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Debunking Reasons against Studying Abroad

As seen in Transitions Abroad Magazine September/October 2003

By Brian Harley

Where can I go to get to other places?” paraphrases a question that I once received from a student. The allure of education abroad, through study and travel (not necessarily in that order), surpassed my passé mantra of academic rigor, cultural entry points, and provisions for safety and security. Travel persuasion was not necessary. I could already imagine her standing before a world map, filling it with pushpins.

Other students need more assurance. The academic and personal leap of faith can be a process, not a plunge. Some students may feign having “just a few more questions”—ultimately indicating good old-fashioned hesitation. Study abroad advisers are in a unique position to help students see past needless constraints and encourage them to pursue their dreams. One can easily think of ten common concerns, which unanswered could prevent a student from having a transformative educational experience abroad. My “Top Ten Reasons Not to Consider Not Studying Abroad” reflect comments from real-live students as well as a condensed form of my answers, and resources that study abroad advisers should keep in mind.

Photo: Luke Harden, DU Student Studied in Spain

Photo: Luke Harden, DU Student
Studied in Spain

1. It will cost too much.

Students may be surprised! In many cases, students find that they pay no more to study abroad than to attend their home college for a semester or a year. Most state and federal financial aid transfers.

2. My grades will go down.

Students’ grades may stay the same. Despite the fear of a dropping GPA, many students return with the same GPA as when they left. If students study hard and keep up, their grades tend to show it (just like in the States). Advisors can help diminish this fear by citing some pre- and post-study abroad GPAs.

3. My courses won’t transfer.

If students plan ahead, courses will transfer. As soon as students arrive on campus the options should be described. At PurdueUniversity a letter was sent to over 7,000 first-year students before they arrived. The study abroad advisor should make sure that his or her advice agrees with the recommendations of the academic advisor. For example, courses should satisfy major, minor, or general studies credit requirements, not those few precious elective credits.

4. No university abroad will have the courses that I need taught in English.

Many study centers abroad have selected courses in most of the general academic disciplines. Urge students to look at course offerings both in English and in the language of the host country. Independent studies may be possible too, if arrangements are made in advance.

Lauren Rosenthal, DU Student Studied in Scotland

Photo: Lauren Rosenthal, DU Student
Studied in Scotland

5. I am an introvert.

Remind students that making a new home abroad for a semester or year is unnerving for everybody, and people who are naturally introverted may find themselves even more daunted after trying to make a conversation in a second language with new acquaintances. But they don’t have to be “the life of the party.” Introverts will learn language and culture just as well as extroverts, and they may grow in ways they never imagined.

6. I am a leader and my school cannot get along without me.

Great! These students can now become leaders overseas. Students’ concern that their school will “miss them” will eventually be far overshadowed by the experiences they will have. Students develop more self-confidence than they ever imagined and come home with even more mature leadership skills. But for that, they’ll truly “have to be there!”

7. I don’t know anybody who is going.

In many cases most students do not know the others in their group. But they all have one thing in common—willingness to risk the adventure of living and learning in a different country. Some have made life-long friends in the process.

Photo: Kaitlyn O'Sullivan, India

Photo: Kaitlyn O’Sullivan, DU Student
Studied in India

 

8. I have never done anything like this before.

Most people never do this. Emphasize to students that it is a tremendous privilege to be able to study abroad. On-site staff will help students to understand what they need to do to adjust to a completely new environment.

9. I don’t have very good reasons to study abroad.

There is not one single “litmus test” for study abroad. There are as many “good reasons” to study abroad as there are good programs. Students become international citizens. They learn a new cultural system and see their own from a new perspective. And, they build resumes and relationships while growing intellectually and culturally.

Photo: Kylee Swiggart, DU Student Studied in Chile

Photo: Kylee Swiggart, DU Student
Studied in Chile

 10. I do not know how to contact study abroad providers.

Study abroad advisers, providers, and other professional make it easy. Students can talk with on-campus study abroad advisers and other students who have studied abroad; surf the web; and read Transitions Abroad.

Study abroad advisers are uniquely positioned to view the transformation that comes from an overseas experience. Perhaps one of the chief constraints is the imagination of the student. Advisers are to be lauded for their challenging role as administrators, advocates, consultants, and, perhaps, detectives. Sometimes only after myths are debunked can students let their imagination wander overseas, followed by their body.

DR. BRIAN HARLEY, Director of Programs for Study Abroad at Purdue Univ. (www.studyabroad.purdue.edu). Contact him at bharley@purdue.edu.

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Filed under Advice, Africa, Asia, Australia/New Zealand, Europe, Latin America, Middle East, Travel, UK/Ireland, Uncategorized, World

The Scoop on the UK University Experience

With a large number of students heading from DU to study abroad in the UK this fall, here I write about my experiences studying in both the UK and the US academic systems.Studying in the UK will expose you to a number of differences in academic culture. Below, I’ve highlighted some of the most significant.

Generally you can expect to have fewer hours of class in the UK. In the UK many full time juniors or seniors might have just three or four hours of class time, compared to 15 hours at DU.

The time you spend in class will be much more lecture-based than at DU. Don’t be surprised to find little student participation in your classes in the UK. Often only the Professor will speak for the duration of the class. Instead, student participation is reserved for “tutorials”. Typically, these are one hour seminar/discussion sessions with the Professor, sometimes in their office with just five or six other students.

cynthialeitichsmith.blogspot.com

Photo Credit: cynthialeitichsmith.blogspot.com

Given this, there is a much greater focus on independent research outside of class and you will be expected to conduct your own research. In many cases this means picking your own books and articles to read from a list on the syllabus, rather than being assigned specific readings for each class as you are at DU.  This means that if assigned a particular essay, many students will answer it very differently based on the differing reading that they have done themselves based on their interests. To get strong grades, incorporating this individualized reading into your papers and exams will be important.

Generally, there will be fewer assessments than at DU. For many classes you might find that your assessment comprises either a single exam or a single paper, or perhaps an exam and paper due together at the end of the quarter/semester. Consequently, it is unlikely that there will be a participation grade, quizzes or midterms. Some students like the fact that they have less stress across the quarter, others don’t like that all their assignments may be concentrated at the end of the quarter.

Photo Credit: www.ed.ac.uk

Photo Credit: http://www.ed.ac.uk

This system means that there is more ambiguity and less structure in the UK system as a whole. The Professors will see you as more of a self-starter. Often, a Professor might never mention the assignments for that class and will instead expect you to read the syllabus, see what the assignment is and do it without guidance.

In the UK, particularly in England and Wales, most students only study for three years to earn their degree. The three year degree means that there is no common curriculum. In college, students only take classes in their major and therefore usually only from one department. Therefore, most students choose their College major whilst in High School at the age of 17. A DU Junior studying abroad should be aware that local students taking third year classes in the UK will most likely already have studied as many as ten classes in that major.

Photo Credit: blog.sfgate.com

Photo Credit: blog.sfgate.com

Given these differences, it will be important to adapt quickly by setting your own learning plan, making sure to meet with your Professors and by disciplining yourself to work throughout the term in order to disperse your workload rather than leaving all your work until the final weeks of the semester.

 

-Callum Forster, DU Study Abroad Peer Advisor

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Live the Authentic British Life

For those ready to live the authentic British life, here are my five tips to get you started…

1.       British Afternoon Tea – Not to be missed, afternoon tea is one of the highlights of UK cultural life. Afternoon tea is taken between 3 and 5pm, often on a weekend and consists of limitless cups of tea, accompanied by both cucumber and egg and cress sandwiches, scones (with cream and jam) and cakes (Victoria sponge, fruit cake amongst others) and pastries. DU students studying abroad in York  should be sure to check out Betty’s Tea Rooms in York City Center, where it is not unusual to see people lining (“queuing”) down the street as they wait for their tea. The only question is, should you drink English breakfast tea, Scottish afternoon, Twinnings, Earl Grey or Chai?

photo: londonmindthegap.blogspot.com

photo: londonmindthegap.blogspot.com

2.       Visit a Great British Pub – bask in a leisurely drink along with some great traditional British cuisine – fish and chips (served in newspaper), bangers (sausages) and mash or Shepherds Pie (google it). For students studying in Glasgow, check out the Monster Mash Café in Edinburgh, which has a whole menu devoted to different variations of sausage and mashed potato. Anyone for blackpudding sausage and apple mash?

3.       Museums, museums, museums… embrace the fact that nearly all museums in London are free. Britain’s best and most prestigious museums such as the famous British Museum, the National Portrait Gallery, or check out modern art at the Tate Modern amongst many other museums with free admission.

Photo: wikipedia.org

photo: wikipedia.org

4.       Relish in the opportunity to move beyond American football, baseball and the like and instead venture to a soccer, cricket or rugby game. Watch Glasgow Celtic play in front of 60,000 people, or those studying in England check out the English Premier League, and watch a match at Old Trafford? For rugby games which are played regularly throughout winter and fall check out http://www.premiershiprugby.com/

5.       Check out Britain’s Roman history, in particular Hadrian’s Wall. As the Roman Empire began to collapse, Hadrian ordered the building of a wall across the entire north of England to keep out Picts from Scotland. The wall, a World Heritage site, still exists today and stretches across the breadth of Northern England (73 miles). Walk it end to end perhaps and see some of Britain’s rugged countryside.

photo: imgur.com

photo: imgur.com

Achieve these five things and you’ll have plenty to write home about…

– Callum Forster, DUSA Graduate Peer Advisor (and Brit)

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Jennifer’s blog: London, England

Jennifer is studying at the University of Westminster, and you can follow her here:

http://oconnorj3908.tumblr.com/

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Filed under (other) DU Student Blogs, Europe, UK/Ireland

Teamwork, Baby!

Hello Hello!

Throughout this term, I got to work with a group of wonderful students from around the world to complete a communications project. We did a ton of secondary research, surveys, and interviews that ultimately translated into a 2500-word report and 15 minute presentation. Though group projects can sometimes be strenuous, I found this experience at KCL to be enlightening.

My teammates were definitely diverse… the ages ranged from 18 to 30… from Australia, Spain, South America, England, Africa, Japan, and America… cross-culturally bonding right here! I love them very much!

Here was our take on teamwork;-)

Enjoy,

JZ

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Where I Meet Girls…

Hello friends,

So what did I do this past weekend? I purchased a train ticket and made my way down to Oxford for their 2011 InterVarsity Debate Tournament. I joined the King’s College debate society at the beginning of the term and have been enjoying British Parliamentary ever since.

The Oxford tournament is the biggest debate competition on the European circuit every year, aside from the European Championships. I got to meet some incredibly talented speakers from all around the world, including the United States.

Many of my closest friends in the UK also do debate; you definitely build a family after traveling together for so long:-)

So this is where I also meet girls…

Sincerely,

JZ

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The Little Things in Life…

Hello everyone,

It has been more than a month since I’ve been in the United Kingdom. Naturally over time, you develop some complaints about minor everyday things. So this blog will simply be about me as a drama queen.

Hope you find this at least somewhat helpful!

Cheers,

JZ

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