Students Share Stories of Education Abroad
When considering a university from which to pursue a degree, a majority of U.S. students don’t factor the likelihood of traveling abroad into their curriculum. According to a NAFSA survey conducted in 2013-2014, less than 1.5 percent of students attending higher-education schools studied abroad. Of that statistic, about 75 percent of them were Caucasian. The second-highest demographic were Latinx and Hispanic students at 8.3 percent. Why is it that more American-based students don’t travel abroad as a means to study? What programs does the University of the Pacific offer to students who wish to see the world before turning to full-time employment after college?
Lauren Miller, Assistant Director, International Programs and Services, hopes to break down perceived barriers associated with education abroad. Miller stresses that it is rare for a major to hinder travel, saying students just need to plan ahead and talk to their advisors to see when the best time to study abroad might be. Miller explains, “One of the most rewarding aspects of my job is listening to students’ stories when they return from studying abroad; they are almost always more mature, self-confident, and intellectually curious upon return.”
Jackson Stephens chose CIEE, or the Council on International Educational Exchange, to pursue education abroad to both Santiago, Chile and Iringa, Tanzania. CIEE is a non-government organization with the purpose of providing international education and exchange. Stephens spent two semesters abroad staying five months at each location. Stephens advises, “Take advantage of as many opportunities as you can, especially traveling when you have free time and a budget! If there is an excursion set up by the program that is free or required a small fee… do it. It is worth the time and any trouble.”
When asked about some of the difficulties to traveling, Stephens says, “I speak Spanish fluently so I could communicate in Chile, but they are known for speaking fast, using unique slang, and a very thick accent.” He also mentioned overcoming language barriers through taking Swahili beginner’s courses while studying in Tanzania. Other obstacles include U.S. State Department guidelines, and a stringent timeline on preparing your passport for international travel. Educa- tion Abroad programs work to alleviate the stress of this process and offer online resources to plan your trip.
Well, what about costs? Stephens says, “I did not receive financial aid specifically to study abroad, but received the normal scholarships and grants that I would for a semester of classes at Pacific. As an overall recommendation, Stephens says, “I would recommend and encourage others to study abroad! It is something I will never regret, especially since I am not sure whether or not I will be able to return.”
Katie Ram, ‘17 Physics Major, used IES Abroad, or the Institute for the International Education of Students Abroad, to plan her trip. Ram says, “Studying abroad offers a broad range of experiences. Although I had plenty of time to check out all the major tourist attractions, over the year I saw so much more”. When asked about her perception of students of her host country, Ram says, “Students generally live at home. There is no on-campus housing which leads to a much different atmosphere than what we are used to at Pacific. No studying in the library late at night, it closes early. No longboarding to class in three minutes, I was happy to get to class in 45 minutes by bike. There were much fewer clubs and no Greek life. In fact, many Chilean students asked me if all fraternities and sororities are like what they’ve seen in movies.”
How did costs compare to Pacific semesters? Ram recalls, “Traveling was not expensive in the host country. Despite living in a Latin American country with the highest cost of living, I spent the same if not less while abroad than when I am here at Pacific, and that includes the round trip flight cost. Ram concludes, “I would definitely recommend that every student go abroad, because it offers exposure to new perspectives and ideas while challenging your values, beliefs, and identity. Ram also hosted a blog site while she was abroad; you can check it out at www.IESa- broad.org/KatieRam for more on her adventures.
Cross-cultural experiences shape the education abroad programs. Ashley Ledgerwood, a Pacific student pursuing her teaching credentials, says the choice to go to South Korea was both a rewarding experience and one of the hardest challenges she has ever faced. Ledgerwood ex- plains the major difference in schooling abroad. “Most importantly, education is taken so seriously there, and teachers are highly respected”, Ledgerwood says, “Before every class we would formally greet the professor and only after the professor was finished with the lesson would we students pack up but only after collectively thanking the professor for the lesson”.
When asked on her position to recommend travel to other Pacific students, Ledgerwood says, “I want to encourage others to study abroad or even just travel and stay somewhere long enough to connect with others from around the world. The experience is unique to everyone and can be truly life-changing. It was both a vacation and the hardest challenge I have ever faced.”
Deadlines for the spring submissions for education abroad programs are Sept. 24, so don’t delay. For more information on countries involved in study abroad, scholarships, planning, guidelines and deadlines, check out Pacific’s International Programs and services website at http:// pacific.abroadoffice.net.
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