What is Study Abroad?
Florence, Italy (Photo Courtesy of University of Wyoming Study Abroad Program)
It is exactly what it sounds like. Students have the opportunity to go explore and study in new places all over the world. While it may sound simple, it can have a big impact on the lives of those who experience it. Students grow a lot from study abroad after they return to and readjust to life in the U.S. Ruth A. Shepherd, the International Exchange/Study Abroad Coordinator at UW said.
“We all see that there is a greater maturity level, a real high level of focus and interest, much greater awareness. So in that respect yes, that student has really fine tunes them self,” Shepherd said.
Why Study Abroad?
Erin Jarnagin, a senior at UW, is an International Studies in the Middle East and Africa major who studied abroad in Qatar for a year. She said that it was one of the greatest decisions she has ever made.
“Being over there and being in the center of everything was great. Getting to go to Istambul was the coolest thing ever, and I went to Dubai twice. Dubai is awesome. Traveling while I was there was really amazing,” Jarnagin said.
Erin Jarnagin in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (Photo Courtesy of Erin Jarnagin)
Shepherd agreed with Jarnagin that studying abroad is a great thing for students to do.
“I am passionate about being out in the world, but I stay here because if I am gone than students don’t get to go. I really really believe that we need more people out in the world. People need to know more Americans, they need to begin to see what a huge and diverse nation we are, and we need to learn about other nations as well,” Shepherd said.
Shepherd gave a great example of a student who traveled to Israel, and saw the Israeli Palestinian conflict firsthand. The student had only learned about the war from the news and because of that had a skewed perception until he went and spent time there and had friends that were Palestinian and Israeli. She mentioned that it will help future leaders of out county to make better decisions if they better understand the world as a whole and have friends in other places.
Jarnagin also talked about the “cultural village” that Qatar University hosted. Students go to Qatar University from all over the world and on a specific day they all set up booths for “cultural village”. The booths were very elaborate and were made to make someone feel as though they were entering that country. She loved that experience, and learned so much about all of those countries from the people she met.
Erin Jarnagin at the U.S.A Booth at Qatar University’s “Cultural Village” (Photo Coutresy of Erin Jarnagin)
“We did a booth for the U.S.A because a lot of people think that they know a lot about the U.S. but its only because of things like ‘Keeping Up with the Kardashians’ and all that kind of stuff, and that truly is what they think we do, which is really sad,” Jarnagin said. “So that was really frustrating to me, but it was really nice to be able to talk to people, dispell those stereotypes, and teach people about the U.S. One day we taught them the electric slide, and it was great. A whole big room full of women were doing the electric slide along with us. That was one of the coolest days ever.”
Where can students study abroad?
There are four main ways to study abroad. Students can go on a “student exchange”, which means they go to a school that UW has set partnerships with and pay UW tuition at that school. Then there is study abroad where a third party corporation has a relationship with a school and can help students with study abroad. The third option is just plain study abroad where a student finds that school or program them self, and arranges the trip. Finally students can go on faculty lead trips.
Shepherd said the most common places to study abroad are still in Europe, but she would like to see students expand upon that.
“I don’t think undergraduates look enough at why they maybe need to spend time in Mexico, Central and South America, Africa, Asia and Southeast Asia because those are going to be the areas of the up and coming growth,” Shepherd said
What should students expect being abroad?
Obviously the social and cultural elements are different abroad. But in addittion, the academic culture abroad is very different from the academic culture here in the U.S.
Shepherd said that students should prepare for a very different study environment.
“Overseas the culture is that the professor comes in, delivers the lecture and has no interaction with those people. They are not even sure what to do with a student that might show up at their office, and so if you want to know more about that topic you seek out the graduate student,” Shepherd said.
In general, Shepherd said that there are no assignment in the classes. Students go through the whole semester, do the readings, and go to lecture, but their grade is solely based on their score on the final at the end of the semester.
More information about what to expect socially and culturally on study abroad trips varies based on country. For Jarnagin, she had some great cultural experiences that she wished she could bring home.
“I really loved how it was always, the more the merrier, it didn’t matter what kind of gathering, or what kind of thing you planned, it was always ‘bring everybody’. Everyone is always welcome,” Jarnagin said.
Many students have blogs about their study abroad trips and love to share their experiences and stories.
Is Study Abroad Practical for Students?
Yes! Shepherd said that over 400 students study abroad every semester. There are lots of study abroad programs and scholarships available to over 50 different countries.