount of discrimination I’d ever experienced anywhere in my life.

After arriving there, I soon realized that Florence was one of the most diverse places I’ve ever been. In addition to the local Fiorentini and residents from other parts of Italy and Europe, there were Black-Italians, Afro-Italians, Indian and other Asian-Italians. This diversity allowed me to stand out as an individual and fit in as a member of the community at the same time.

From my perspective, Italy has two distinct black communities: Black-Italian (people who were born, raised and acculturated Italian) and Afro-Italian (individuals who had emigrated directly from Africa). The differences in these groups were significant to me because for once in my life I was seen as an outlier within a Black community.

I’m used to identifying with the Black community in the U.S., where ethnicities, while salient for individuals, are not always recognized by society. After learning the nuances of identity within the Black community in Italy, I expected to experience at least some discrimination based on my own African heritage — I was actually born in Liberia but grew up in the U.S. However, my American identity was perceived first and foremost.

The Africans in Italy could tell right away that I was different. I was identified as being American. This was a different feeling for me. For the first time, I felt my American identity could really shine.

Despite what some others may have experienced, I actually never once felt personally discriminated against during my semester in Italy. In fact, many people there embraced me — especially when I wore my Boston hat. Fun fact: Italians love Boston. My American identity and being from the Boston area both proved to be an advantage for me throughout my time in Italy.

After all, I wasn’t “African enough” in an obvious cultural way to pass as Afro-Italian and I definitely did not display enough of a European fashion sense to be considered Black-Italian. I was even seen as having lighter skin than Afro-Italians, while in the U.S. I am seen as having darker skin than most of my African-American friends. Being seen as American truly shaped my experience into a positive one — and this nuanced sense of identity allowed me to stand out while fitting in.

Since returning from Italy, I have shared my own experiences with others who are interested, and have encouraged other students of color to consider studying abroad. Last year, 40 percent of my college’s graduating senior class had studied abroad, and I feel other students should be part of this experience. I’m also trying to advocate for more African Americans to take part in overseas travel and study. . . . . .


Exposure to other social rules is major part of study abroad

“Exposure to other social rules is major part of study abroad”

by Jasmine Li via “Daily Trojan

Last week, I sat with folded hands before my father and sister, surrounded by the warm aroma of an udon shop. My father’s noodles lie in a dish before him, smooth and garnished with Japanese plum.

He looked at me and said, “You’ve changed.”

A comment like that was to be expected after half a year of studying abroad in Japan. Though the singularity of the country and the homogeneity of its citizens can be overemphasized, it’s true that the societal norms here were enough to change me. Now, I bow reflexively and hold the elevator door open for my elders. I am shy calling someone by their first name and uncomfortable using an over-familiar form of speech. I try to soften my loud, deep voice and straightforward words.

The Japanese culture is one of respect and restraint. To that end, there are two basic forms of grammar patterns — polite and casual — both of which can be divided into yet more variations, each connoting a different level of respect and intimacy. It’s unheard of to use a casual form of speech to one’s superiors at work. Juniors at school are expected to speak politely to their seniors.

Just two days ago, I was taking a night stroll around the temple district of Asakusa as part of a club event. The night was warm and quiet. The still water of the fountains and the petals of the cherry blossoms were lit up by street lamps. I was walking alongside a freshman who, assuming I was the same age, spoke casually with me.

Half an hour later, an acquaintance smiled and said, “Jasmine’s a third-year, you know.”

In a heartbeat, the freshman changed his speech style and apologized. He insisted on attaching “sempai” to my name, an honorific reserved for one’s seniors at school and in the workplace. Despite my protests that I care little for such things, I was moved that he treated me as he would treat another Japanese person.

That isn’t to say, though, that I’m used to the custom. Using different forms of speech is a constant reminder of the distance between me and whomever I’m speaking with. Sometimes, I feel like I’m on an escalator watching people pass me by, headed to some remote platform either below or above me. Many of my friends here tell me, “You’re basically Japanese now,” but I am far from completely assimilated, and the path I took to get to where I am now was not a smooth one. . . .


How study abroad impacted my career

“How Study Abroad Impacted My Career”

by Elaine Kilgore via “Lanthorn

On behalf of Captain Baker and the entire crew, welcome aboard American Airlines flight 392, non-stop service from Chicago to Madrid.” Holy crap, I’m going, I’m finally going to Spain! The months of research and planning are finally paying off. This is a great idea. Isn’t it? I’ve been studying Spanish for years, but what if I don’t understand their dialect? Do Spaniards even like Americans? I don’t know anyone in Spain. What am I doing?

This is what goes through your mind when you study abroad for the first time. Excitement, with a healthy dose of fear. Growing up, I barely even traveled to Canada. But in 2011, the summer after my junior year, I left the continent. I had accepted an internship with a with a company in Madrid that connected private English tutors with Spaniards. I hopped on a plane with two other girls from GVSU, whom I barely knew.

My host “family” was group of three women who did not speak English. This was intimidating at first, but it forced me to practice and improve my Spanish. They were kind, inviting and understanding of the language barrier. They taught me how to cook a couple of their favorite dishes and made sure I felt welcome coming to them for anything.

If I felt homesick, I could Skype my family, boyfriend and my cat and dog. As time went on, I found myself less and less depending on the Skype conversations and more and more interested in planning my next adventure.

I could take a day trip to Toledo, Spain, try new food and tour an ancient city and, later that night, still check in with my cat in America. On my last day in Spain, I found myself mourning leaving the town, roommates and new friends I had made. Three months was more than enough time to fall in love with a country, its people and the language.

My second chance to study abroad came in the summer of 2012, when I applied for a program called Marketing in China. They accepted twelve students from GVSU, MSU, and SVSU, myself included. And I didn’t even know Chinese!

One day we met with the president of Amway China, and the next we were working our calves out on the Great Wall and learning how to make dumplings. We traveled throughout the region, hitting cities like Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Xi’an and Hong Kong.

Studying abroad isn’t strictly business, and it isn’t a vacation. I had the opportunity to experience the sights, food and people the world has to offer, and I did real work with real world benefits.. . . .”


Paris and Bangkok offer an entrepreneurial study abroad experience

“Paris and Bangkok offer an entrepreneurial study abroad experience”

by Conor Nordberg via “The Daily Aztec”

San Diego State has long had a penchant for great study abroad programs, having been rated in the top 25 universities nationwide by the Institute of International Education. With this in mind, faculty in the Lavin Entrepreneurship Center and College of Business Administration are preparing to travel to more countries to spread student awareness and understanding. Bernhard Schroeder, director of the Lavin Entrepreneurship Center and overseer of all graduate and undergraduate internship programs, was at the helm of one of the Paris trips during the winter break. He took students to Paris to understand entrepreneurship in a more global setting. “Students may consider this program for the course immersion that it would provide,” Schroeder said. Students not only were able to gain new insight into being an entrepreneur, but also met with local entrepreneurs to understand the ins and outs of business in Paris. This summer, Lois Olson, a lecturer from the college of Business Administration, will be taking entrepreneurship and marketing students to Paris for two weeks. Olson has taught at SDSU since 1988 and has taught internationally in many countries such as Germany, Taiwan, and China. She finds it important to take her students on cultural and company visits, allowing them to learn more about the country and its business sector as a whole. “Most of the students who have gone come away saying that their life has changed,” Olson said. . . . .


Voices: The dilemma of photographing developing Africa when studying abroad

“Voices: The dilemma of photographing developing Africa when studying abroad”

by Natalie Marshall via “USA Today

Last May, I went on a short-term study abroad trip to Ghana. The trip involved lots of interaction with Ghanaians with visits to schools, villages and cities to see how different groups of Ghanaians lived.

I took pictures every day because I wanted to remember all the incredible moments I experienced and all the things I learned. One picture that I thought would be particularly special is a photo of me with a group of children from the Gomoa Tekyiam village. It was taken after the chief welcomed me in a ceremony and I spent most of my day playing with the kids in the village. I asked for permission from the parents of the village to take the photo. They allowed it, so I thought I was doing everything right.



When I returned to the United States, I suddenly became self-conscious about this photo after I was bombarded with a flood of satire about the typical white American twenty-something who poses with African children for ‘likes’ on Facebook. The most popular satire surrounding this concept was an article in The Onion about a 22-year-old whose “completely transformative” trip to Malawi “has completely changed her profile picture.”

What became problematic for me was that my experience actually was very transformative. During my time in Ghana, I redefined my perception of poverty as I interacted with people who lived in mud huts— but had food security — sent their kids to school and generally lived well. I also learned that — despite some cultural differences — humans are fundamentally the same. We share common needs, concerns and feelings. When I took the picture with the kids, it was meant to serve as a memory of the very people who made me reevaluate my knowledge and understanding of the world. . . .