Tag Archives: study abroad

Rob Pakalski snorkeled the Great Barrier Reef during his semester abroad in Sydney, Australia. (Photo courtesy of Rob Pakalski)

Study Abroad: Experience the World and Still Graduate on Time

It has long been said that life begins at the edge of our comfort zone, but in today’s heavily regimented society where the standards after high school usually entail going to college, getting a job, and settling down, life outside our comfort zones often go unexplored.

For many students, studying abroad is the ticket to living the best of both worlds. Getting school credit and staying on track while traveling independently to foreign places is a popular way of killing two birds with one stone.

For all its advantages, the percentage of U.S. students who study abroad each year is relatively low. In the 2011-2012 school year, 283,332 American students participated in study abroad, according to statistics from the Native American Financial Services Association (NAFSA). This number represent only about 1% of all U.S. students enrolled in colleges through the nation, reports NAFSA. During the 2012/2013 school year, 703 USF students went abroad, according to the USF Center for Global Education.

So what is it that influences students to study abroad? USF students Melissa Zigrang, Rob Pakalski, and Bailey Wyatt participated in programs spanning across the world for the fall 2013 semester, and have plenty to share about their choice to immerse themselves in completely foreign territory.

For junior economics and finance major Zigrang, choosing Spain as her study abroad destination was beneficial in more ways than just partying in Ibiza: “I wanted to improve on my Spanish, since I haven’t taken a language class in a few years, but knew I wanted to be somewhere in Europe, so I could travel to different countries” she said, “Spain was the obvious choice.”

For U.S. students like Zigrang, meeting academic requirements and staying on track do not always allow for the kind of travel that can truly change one’s life and perspective. According to gooverseas.com, “gap years,” when students taking a year off before college to travel the world, are more common in Europe than in the United States. Study abroad programs have become the American students’ answer to fitting this type of travel and experience into the college curriculum.

By earning academic credit, students like Zigrang, who participated in the Arcadia University abroad program in Barcelona, have found a way to integrate a global education into their schooling.

For senior Entrepreneurship and Innovation major Rob Pakalski, the Boston University Internship program in Sydney, Australia, gave him the opportunity to live and work in a different culture, opening his eyes to different ways of life: “The largest culture shock was probably the lack of emphasis on work,” he said. “Australians have a high minimum wage, so everyone lives quite well, but very few people have a strong desire to be extremely rich and work a lot like in America,” continued Pakalski, who interned at a venture capital firm while in Sydney.

While Pakalski was getting used to working life in Australia, junior media studies major Bailey Wyatt was coming to terms with some different cultural adjustments in Ireland: “I had a really hard time with everyone’s Irish accent and they had a ton of slang I didn’t understand,” Wyatt said of her initial culture shock in Dublin, where she participated in the BU Internship program at Dublin City University.

An Irish accent can take a minute to understand, but living in a non-English speaking country would seem like an even greater challenge. However, according to Zigrang, the language difference in Spain didn’t provide any great difficulties: “Since almost everyone is Spain and many other European countries are bilingual it wasn’t difficult to resort back to English or get help” she said. Surprisingly, Zigrang experienced entirely the opposite of this anticipated dilemma, saying, “for the most part, people were friendly and actually wanted me to help them practice their English.”

Initial culture shock is normal and an important eye-opening part of study abroad. One difference all three students noted was the nightlife, which Zigrang said was one of her biggest adjustments: “In Spain, dinner is around 9 or 10 p.m., and on a weekend, people usually go to a bar to start off the night at 12 a.m. or so, and make their way to a club about 2 a.m,” she said.

Pakalski agrees saying, “I miss the city nightlife, I miss my friends – both Australian and American.”

The nightlife culture that Pakalski and Zigrang experienced differed from Wyatt’s in Dublin: “I didn’t make it out of the city too much. Most weekends I watched Netflix on my laptop until it came time to try and convince the other Americans to come out with me,” she said. “Sometimes I’d take a bus into town and walk around the city, but it wasn’t very interesting.”

Wyatt says that the small size of Dublin was underwhelming, and she felt that within the first two weeks she had already seen everything. “I miss being able to buy potato wedges on every corner, but I definitely don’t miss the less than thrilling night life,” she said.

While returning to Dublin may be unlikely for Wyatt, Pakalski says that after his study abroad experience, living in Australia may be in the cards for him. “I would definitely see myself going back to work in Australia. I am definitely considering moving to Sydney after I graduate,” he said.

For Zigrang, it was the “San Francisco” vibe of Barcelona along with the culture and architecture that stole her heart: “The city had so much going on, the sangria was delicious, the architecture was amazing, and I was lucky enough to have beach weather for part of my stay,” she said. “I absolutely fell in love with Barcelona”

No matter the experience, living abroad gives students new perspectives and stories to bring home, as well as advice for other students scoping out destinations in the future. For anyone considering Dublin, Wyatt said: “Personally, Dublin wasn’t really my scene. The college where I stayed was in a suburb, a 30 minute bus ride from the city center,” she said. She suggests students look into Trinity college in Ireland if considering studying there, because of its central location. She adds: “I have no doubt that if you choose the right program, college, and meet the right people, Dublin has the potential to be really cool. But I wouldn’t do it again.”

While Wyatt encourages other students to do some research before traveling abroad, Pakalski left Sydney feeling he had made the right choice: “I honestly could not be more happy with my decision. Going to Sydney was the best decision I’ve made while in college,” said Pakalski. “I love USF and San Francisco, but studying and living in Sydney was the best time of my life.”

Interested in studying abroad? Schedule an appoinment with USF’s Center for Global Education to find out how studying abroad can fit into your curriculum by visiting them on UC 5th floor.

You can also learn more here.

Which Study Abroad Program is Right for You?

Short Term Programs

If your need to explore runs deeper than your pocket, perhaps a short term experience is best for you. What’s more of a dip-of-the-toe than a full-on plunge, a short term study abroad program allows for students to become global citizens at a lower cost. According to Sharon Li, director at CGE, most short term excursions occur in the summer and last around six to eight weeks. Costs vary depending on location.

Shorter time abroad means less courses to pay for and less money spent.
According to Li, sometimes donors cover mission programs or specific service learning trips for students. “It’s not a certain thing, but it’s been happening most years, and we hope it continues to happen.”
Study in the summer if your major courses are only offered in fall or spring semesters.

Financial aid does not transfer for short term trips, not even USF-sponsored ones.

There are two types of short term excursions: USF-sponsored programs and external programs.

USF-Sponsored Programs
The interdisciplinary trip: Students take both    academic and culture classes.
The study tour: Students travel to a location specific to a class they have taken the semester before.
• The immersion trip: Students don’t take courses, but instead focus on service learning (usually done through Arrupe Immersion Programs or the Leo T. McCarthy Center for Public Service and the Common Good).

External Programs
•  A study abroad through another institution  such as Boston University programs or outside education programs

If summer is time to work and not play, perhaps you’d prefer an even shorter short term program. “Intersession and spring break are becoming more popular study abroad times for majors who can’t afford to leave,” said Li. If you’re looking to spend January outside of the country, you have several options: USF sponsored immersions for service learning, external programs, and the occasional faculty-led study tour.

ª   Quick trips means even less cost.
•   Good for nursing students and other students
with a demanding curriculum.

ª   Less options.
ª   Faculty led trips are usually a last minute.

Long Term Programs
If you’re in it for the long haul, you have the option of a semester long program or a full academic year abroad. Again, there are the choices of USF sponsored trips and external programs. “If you’re taking a USF sponsored trip, it translates as if you’re here—so courses, financial aid, and units transfer easily,” said Li.

•   All financial aid does transfer to USF sponsored trips (except for work-study).
•   Room and board abroad are usually equal or less to USF tuition.
•   You don’t have to pay for MUNI fees or technological fees, which saves you about $250.

•   Generally more costly as a whole because it is a longer time.

Oh, the Places You’ll Go!

Aryan Azizian is currently enrolled in Keble College’s Centre for Medieval and Renaissance Studies semester-long program. Keble College is one of 38 constituents of the University of Oxford in England. He reports: So far, so good — “Harry Potter”-esque dining room halls, friendly locals, an extensive wine selection and a DIY sundae bar at the neighborhood Pizza Huts. When he’s not keeping up with his homework, Azizian hosts his own show on the university’s radio station called “The Rock & Roll Hour with Aryan Azizian” and writes for their satire newspaper, The Oxymoron, which he said is no competition to USF’s The Humbugger, and their weekly paper, The Oxford Student. The only hitch he’s run into was understanding British humor. “Figuring out what made them laugh took forever, but once you get it you’re set!”

Azizian’s classes, called “tutorials,” are one-on-one meetings with professors to discuss a specific topic, like character and plot analyses from selected readings. Once a week, Azizian meets with a professor and is assigned three books and an essay due for the following week. “The teachers challenge you but are very kind and usually work with you to find the right answers,” he said. His favorite tutorial is the Study of Comedy, in which he reads writers including Shakespeare, Oscar Wilde, and Kurt Vonnegut. He’s also encouraged to study films of Mel Brooks and Monty Python. As part of a field trip, this week Azizian is watching Python’s “Spamalot!” at London’s Broadway, which is just an hour-long bus ride from Oxford.

“Telling people that you live in San Francisco is basically a green card into any group here. They are equally as curious to know about the US, and what college kids do there for fun,” he said. This semester, he hopes to improve his writing skills and take advantage of visiting the surrounding areas, but he insists that students shouldn’t mistake a study abroad trip as an opportunity to slack off. Azizian spends 30-40 hours each week completing schoolwork.

“Oxford is such a beautiful city with incredibly rich history,” he said. “It’s pretty mind boggling to live in a city that influenced Lewis Carroll’s “Alice in Wonderland,” and to sit in the same pub that J.R.R Tolkien used to write some of his timeless stories in.”

In 2011, Chelsea Sundiang worked for Disney World, which not many students can say after leaving college. Her duties as a student intern for the Disney College Program included performing in the theme park’s shows and parades, meeting and greeting families, and sometimes gearing up in costume as a Disney character.

Sundiang went through a month of training in customer service skills and character choreography before being able to work in the park. Initially, she planned on staying for a semester, but later extended her internship to a year. Sundiang recalled the tough experience of her first Thanksgiving away from family, Orlando’s frequent, intense thunderstorms, and not getting along with her five roommates, but nothing stopped her from having a memorable time. It is “the happiest place on Earth” after all. Besides being able to call Disney World her backyard for a year, Sundiang also learned how to line dance in a nearby country music club and was introduced to the sweet life of Southern hospitality.

“I wouldn’t call it studying abroad. I did study, but that’s not what the experience gave. It was an escape from the California life because it was another world,” she said. “When you go to a place other than your home, you’ll realize there’s so much more than what you’re exposed to. You can learn so much more about yourself.”

Since leaving Disney World, Sundiang still keeps in touch with the myriad of friends she met living in places like Puerto Rico and the U.S. South and East Coast. Last year, MTV contacted Sundiang after viewing “It Gets Better with (365) Days of Disney,” a YouTube video montage of her life at Disney World. Sundiang is affiliated with It Gets Better, an Internet-based project working to promote optimism and hope among LGBT teens bullied for being gay or suspected of being gay by uploading videos created by users with one simple, positive message: Life after high school rocks.

“I’ve learned that if you want to do something, just do it. It’ll teach you so much more than what you expect learn,” she said. “Before Disney World, I used to think that life changes fast, then I realized the only thing that changed was myself.” Once a self-described “party animal,” Sundiang said being surrounded by students focused on their future careers helped transform her own goals. Her dream job is to work as the creative director for Vogue magazine.

Thanks to the glory of the southern hemisphere, Natalie Abbene spent her fall semester…in spring. But eternal sunshine wasn’t the only perk she experienced as a student of the semester-long media studies program at the University of Boston Sydney campus. “I went bungee jumping, camping in Byron Bay, scuba diving in the Great Barrier Reef, and road tripped to New Zealand,” said Abbene. “I was living the life.”

Though don’t be fooled, dear reader; actual studying did take place on this overseas exchange. Abbene took four courses at the University of Boston Sydney campus: Australian Culture, Australian Literature, and Australian Cinema. Her fourth course—media internship—included an actual intern position at one of Australia’s prestigious media production company’s: Fox Studio’s Spectrum Films, which has helped create such legendary movies as “Dead Poets Society,” “Mission Impossible: 2” and “Little Women.”

When Abbene wasn’t busy braving the outdoors or working with the Australian film industry, she spent her time simply getting used to a new home. She shared an apartment style dorm room with four other girls—two of which were fellow USF-ers. Living with Americans didn’t make it any easier adapting to a foreign country, however. “There are small things with the accent,” she said, “but really it’s a totally different English language.” Wearing a tank-top? In Australia, you’re wearing a ‘singlete.’ Thanking someone? All you have to say is ‘ta.’ And if you hear someone say they’re ‘fangin’ a duzzie’—according to Abbene, they’re just looking for a cigarette.

Indeed, it appears weather wasn’t the only thing Abbene found topsy-turvy in the land down under. “Things that are ‘iced’—like iced coffee—come with a scoop of ice-cream in it,” she said. “And you don’t have to tip.”

One final thing Abbene found flip-flopped: her opinion on Australia. “At first, I was upset not to be in Europe,” she explained, “but the trip was absolutely amazing; I wish I could go again.”

For some, studying abroad is a long awaited and carefully planned out trip. For others, it’s more of a shot in the dark. David Yount, who spent his past semester in Africa, falls under the latter. “I didn’t really know much about where I was going,” he said. “I liked the idea of doing something spontaneous.” Yount’s spontaneity landed him at the University of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania, a country in East Africa.
As an international studies student learning French and Swahili, Yount felt right at home in his African and International Politics course and his Swahili lessons. His environment, however, took a little more adapting. Besides getting used to a new culture, the extreme heat, and a standard diet of rice and beans, he also adapted to being, in his own terms, the guinea pig of his group. “I was one of the first kids from USF to go on this program, so I had to rely on improvisation,” said Yount.
Indeed, it was spontaneity that got him there and spontaneity that got him through the semester—especially when he was asked to assist in teaching French class at a local Jesuit high school. “There were no textbooks and no course materials,” he said, “but we made it work.” More than making it work, Yount helped to make the classroom a community.
In an area with over 70 spoken languages, it’s not surprising that no one really calls themselves ‘Tanzanian,’ explained Yount. But by establishing “bridges,” homerooms for teens of all ages, where the students participated in talks and activities, Yount hoped to create a community. “The principal and I focused on bringing the kids together by making learning a celebration,” he said.
When he wasn’t busy studying for classes (or teaching them), Yount spent his time on the soccer field with the local teams. “I travelled all over the city with these guys,” he said. “I even won a goat.”
Yount left the goat in Dar es Salaam, but he did bring back something more: a new place to call home. “Africa will always be a part of my heart,” he said, “and I will definitely be going back.”


*Written by Kathleen DeLara and Allison Fazio

Study Abroad? International Student Brings World to USF

For USF students and college goers worldwide, studying abroad is an opportunity to jump on if you want to take a break from American college life. It’s a chance to experience another culture, meet new people, eat different food…the list goes on.

I have not had the opportunity to study abroad just yet, but having lived with an international roommate from China, I have had a cultural learning experience in my own home here in San Francisco. Getting to know Yue Li has opened my eyes to just how life-changing the experience of moving and going to school in another country really is. To my surprise, I’ve also broadened my perspective on my own American culture while living with an international student.

I decided to pick Yue’s brain to learn how she feels about differences between American and Chinese college culture. Yue hopes to divide her time between the U.S. and China after college, she thinks America is “amazing,” and came here to immerse herself in our culture.

Yue told me that international students tend to make friends mainly with fellow international students. Living with Yue has taught me the importance of getting to mingle with the international student population and of understanding another culture from someone in the same situation as you.

As Yue and I discussed differences in social life between China and America, she commented on how late we wake up here, and how she found it odd at first that students hang out in mixed gender groups—she told me that in school in China, girls would mainly hang out with other girls and guys in groups of guys. Yue also appreciated that on-campus living is only required for two years whereas in China, students are typically required to live in the dorms for four years.

Yue sees Friday as a day to relax instead of the kick-off to the weekend, so  despite weekly invitations from my roommates and I to go out, she prefers a Friday night in. Also, Yue saw a noticeable change between the atmospheres of the Chinese and American college classroom. Here, she says, the students are given much more encouragement from the professors to participate in class and finds it interesting that the instructors are willing to learn from their students.

Maybe most surprisingly, I’ve learned that by living with someone from a different culture, I also saw my own culture through an entirely different pair of eyes. So if you want to gain a new perspective on American culture as well as a foreign one, from my experience I would highly suggest befriending, or even living with, an international student!



New Study Abroad Option in the Philippines: Casa Bayanihan

Courtesy of Evelyn Obamos

Courtesy of Evelyn Obamos

Nothing falls short for a student to take learning to another level at USF. Why not take a leap into the unknown and come back with a new perspective next semester.

USF, in collaboration with The Casa Educational Network, is offering a semester abroad called Casa Bayanihan, which translates to house cooperative endeavor.

Casa Bayanihan invites participants to a unique life zest, some may not be familiar with, but may be curious to discover without reading from a book. The quest requires a trip across the pacific to the Jesuit Ateneo de Manila University.

Through the program, USF students will be immersed into a supportive living-learning community founded on pillars of accompaniment, spirituality, and academics in the Philippines.

Currently there is one USF student officially registered for the program. Three other USF students await application approval from the two Co-Directors, Grace Carlson and Heidi Kallen. Four other students, from different Jesuit universities in the United States, will also be attending, totaling eight for the semester if all students are accepted.

Sharon Li, director of the Center for Global Education said, “The new deadline is set for December, 2nd due to the exciting scholarship notice that came out recently.”

An anonymous donation will provide a scholarship that covers 12 to 18 units of tuition, plus room and board.
“Students need to be in the Philippines before January 23rd for the first day of class and return May 23rd .”

Regarding what makes this study abroad program unique, Li said, “The program really does foster transformation… It’s a different type of challenge because students are participating in communal living, group activities, and students have to be willing to participate.”

Elaborating on the types of group activities, Li said students can expect to take part in cooking, cleaning, team building, and group reflections quite frequently.

Li also emphasized the wellness of students, discussing what students have gained from the experience. One anecdote a student shared with Li was spending the weekend traveling to the outskirts where students communed with indigenous people.
“Students have expressed a deeper sense of humility and compassion, but also a sense of serving the community even more after returning home,” Li said.

Having the chance to study under nontraditional circumstances offers many opportunities. Students can dive into a rich culture—have a chance to be a part of a community, work through challenges, and come back to serve in their own communities.
Senior Evelyn Obamos attended a shorter eight week Philippines summer program in 2010. She said one of the reasons that motivated her was her desire to explore her Filipino roots.

Quoting Filipino reform advocate, Jose Rizal, Obamos said, “S/He who does not know how to look back at where he or she came from will never get to her/his destination.”

Obamos added, “I wanted to dig deep into my Filipino roots. As a second-generation Filipino there were some gaps between my culture and identity that I was trying to bridge…the opportunity presented itself perfectly and I was able to get financial support for it.”

On her identification as Filipino-American, Obamos said she finds her story similar to other ethnic backgrounds.
“There are several layers to cultural identity. We have our individual culture that’s in our blood, and there is the culture around us that’s nurtured through assimilation.

Being able to bridge the two is still something I’m learning how to do…Everybody shares a common struggle of discovering who they are,” Obamos said.

Casa Bayanihan is a method to accompany students on that journey.

For more detailed information on the course syllabus and application process for Casa Bayanihan visit http://www.scu.edu/casa/bayanihan/.

Foreign Language Aids Cultural Immersion

As Americans, we do not need to learn a foreign language because pretty much everywhere around the world people are learning English.  The problem with that is you do not really understand what you are not getting.  Being a part of a culture and being able to participate, instead of just standing outside and thinking you know what is going on, will enable you to have a much deeper understanding and appreciation of this foreign culture.

When I took my first course in Middle East history, I did not speak Arabic nor had I ever been to the region.  Now I am hooked.  It was not until I took my first Arabic course that I understood that Arabic is not a single language, and that there are multiple dialects used in various parts of the region.  The Arabic spoken in Morocco, for example, is quite different from Arabic spoken in Syria, which is different from Arabic spoken in Iraq.  Whole words, sentence structures, and expressions sound different.  In learning Arabic I have developed a richer understanding of the politics, culture, history and economics of the Middle East region requires a facility in this important and beautiful language and the dialects.

I have studied and worked in the Middle East and last summer I took Arabic at Middlebury Arabic Language School.  This program is full immersion.  I signed a pledge and could only use Arabic for the entire 9 weeks of the program.  And we managed to learn an entire year’s worth of material during that time.  This was an extremely intensive course but one that I recommend for those who are serious about learning a foreign language. Many times students go overseas to study, and that is great, but often times they are surrounded by peers who speak English.  Finding a way to really immerse oneself in and struggle with the nuances and details of the language will ultimately lead to a better understanding of the culture and society.  In the case of Arabic, this language is also first step in understanding the Middle East and Islam.

I will return to Middlebury again this summer to complete their advanced Arabic language course.  I believe we need to build better understanding, cooperation, and programs between the United States and this part of the world – as well as many other areas too.  Unless we understand what they think and why they think the way they do, which means standing outside of us and getting inside of the local culture to see things through their eyes, we as Americans will not be able to have a constructive dialogue.  We will only be able to communicate with the minds but not the hearts of these people.  Learning a foreign language, such as Arabic, will help break stereotypes and misconceptions that are destructive to our future prosperity, global peace, and our national security.  I encourage other students at USF to consider taking their foreign language courses seriously so that they can do the same.