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Is studying abroad really worth it?

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Replies to: Is studying abroad really worth it?

  • londondadlondondad Registered User Posts: 2,151 Senior Member
    Gingeralelover - The consensus here is overwhelmingly to take a semester abroad, as it will give you a great experience (academically as well as socially) as well as make you more open-minded. I don't think that you will lose anything regarding your relationships with your teachers if you are gone for only one semester. I really think that you should go, but make sure that you find a good program that matches your interest.
    Londondad
  • kathyhathykathyhathy Registered User Posts: 44 Junior Member
    My daughter will be a freshman at an LAC in the fall and I just presumed she will want to a semester abroad even if it's in the summer.
    However, after talking to a friend who's daughter is going to do a semester in Rome this fall, I'm wondering if it's not just an excuse for a very expensive vacation.
    Here's what her daughter has planned: Greek Island tour then fly to Rome for her school sponsored design program. All the kids there are from her school and I don't know if there are kids from other schools because it sounds like they run it.
    She says she will buy her daughter a Eurail pass so she can go to Paris, etc for the weekend. (she plans on visiting her daughter midway thru).
    Is this how kids do a semester abroad? Because it seems like a very expensive venture to me.
  • phanaticphanatic Registered User Posts: 849 Member
    kathyhathy: I think that, to a certain extent, some kids do use their free time during their study abroad experience to see the sights they can reach from their "home base" abroad. Honestly, I can't say I blame them; who knows if they'll ever be in China or Rome or Buenos Aires again? And there is something to traveling and fending for oneself in a foreign country that seems to lend itself to a certain resilience and ability to adapt quickly in unfamiliar situations.

    However, the students I know who study abroad make it a priority to focus on what they ought to be doing there: studying and learning about the culture in which they reside. I don't know if this is the exception rather than the norm, but the students I know who go abroad have been, without exception, the ones who are very serious about their studies. After they've spent weeks working hard to fit into a new culture and adapt to different methods--or languages--of instruction, I don't think anyone could begrudge them a weekend vacation.
  • JackUKJackUK Registered User Posts: 220 Junior Member
    Kathyhathy - It all depends on the school and the program. Some US colleges just send a group from that one school abroad and the kids have little mixing with foreign students and little immersion into the local culture and language. Other schools do the opposite and mix their students with other international students plus local students. The issues that you and Phanatic raise should be asked and answered to your satisfaction before you cut that check for the semester abroad.
  • PhightPhight Registered User Posts: 20 New Member
    My semester abroad was definitely worth it! I made a lot of new friends from all over the country (and even some from other countries) that I am still in touch with and I got to experience a lot of new things. I went to the Czech Republic, so I had to deal with a language barrier in some places which was a good thing looking back on it, because I had to learn more about the culture and language of the country than if I'd gone to somewhere like the UK. I also used my study abroad to travel a lot, which if you stay in hostels and take buses/discount airlines everywhere really isn't as bad as you'd expect! Travel was particularly convenient for me in Europe since there were a lot of connections between Prague and other major cities.

    Overall it wasn't my most academically rigorous semester, but it was probably the most fun semester I've had to date and the only regret I have is that I wasn't there for an entire year.
  • Person0715Person0715 Registered User Posts: 37 Junior Member
    Some schools have study abroad programs led by their own professors. I think you can actually build a better relationship with professor this way. One solid relationship is better than a few so-so ones, right?

    I think study abroad is a waste of time if you don't have to learn a new language for it. What's the point of studying abroad in a new country when you will mostly be spending time with other english speakers?

    Some colleges tout their study abroad programs, but in actuality they are not really offering anything in terms of cultural immersion: for example they might have a branch campus in another country but the classes are taught in english and the school provides housing for its own students. You may go to another country, but its just more of the same if your not being immersed in the culture and language.
  • BookAddictBookAddict Registered User Posts: 669 Member
    I studied abroad two semesters, on two very different programs. I went during the school year, since my scholarship didn't cover summers.

    I think every study abroad program has value (even those that seem just to be a four month pub crawl). They all teach you at least some amount of independence, and help you to broaden your perspectives at least a little. Whether or not it's worth it depends on what you're looking for; realize that every study abroad program is different.

    My first study abroad trip was to the Saint Louis University in Madrid. There were several of us from my home university who went, but we all went separately, and didn't necessarily spend much time together. One poster above said to find a big study abroad group, but personally, I like that this was more independent, which allowed me to meet lots of new people. I stayed with a non-English speaking host family, and traveled a good amount, but mostly within Spain and not every weekend. So I really got to know the culture of Spain in general and Madrid in particular. Because many people don't speak English in Spain, my Spanish definitely improved, though not as much as it could have because I went to an American university and made English-speaking friends.

    My second study abroad trip was my last semester of college. I was hesitant about missing that semester, and all the graduation events and such, but I couldn't resist the chance to go abroad again. I went to Maastricht, in the Netherlands. I had finished all my required courses, but still had a semester left on my scholarship, so I basically used this as a cheap way to spend four months vacationing in Europe. I did do all the work for my classes, but I traveled almost every weekend, and for 6 weeks after my short semester was over. Maastricht was perfect as a home base for traveling around Europe, as it's so central, and we also all received a 3 month EuroRail pass. (Spain had been much more isolated, so weekend trips out of the country were only possible if I flew.)

    This was a group trip, in which about 40 students from my home university, a professor, and a couple of grad student TAs all traveled and lived together. We did take a couple of classes from Dutch professors, but the only students in the class were from my home university (I didn't know this going in; I thought those classes would be with other students as well). Because of all this, I didn't really feel like I lived in Maastricht, though I spent ten weeks there. Most Dutch people spoke English, too, so I learned very little Dutch.

    Still, I traveled by myself for much of the 6 week travel period, and met quite a few people from all over. So I still learned a lot about people from other cultures. And I definitely gained confidence and independence through my two trips. Getting off the plane and taking a taxi to SLU Madrid for my first study abroad was probably one of the scariest things I've ever done, since I was by myself and spoke only limited Spanish. By the end of my second study abroad, I was traveling alone and couch surfing with strangers in countries where I didn't speak a word of the language.

    So anyway, those are the two programs I went on, and as you can see, they were very different. There are other programs out there that look completely different from either of the programs I went on. It all depends on what you're looking for, but I'm pretty sure that if you try, you can find one that's worth it, and that's doable.

    ...Wow, that turned out way long. But as you can see, I loved both of my trips abroad, and think they were completely worth it.
  • DocJayDocJay Registered User Posts: 1 New Member
    As a Professor of German & Comp. Lit. at San Diego State, I was fortunate to have 2 stints as Resident Director of CSU International programs in Germany, at Heidelberg & Tübingen, supervising the work of 30 - 40 students. I must say that the student experience was definitely worth the time, effort, and cost in most cases. But if you're interested in study in a country where English is not the language, you must be wiling to devote time and effort to learning the host language! In my second year in Germany ('92-'93) there were many students of international business hoping to find jobs in Germany (prior to the anticipated reunification) who were disappointed when they found themselves in competition with native speakers of German who had also studied English for as many as 10 years and were quite fluent. I would say that your goals must be real-istic with respect to your hoped for outcomes. On the other hand, you can anticipate great personal growth from a year in another culture, and to me that makes the exper-ience well worth the cost and effort required, if you're willing to make the effort to assimilate into the foreign culture. If you spend your time hanging around with the other students in your program, you'll lose much of the potential gain from your experience. Cultivate foreign friends!
  • bookmama22bookmama22 Registered User Posts: 2,237 Senior Member
    Both of my daughters studied abroad for fall semester of junior year, different countries, different programs. Both programs were really specific to their course of study. In older d's case, studying studio art and art history in Italy, there were trips to other places in Italy that we paid extra for as part of tuition and were group trips. She and the friends she made did some other travels within Italy and using cheap student fares over mid-semester break and Thanksgiving weekend. There were others who travelled all the time and others who never left Rome, everyone comes with different expectations and different amounts of money. Younger d's program was in Vienna through IES and had orientation in the Alps in advance of the program as well as several first-come, first serve trips during the program-one of which was skiing over Thanksgiving weekend. Travelled a bit as did older d, but again within limits.
    Both benefited in so many ways from that experience including the friends made, places seen, seeing different ways to live and managing to live and negotiate on your own in a different place. It was an experience I regret to this day that I chose not to take advantage of when I was in college because I did not want to miss out on what was going on. There is that element of course because you cannot be in two places at once..so it is really a personal choice, an academic choice and a financial choice as well.
  • TheDadTheDad Registered User, ! Posts: 10,225 Senior Member
    I think study abroad is a waste of time if you don't have to learn a new language for it. What's the point of studying abroad in a new country when you will mostly be spending time with other english speakers?
    Such a blanket statement is overreaching by a lot. It depends on the program. D spent a semester in Budapest as part of a highly regarded program in Mathematics; beginning and intermediate Hungarian were part of the curriculum but the classes were taught in English. Damn fine classes, taught on an "early grad school" level.

    Half your education takes place outside the classroom and taking advantage of being abroad as opposed to it being an exotic place to party pays wonderful rewards. D had *no* problems developing and maintaining relationships with her profs. Three years after graduation, several were very helpful for her grad school applications and the got into a Top Three program.
  • abinclaneabinclane Registered User Posts: 31 New Member
    Yes, it is really worth it. I had friends who were from other countries and they feel that coming in the US was one of the best decision they have ever made.
  • sourpandasourpanda Registered User Posts: 129 Junior Member
    I was born in the USA, but my family decided to move to China when I was around 11.
    I've been here for more than 7 years.
    Well I don't think that this really classifies as "study" abroad...
    But the experience has changed my life.
    I got to learn more about my culture, and I have mastered the language.
    When I think about the people that I might not have met if I went to high school in the US, everything seems worth it you know?

    BUT,
    studying abroad is not for everyone.
    Language will be a major obstacle.
    And everything will seem out of place at first.
    It takes time and hard work to adjust to a different culture.
    You may feel lonely, homesick, and even scared at first(it may last through your whole stay).
    But when you look back on it, you'll find that you've grown stronger =]
  • HPFan13HPFan13 Registered User Posts: 375 Member
    I sure hope I get to study abroad once in the next four years! I obviously haven't yet, but I'm sure it's worth it!
  • DrGoogleDrGoogle Registered User Posts: 11,047 Senior Member
    My daughter originally was going to study abroad for a semester but things happened. She happily took a different route and has not looking back. She loves her school and the creative work she's doign and can't imagine being away from it. Four years is a short time. Do what you really want, not necessarily what everybody says here.
  • Zelda FitzgeraldZelda Fitzgerald Registered User Posts: 1,086 Senior Member
    I always thought I wanted to study abroad, but when push came to shove, I am glad that I didn't.

    My UG program was a rigorous BFA program that didn't specifically allow its students to study abroad, mainly because no other school could offer the same coursework/subject and the BFA degree track meant our semesters were planned out for us each year. However, if a student wanted to, they could study abroad by taking a semester off from the BFA program and enrolling in a "general" study abroad program through our University.

    If it sounds complicated, it's because it was. Since I didn't want to delay graduating for a semester to go romp around Europe, I had a long term boyfriend who I didn't want to leave behind, my financial aid/scholarship wouldn't apply to any SA program and because neither my major nor my minor were subjects offered abroad -- I opted against it.

    I ended up getting a job one summer that allowed me to spend a month and a half in Paris with a hefty salary and minimal work in the end -- I thought that was a better option anyway! No classes, I was free to go/do whatever, whenever and I met up with my friends who were studying abroad anyway! (Plus, I was getting paid! It was a sweet deal.)

    Many of my friends did study abroad and everyone's response was mixed. Many of my friends has wonderful, positive experiences because the particular SA program they did was well organized and the academic portion of the program was beneficial to their studies. (EX: Many theatre friends of mine went to the UK to study Shakespearean acting, etc...)

    Some of my friends did it because it made sense with their degrees -- for example, International Relations.

    A very close friend of mine went to London and ended up having a miserable experience. Here, the most outgoing and friendly person I knew, had a very hard time making friends and meaningful connections overseas, mainly due to an unorganized program. But still, something to think about.

    This, coupled with my story, is mainly to show that just because "everyone else" studies abroad does not necessarily mean it's the best decision for YOU. It's something that you have to consider very seriously and decide whether or not the sacrifice is beneficial to you and your studies. You also have to consider cost and what you will miss from your home University in terms of classes/academic experiences.

    If you find a program that's complementary to your degree and will expose you to classes/experiences that will help your studies that you couldn't receive in the US, I'd say go for it.

    If you're doing it simply to "get away," I suggest just saving up for an overseas trip you can take after you graduate.

    Just my opinion!
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