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.

Advertisements

Wrapping Up The Goodbyes

What will you be doing in a week?

Oh!  How interesting!!!

That was in response to my imaginary friend.

I’m joking.  Maybe.

In reality a lot of you will be living your daily lives.  Some interesting things may be going on.  The students and staff of DU will be participating in the studying, taking, and grading of finals.  Goodbyes for winter break will take place and they’ll be joining the loving arms of their families and friends back in their other homes.  That’s the interesting thing about college.  You have two homes.  Two places filled with people who love you.  Every so often you leave one to go to the other.

In a week I’ll be doing the same thing.  I’ll be leaving my current home and entering the arms of my family and friends.  I don’t get to return to this home though.  It will be by official goodbye to South Africa.  To UKZN – PMB.  To Petrie Hags, home group, and room 2A.

To the people.

While I’m excited to be returning home, there are things that I’ll miss. I’ll make a top ten list not in any specific order.

1.    Food

Debonairs, Rib Co, Nandos, and Steers are the fast food places that I love.  Aero candy bar, Heaven ice cream, iron brew, and the biscuits are the sweets I’ll miss.  Chips with the seasoning put on it and samoosas are also things I am sad to leave.

2.    People

I strive on people connections.  I love human interactions.

3.    Purple Trees

The Internet calls them Jacaranda trees.  I just think they’re beautiful.  When I grow up and get my own home I want to plant one in my back yard.

4.    Monkeys

No one here likes them because they’re annoying.  It’s an American equivalent to a raccoon they say.  I think they’re entertaining to watch.

5.    Home group

Otherwise known as bible study, cell group, or connect group.  The biggest reason I’ll miss it is for the people, but it was also my Jesus time.  I got to really connect with God through home group.  It was easily one of the highlights of my week.

6.    Salvation Army

Another weekly highlight would be volunteering with my babies.  And yes I mean my babies.  I’m going to steal them all and take them home.  Okay, so I can’t do that.  Everyone keeps telling me that I’m so good with them and they love me and that I should take one home, so I want to.

7.    Petrie

The dorm I’m living in.  It has it’s own atmosphere about it.  The community is wonderful and it’s just a comforting place to be.

8.    Free laundry

We don’t get this at DU, or in America, okay.  It’s important to me to be able to wash my cloths for free.  That means that there were often broken machines, but hey, you get what you get.

9.    Being a complete adult

In America you’re fully an adult at 21.  In Africa it’s 18.  There are many perks that comes with that.

10. Being a ninja

Besides being a time lord, I’m a ninja in my free time.  In case you missed the story, I’m a time lord because my VISA says it was issued in 2015.  It’s only 2012 folks.  I’m a ninja because in order to get into the theatre department they have to thumb print you.  Yep, that’s right.  I place my thumb on a scanner before every class; it turns green and shows my name, thus unlocking the door.  Ninja status achieved. 

-Sarah Caulkins, DUSA Blogger