Studying abroad in conflict zones: Reckless or rewarding?

“Studying abroad in conflict zones: Reckless or rewarding?”

by Sanya Mansoor via “Christian Science Monitor

Should universities support students and faculty when they travel to dangerous countries for research or study abroad programs?

Some say their passion may overpower their concerns.

The potential to help activists and scholars outweighs the risks posed by an unstable country, argues Peter Levine, a Tufts University professor. Next month, he will lead a conference in Ukraine, even though the US State Department has flagged the former Soviet republic as dangerous for travel. The summit will focus on civics, in part because the country exemplifies the struggles of a fledgling democracy.

But the risks are real.

Mr. Pochter, who traveled to Egypt through a private education group, was killed during clashes between supporters and opponents of Mohamed Morsi, then the president of Egypt, The New York Times reported.

When countries are perceived as conflict zones, their popularity as study-abroad sites for American students inevitably declines, notes the AP. . . .


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. . . .


STEM Students Study Abroad for Social Good

“STEM Students Study Abroad for Social Good”

by David F. Fougere via “3P

Engineering majors study abroad in United Arab Emirates.


This graduation season, while enjoying the commencement speeches full of inspirational words for students heading out into the world, ready to make it a better place, let’s consider this heartening fact: There’s a good chance they’ll make good on their promises. Forty percent of bachelor’s degrees earned by men and 29 percent earned by women are now in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), according to the National Student Clearinghouse. These are the innovators – the engineers, scientists and researchers – who will solve the world’s problems and lead us into the future.

Hard sciences as curricula for triple-bottom-line career paths? Absolutely.

At its highest level, the STEM philosophy is about improving quality of life and the health of the planet. This is a mantle that’s perfect for Generation Z, a cohort encompassing today’s high school and college students that is increasingly passionate about the needs of the developing world. With STEM degrees in hand, these soon-to-be professionals hold the knowledge and technologies needed to solve real-world problems and improve standards of living — not just in the United States, but also around the world.

More than 7 billion people around the world rely on STEM to solve rapidly increasing problems related to climate change, contamination, and food and water shortages. Combating these global issues requires the ability to see from multiple perspectives and the skills to bridge cultural divides.

As early as grade school, students are learning about the international nature of STEM efforts, from global warming to sustainability, and about the destinations far beyond U.S. borders that are leading the way. Take renewable energy: Denmark leads in wind power, Iceland in geothermal energy, Germany in sustainable architecture, Japan in solar, Costa Rica in hydroelectric power, Africa in rural water management and irrigation – the list goes on and on.

What it all comes down to is the fact that, to be cutting-edge or even just competitive, STEM works best with an international understanding of research and how to apply technologies and ideas within a cultural framework to make them most effective.

Increasingly, college and high school students are discovering that the best way to gain this critical international understanding while honing their skills in their chosen field is to combine their STEM curriculum with study abroad.

Take a look at a few examples. STEM students today can study conservation and marine biology in the island nation of Bonaire, home to one of the Earth’s most diverse and pristine marine habitats. But make no mistake; this is no beach vacation. Students on a tropical marine ecology and conservation program go on 35 scientific dives as part of their coursework. They collaborate on research projects with the Bonaire National Marine Park and other institutions, then present their findings to the public. Students even submit their findings to the student scientific journal, Physis: Journal of Marine Science. All this while immersing themselves in the local culture and deepening their appreciation for the impact their work can have.

Alternatively, engineering students might opt to spend a semester in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Home to incredible engineering feats, like the Burj Khalifa (the tallest tower in the world) and Palm Jumeirah (a man-made, palm tree-shaped archipelago), the UAE is the perfect place to learn about engineering, the Arab world and the global economy. There, students refine their Arabic language skills, and witness the daily intersection of traditional values and modern realities firsthand. They also go on excursions that illuminate their understanding of the region, alter their perspective of the world and match experiential learning with coursework. . . . .


Study Abroad Could Be So Much Better

“Study Abroad Could Be So Much Better”

by Stacie Nevadomski Berdan via “

Study Abroad Could Be So Much Better 1

The number of American students studying abroad is on the rise, and that is a very good thing. But more than just increasing the numbers, colleges would be well advised to take a hard look at their study-abroad programs to ensure that they are providing students with a quality international-study experience at an affordable price. Too many programs are unnecessarily expensive, and many of them don’t help students acquire the cross-cultural skills necessary for long-term career success across a broad spectrum of fields.

Today’s students increasingly recognize that study abroad is one of the best ways they can acquire the valuable international experience necessary to work in the 21st-century global marketplace. What they don’t realize is that all study-abroad programs do not help them equally in this respect. In an effort to satisfy the growing demand for international experience, colleges naturally highlight their commitment to global education. But how global are they?

Far too many institutions seem to equate global education with study abroad; many of them have established “centers” for global education or global studies that function primarily as the study-abroad office. Although studying abroad is an important component of global education, true global education encompasses much more.

Certainly, any time spent studying abroad is valuable and can help a student become more globally competent, but programs vary widely in their ability to help students gain the depth of knowledge that should come with true global learning. Research conducted over the past 10 years and discussed in the 2012 book Student Learning Abroad: What Our Students Are Learning, What They’re Not, and What We Can Do About It,edited by Michael Vande Berg, R. Michael Paige, and Kris Hemming Lou, shows that far too many undergraduates who study abroad are not learning and developing in ways that were common as recently as a decade ago.

One of the shortfalls identified in the book is the lack of engagement — both before students go abroad and after their return — between professors (or study-abroad leaders) and students, with the intention of explaining and helping students interpret their experiences. This interactive process is just as crucial to students’ cross-cultural learning as the experience itself. Although colleges try to prepare students by providing orientations, suggesting websites to visit, and recommending country-specific information to review, this is not nearly enough to prepare students for the experience they are about to have.

Research I conducted in conjunction with the Institute of International Education for A Student’s Guide to Study Abroad indicated that only one-fourth (out of a total of 350 students on more than 250 campuses) of students were provided with any cross-cultural training before they left, while only a little more than one-third were offered the names of fellow students who had gone to the same host country. And only one-fifth of respondents to my survey said they had been offered books or travel guides with cultural information specific to the country or region to which they would be traveling. Mandatory re-entry or reintegration classes were reported as minimal, although many colleges encouraged students to join re-entry gatherings.

These statistics are troubling. When students go abroad, they land not only in another country but in another culture. It can’t be seen, but it can be felt: different values, behaviors, beliefs, and attitudes shared by a society and shaped by its environment. The culture is expressed in feelings, judgments, and mental constructs that are typically subtle in nature. If students don’t know to be aware of culture, they won’t be able to respond appropriately, perhaps even inhibiting their ability to communicate.

To that end, all study-abroad programs should mandate cross-cultural preparation, training, and reintegration programs — but far too many don’t.

In an effort to determine why not, I followed up with many study-abroad offices and administrators. Not surprisingly, cost is a big concern. The programs are already expensive, and to add training by cross-cultural experts before and after is deemed to be prohibitively so. Time is another factor; both the limited time students have before leaving and that of the overstretched departments advising students before they go abroad and helping them upon their return.

But perhaps most unsettling was that many study-abroad advisers and administrators didn’t think anything more than the general orientations and returnee welcomes already being provided were necessary. This directly contradicts what academic research has shown and what thousands of students have told me over the years.

The vast majority of students I have asked about cross-cultural preparation said they wished that they had been better prepared to deal with cultural differences when studying abroad. When I asked why, most said they felt confused by interactions with local people and didn’t understand what was happening in social situations. Many of the students I interviewed said they felt so uncomfortable that they increased the amount of time they spent with fellow Americans and on social media with friends and family back home — the opposite of what they should have been doing.

Most students reported even greater difficulties and lack of support upon returning home. They felt less comfortable with their new selves on their old campuses and had trouble reintegrating. They didn’t understand how to leverage their experiences abroad to help them in their remaining studies and in their lives after graduation, whether academically or professionally.


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. . . .


What Happens When You Leave Your Heart On Your Study Abroad Trip

“What Happens When You Leave Your Heart On Your Study Abroad Trip”

by Elizabeth Brennan via “Elite Daily” 

We Heart It

A foreign language, unbearably warm weather year round and the aroma of cigarettes everywhere you go is supposed to cause homesickness during the first few weeks of studying abroad.

Europe is everything the United States isn’t, but what if “homesickness” doesn’t hit you until six months later, once you land back stateside?

You’re no longer homesick for your mom’s pasta or the peanut butter you can’t buy overseas. Instead, you’re incredibly nostalgic for every moment you just spent 3,000 miles away from “home.”

Studying abroad is one large vacation filled with minimal time studying English literature, replaced by jet-setting on Ryanair throughout Europe.

It’s the one time in your life you’re allowed to put academics second and social life first so as to become “cultured” and more aware of the world around you for a few months.

From touring the Colosseum in Rome to sailing through the fjord in Norway to dancing until 4 am in a Dublin club, studying abroad only happens once in your life. It’s a six-month vacation where you can’t remember half of the incredible memories you made.

What happens, though, when studying abroad impacts you far beyond your extended vacation? What happens when your experience in Europe clashes with your reality when you are back home and no one seems to understand what you’re going through?

It’s like a reverse culture shock.

Coming back to college should be easy. You’re finally back on campus with your friends, enjoying the holidays with your family and adjusting back to your normal day-to-day activities, which include academics.

Something is holding you back though from enjoying these precious moments, though. You can’t seem to forget what happened to you during the past six months.

You replay the hours upon hours of memories wrapped in your head: dancing after hours at your favorite London club, reading in the Paris bookstore James Joyce used to visit and walking the path to the city center with your flat mates.

Most importantly, you weren’t supposed to fall in love abroad. Whether you fell in love with the Irish boy you kissed at the pub one October evening and Skyped with every day for nearly three years after, or simply fell in love with your host country, it is easy to fall in love while studying abroad. . . .


The real value of study abroad

“The real value of study abroad”

by Sophia Wushanley via “The Daily Pennsylvanian”

The woman I rented a room from in France told me she had two goals in life: to live in Paris, and to travel a lot. Her apartment in the 13th arrondissement was filled with trinkets she had picked up in the multiple continents she had visited over the years. While I was there, she took her three weeks’ vacation to travel to Namibia, returning with hundreds of photos and many stories to tell.

I’m pretty confident in my belief that, in terms of primary ambitions, those two goals aren’t very “Penn.” I doubt I would have encountered someone with a similar approach to life if I hadn’t skipped campus for a semester during my junior year. But they’re emblematic of why it was so important that I did. They represent, I think, the real value of study abroad.

As a Penn Abroad ambassador, I talk to a lot of sophomores who are anxious about credit transfers and college requirements. More fundamental, though, is the fear that going abroad for a semester is kind of a frivolous thing to do. “Travel broadens the mind” seems like a bit of a shaky cliche when held up against something so evidently valuable as a semester of Ivy League education. I think this doubt is reasonable.

Travel doesn’t necessarily broaden the mind. It’s possible to live in another country for a few months without learning much of anything. A group of American friends and a “EuroTrip” mentality is all it takes to extend the “Penn bubble” to a different continent.

But if you manage to avoid this attitude, and I think most of us do, your semester away from Penn can be a key part of your Penn experience. For me, the opportunity to travel was secondary to the perspective that came from removing myself from Penn for a semester, not just physically, but also mentally.

In fact, the impact of my semester away came just as much from where I wasn’t as from where I was. I wasn’t walking down Locust Walk every morning. I wasn’t filling out When2meets. I wasn’t running for any club boards. A lot of the things I had built the structure of my life around were, outside of Penn, optional or nonexistent.

Spending a semester outside of our campus’s value system is uncomfortable at first.

You’re plunged into an environment in which people hold an entirely different set of values. The ties you think you need in order to feel secure about your identity are cut off for a period of time, and that’s disorienting.

But finding out that you can live without them is a priceless realization. It frees you from the kind of tunnel vision that can start to prevail if you’re immersed in the same atmosphere for four years. Things that are considered important at Penn temporarily disappear, and all that’s left to consider is what’s important to you.


Tips for studying overseas: ‘Never ask for a ride in Ireland, it’s a lift’

“Tips for studying overseas: ‘Never ask for a ride in Ireland, it’s a lift’”

by Erin McGuire via “Irish Times

Lost in translation: differences in the use of language can lead to confusion, so it’s a good idea to acclimatise yourself

Having gone to college on both sides of the Atlantic, I know studying abroad can be rewarding but also a bit of a challenge.

My first course abroad was my undergraduate degree – psychology at Trinity College. My motivation at age 18 was that I wanted to get out of Dodge.

Within days of my arrival, I had a nose ring. Which is to say, the experience of studying abroad fostered a sense of independence and autonomy.

I’m from the US and had been in Ireland only once before, for a cousin’s wedding when I was 11. It took me a while to figure things out: like opening a bank account, remembering which way to look before crossing the road (the signs helped), finding a place to live, making friends and being able to follow a conversation (I know it’s English, but still).

Which brings me to my first tip: give yourself time to adjust. When you move abroad to study, everything about your life will change, so don’t expect to settle in immediately.

At least once in the first few weeks, if not days, I thought, “What have I done?”. But it really did all work out in the end.

Let’s face it: going to university abroad, even at postgraduate level, isn’t just about studying. It’s about experiencing a different culture, meeting new people and collecting experiences.

When I was at Trinity, and then years later doing a master’s in journalism at DCU, I was glad I decided to do a whole course abroad, rather than a semester or two. I met students on exchange programmes, and they clung to each other rather than making new friends. The next tip: mingle with the locals. It’s the best way to get a sense of a place. I made Irish friends by reading road signs aloud in Irish, which they found hilarious! I ended up scoring invites to visit friends’ families in different parts of the country, a brilliant way to travel.

Application process

Applying to do a postgrad abroad is going to be a little more paperwork-intensive than applying to do one in your home country. When I was applying to law schools in the US after my undergrad at Trinity, I had quite a few more hoops to jump through than my peers who had stayed home.

For example, the Irish marking system is so wildly different to the American one, I had to have my grades translated by a “credential evaluation service”.

It took time and cost a couple hundred dollars; according to the World Education Service, the current price is $205 (€180) for an evaluation of transcripts and $30 (€26) to send the report to each additional college you’re applying to.

Extra little requirements like that made the process more time consuming and expensive. So give yourself enough time

A approach to your postgraduate application abroad is probably not going to work out well for you. Check the deadlines and write them on your calendar in blood. Give yourself a couple weeks more than you think you’ll need. Unforeseen glitches can add days or weeks to the process.


When I was applying for the journalism master’s in 2013, I had a small problem with my application online through the Postgraduate Application Centre (PAC), which many Irish institutions use.

Because of my unconventional education path, I had more documents to upload than there was space for online. I had to make a few calls and get tech support to work magic so I could upload my mountain of documents.

Even though it wasn’t a huge problem, and the tech support staff at PAC were really quite helpful, it took a day or two to sort out. If that had happened on the the application due date, it would have been a catastrophe.

The cost of a master’s in Ireland versus the US wasn’t the only reason I decided to study here, but it was a factor. The one-year MA at DCU is listed this year at €13,300 for a non-EU student. In the US I would have paid at least double that, especially since most programmes are two-years long. . . . .


10 Reasons Why You Should Study Abroad in Australia

“10 Reasons Why You Should Study Abroad in Australia”

by College Tourist via “Huffington Post


So many people I know study abroad in European destinations — England, France, Spain. But here are 10 reasons you should consider Australia as a study abroad option.

1. Speak the Same Language
If you’re not learning a foreign language (or even if you are) Australia is the perfect place, because guess what? We speak English! Yay. You won’t have to worry about making awkward hand signals or getting lost in translation, because Australians will know exactly what you’re talking about (even if we do have weird accents).

2. Unique Flora and Fauna
Did you know that around 80 percent of plants and animals found in Australia are unique to this country only? The variety of animals you can see here over any other place in the world is astounding, and this would be especially relevant if you want a degree in related science fields. Get photos with kangaroos, koalas, wombats, quokkas (yes, these are a thing — Google it!), and every type fish you could think of.

3. Amazing Beaches
Do you like surfing? Australia has some of the best spots for this! Do you like to lay out and tan? We have the perfect white sand for you to do so. Want to snorkel with aquatic life? Far North Queensland and the Great Barrier Reef is for you. Australia has some of the most beautiful beaches in the world; many of them rarely touched by humans.

4. Cool Cultural Places
Australia is said to be the home of the oldest humans in the world — the indigenous people of Australia! In the Northern Territory you can explore caves and rock formations that were around in the Dreamtime. Visit Uluru, a large, isolated desert rock in the middle of Australia, sacred to the indigenous people. Besides this, Australia’s cities are ethnic and diverse, home to people with nationalities from all over the world.

5. Outdoor Activities and Sports
Snorkelling and diving? Hiking? Surfing? AFL (Australian Rules Football)? kayaking? Beach volleyball? Skiing? Australian Tennis Open? Australia has it all. This country is conducive to an outdoor and healthy lifestyle, with the ability to partake in any sport or recreational activity you wish.

6. Laid-back People
Everywhere you go in Australia you will come across nice and welcoming people. Maybe it’s being in a country with generally good weather, or being so close to the beach, but you will easily find relaxed people who don’t take life too seriously. Although this may be a generalization, I’ve found that it is true in most cases!

7. Fun Things To Do for Students
All of the major cities in Australia are perfect places for students to live, work and study. With bars, pubs and clubs everywhere, you will most likely have a local hangout to go to every night of the week. Australian universities are also great places to join clubs and societies, which are easy ways to make friends and go to events throughout the week.


Study abroad gives unexpected lessons

“Study abroad gives unexpected lessons”

by Yasmeen Serhan via “Daily Trojan

Before I packed my bags and set off on my semester-long Parisian adventure, I did what almost every student who is about to go abroad does: I read a Buzzfeed article about studying abroad.

In my case, the post was titled, “43 Reasons Studying Abroad In Paris Destroys You For Life.” Contrary to how the headline sounds, the post aimed to highlight all of the amazing things about studying abroad in Paris, from its incredible cuisine to its picturesque city streets, and how such things make it almost impossible to ever live life the same way again. In short, it set some pretty high expectations for the city of lights, and it was only until after I arrived in Paris in late January that I was able to realize how on-point the post really was. With Paris’s rich history and unmatched beauty (rain or shine — though mostly rain), it didn’t take long to fall in love with the city.

But in all the ways the post is right about life in Paris, there were some things about the Parisian experience that it fails to capture.

1. You’re not a perpetual tourist.

Don’t let your friends’ Instagram and Snapchat posts fool you — study abroad isn’t all fun and games. Behind all the captured moments of touristy excursions, delicious meals and well-timed selfies, there is some serious cultural immersion taking place. For some students, this means adapting to living alone in a new city. For others, this means adjusting to life as the newest member of your host family. Whether it’s figuring out how to best maneuver around your new city or simply becoming a regular at your local patisserie, achieving a daily routine is the ultimate mark of an immersed study abroad student.

2. Despite all the fun and traveling, it’s still study abroad.

Studying in a foreign country definitely takes on a different form than what one might be used to. Just as one still has to attend class (the only difference, of course, being that sometimes your classes are held in museums — c’est la vie), you still have to account for midterms, projects and final papers.

What’s more, the learning doesn’t stop once you leave the classroom. In fact, I’ve found that some of my most challenging lessons of study abroad have appeared in places where I’d least expect them to, such as on the streets of Paris. Every metro ride becomes a lesson in French social norms (Lesson one: You should be quiet on the metro), every purchase is a lesson on handling European currency, and every dinner with my French family is a pop quiz on the news of the day. It’s a perpetual learning process.

3. Study abroad is more than just transferring one’s studies to a foreign country — it’s a cultural sabbatical.

Regardless of where you choose to study abroad, you’re ultimately going to find yourself facing a culture completely foreign to your own. Though some things like language barriers and different eating habits are easier to anticipate, other more subtle cultural differences — such as how to tip at a restaurant or even something as simple as finding cafes that offer coffee to-go — can be a bit more challenging.