Posts Tagged 'U.S. Department of State'

What Makes Studying Abroad Worth Your Time?

You just landed in a new country. You take a deep breath. You’re studying abroad. Once the excitement dissipates you realize you have no clue where you are, you don’t know the language, and you don’t recognize anything (save a few chains like McDonald’s or Starbucks). You ask yourself, “Why am I here?”

Of course you want to discover new territory, meet new people, and sample tasty native cuisine, but any traveler could do that. Why did you decide to study abroad?  Escaping the normality of everyday life is one reason, but as an article for the INSE at the University of Oslo explains, there are a few key benefits.

Experience a New Country

Living abroad is the best way to adapt to a culture. You’ll discover the customs that make a culture tick on a daily basis.

Some Customs Can't Be Explained

Some Customs Can't Be Explained

Learning the language helps you appreciate this different way of life. You won’t become fluent in a semester but you will learn more than you ever imagined. If you stay for a year- you may never want to leave. When you’re not exploring take some time to soak in the sights and sounds. There’s a big world out there just waiting to be conquered. It’s best to do a little research before leaving. Check out Gulliver’s “Prepare to Go” section to brush up on everything you’ll need to know.

Personal Growth

The moment you decide to study abroad you become a different person. You step out of your comfort zone and into a strange environment.  When you have no friends or family to rely on, you become stronger and more independent. You grow as a person and are able to handle any situation or crisis that comes your way.  Some might find it hard to build relationships overseas; others will find it easy. Don’t force yourself to do anything that is uncomfortable, but do push yourself to take risks. Bring a positive attitude. It will keep you upbeat and focused on your education and experience rather than what you miss back home.

Career Opportunities

Studying abroad gives you access to a larger and more diverse job market. The trip could push you ahead in your current career or create a new direction.  When applying to jobs, be sure to include your abroad experience as well as any languages you attained. This shows you can adapt to most situations and want to advance your skills in the real world.

Apply Your New Knowledge Back Home

While abroad, you’ll gain insight into the lifestyle of your adopted home.  Put this knowledge to good use when you return stateside. Maybe this experience will inspire you to seek change back home, or get involved in volunteer or charity work. The opportunities are endless. One thing’s for sure, you will return home transformed.

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National Emergency Can Strengthen a Study Abroad Experience

You’re sound asleep in your dorm room, hotel,  apartment, or  home stay.  Suddenly you’re jolted awake. What time is it? No, you didn’t oversleep-  It’s only three o’clock in the morning. What just happened?  Little do you know a massive earthquake has just struck in a nearby city. When you study abroad you take every precaution against getting your ID stolen; you pray for a safe flight; and you hope your housing doesn’t fall through.  It’s not natural to consider you might be caught in an actual emergency. In the wee hours of Monday morning, students near L’Aquila, Italy, a mountainous city northeast of Rome, felt one of the country’s strongest earthquakes. For some it was their first earthquake. Congratulations. Over the next few days, months, even years, students will discover the impact of the earthquake through their cultural interactions.  It’s a once in a lifetime experience to witness a culture, city, or country, rebuild itself after a disaster.  How do you, a student or traveler, prepare for something of this magnitude?

According to The New York Times the earthquake in central Italy has killed approximately 150 people, injured another 1,500, and left 40,000 to 50,000 homeless.  Fortunately, most American students are studying abroad in parts of northern Italy or Rome… and none of them were hurt.  As Italy mourns, U.S. Study Abroad Offices are contacting their overseas program supervisors to account for each student’s whereabouts. Places like Temple University, Georgetown University, and Northern Illinois quickly posted updates for nervous family members and friends about the condition of students in Rome – and other parts of Italy. Georgetown University is even assessing the future of its own Summer study abroad program in L’Aquila, the town most devastated by the earthquake. Natural disasters are rare – but they do happen. And students are not forgotten once they skip the country.  Is it possible to prepare for a natural disaster before going abroad?  You bet!

Being Prepared Gives You More Time to Relax and Enjoy the Ride

Being Prepared Gives You More Time to Relax and Enjoy the Ride

The easiest way to get ahead of the game is to get a cell phone.  In this case, study abroad students were far enough away from the earthquake that cell phone lines were not tied up.  Your family and friends will breath easier once they know you’re safe.  If you have access to internet- email, Twitter, and Facebook are the best places to start. Once you post an update, everyone and their mother will know your whereabouts. Within seconds the world knew an earthquake struck Italy.  Before you leave home, make sure you have all the emergency contact information for your home institution or program provider. Western Oregon University is one of many universities that posts emergency information online.  You may never need to use it, but again, better safe than sorry.

The Students Abroad U.S. Department of State Preparedness site provides students and travelers alike with emergency numbers for any country, evacuation procedures,  assistance for victims of crime, or help if you’re arrested. If your situation becomes unsafe and you have to leave you’ll be assisted by your program supervisors as well as the U.S. embassy and consulates. So let them do their jobs and chill out.

By no means should the rare chance of a natural disaster put a damper on your trip. There’s really nothing you can do.  Instead of panicking- learn from it.  See how the country and its citizens cope.  See what you can do – without getting yourself into more trouble.  In some cases, you might even be able to help out those who have been injured, but don’t do anything without consulting your program advisor.  Overall, have fun and let nature take its course!


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Gulliver helps students Study Abroad. Our blog covers: current issues in Study Abroad; featured posts by Study Abroad students; and Gulliver updates, news, and behind-the-scenes peaks. Thanks for reading!