My Kid’s Studying Abroad and I’m Not Sure What to Think

My Kid’s Studying Abroad and I’m Not Sure What to Think

by Shelley Emling via “Huffington Post

For the past year and a half, my oldest child has been studying at a university in Amsterdam. He’s majoring in physics and — if all goes according to plan — he should be earning his bachelor’s degree in 2017. He comes home summers and over Christmas and I visit him there at least twice a year. So far, so good. But on the heels of this morning’s news of terrorist attacks in Belgium, he said something that rocked me to my core: “It seems as though the bombings are getting closer.”

Only last November, terrorist attacks in Paris — 316 miles from Amsterdam — killed 129 people. One of those killed was a 23-year-old California State Long Beach student, Nohemi Gonzalez, who had gone to Paris for a semester of study at the Strate School of Design. Not only did her death horrify her classmates, but it also made many parents of study-abroad students wonder whether kids should still be taking college classes overseas.

Now it’s Brussels — 108 miles from Amsterdam — that’s under attack, with at least 34 people killed and many more injured today in blasts at the airport and a subway station. Only a few days ago, the suspected mastermind behind the Paris attacks was arrested.

Upon hearing of the attack, I immediately messaged my son in Amsterdam on Facebook. Although he’s alarmed — and has commented that the attacks are indeed too close for comfort — he’s not going anywhere. He’ll continue living his life and attending classes this week, just as he has been. He noted his certainty that his professors will discuss the issue today with students, just as they did in the days following the Paris attacks.

But this latest incident has given me pause, and when friends ask me what I think about whether American students should continue studying abroad, I’m no longer sure exactly what to tell them.

My husband and I raised our three kids in London, and lived there for seven years before moving to the States in 2000. I’ve long been a proponent of kids studying abroad, and even wrote an article a few months back about the advantages of getting a degree overseas. At the time, I asserted that the advantages to earning a degree abroad are many, but one of the main ones is the money saved by students and families. Many programs in Europe offer bachelor’s degrees after only three years, and often at a fraction of the price charged by U.S. institutions.

Currently, more than 46,500 U.S. students are pursuing degrees overseas, roughly 84 percent of whom are enrolled in bachelor’s or master’s degree programs, according to the most recent data from the Institute of International Education. The United Kingdom is the most popular destination, followed by Canada, France and Germany. . .

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How study abroad impacted my career

“How Study Abroad Impacted My Career”

by Elaine Kilgore via “Lanthorn

On behalf of Captain Baker and the entire crew, welcome aboard American Airlines flight 392, non-stop service from Chicago to Madrid.” Holy crap, I’m going, I’m finally going to Spain! The months of research and planning are finally paying off. This is a great idea. Isn’t it? I’ve been studying Spanish for years, but what if I don’t understand their dialect? Do Spaniards even like Americans? I don’t know anyone in Spain. What am I doing?

This is what goes through your mind when you study abroad for the first time. Excitement, with a healthy dose of fear. Growing up, I barely even traveled to Canada. But in 2011, the summer after my junior year, I left the continent. I had accepted an internship with a with a company in Madrid that connected private English tutors with Spaniards. I hopped on a plane with two other girls from GVSU, whom I barely knew.

My host “family” was group of three women who did not speak English. This was intimidating at first, but it forced me to practice and improve my Spanish. They were kind, inviting and understanding of the language barrier. They taught me how to cook a couple of their favorite dishes and made sure I felt welcome coming to them for anything.

If I felt homesick, I could Skype my family, boyfriend and my cat and dog. As time went on, I found myself less and less depending on the Skype conversations and more and more interested in planning my next adventure.

I could take a day trip to Toledo, Spain, try new food and tour an ancient city and, later that night, still check in with my cat in America. On my last day in Spain, I found myself mourning leaving the town, roommates and new friends I had made. Three months was more than enough time to fall in love with a country, its people and the language.

My second chance to study abroad came in the summer of 2012, when I applied for a program called Marketing in China. They accepted twelve students from GVSU, MSU, and SVSU, myself included. And I didn’t even know Chinese!

One day we met with the president of Amway China, and the next we were working our calves out on the Great Wall and learning how to make dumplings. We traveled throughout the region, hitting cities like Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Xi’an and Hong Kong.

Studying abroad isn’t strictly business, and it isn’t a vacation. I had the opportunity to experience the sights, food and people the world has to offer, and I did real work with real world benefits.. . . .”

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Don’t Give in to the Pressure to Study Abroad

“Don’t Give in to the Pressure to Study Abroad”

by Kirby Dzurny via “The GW Hatchett”

It’s that time of year again: Sophomores are planning for study abroad.

More than half of all GW undergraduates will study in a different country during their time here, and the number of students going abroad has steadily increased since 2001.

In a community that is constantly pressuring students to go overseas, we aren’t always informed about the negatives. I’ve come to realize that we only get a few years at GW, and this is not the time to leave.

Living in another country for three to nine months can have long-lasting consequences once you return – a lesson I learned the hard way.

When I was in high school, I studied abroad twice. My first experience was for a few weeks in Suwa, Japan my freshman year. The second time, I decided to spend my entire junior year living with a host family in Nanjing, China. While my immersion was difficult because of language and cultural barriers, it was nothing compared to the shock I experienced when I came home.

Back in the U.S., I found it difficult to relate to the people I had missed most, which left me feeling frustrated and lonely for months after I’d returned.

It’s common for students coming home from abroad to experience frustration, anger, loneliness, confusion or a sense of distance from their American friends and family. Though this is only temporary, it can last up to a year after an abroad experience.

Suddenly, you may feel held back by reverse culture shock during one of the most important times of college: the second half of junior year and senior year.

This is the best time to build relationships with professors and make connections as you apply for internships, take on a leadership role in a student organization or start looking for a post-graduation job. When you return home, reverse culture shock can make catching up even more difficult.

For many students, study abroad is a valuable part of GW’s culture. Some say it was one of the reasons they decided to enroll here, since the University has 300 programs from which to choose, in over 60 countries. And studying in a different country of course can be beneficial: You gain travel experience, and depending on your major and location, can boost your résumé to stand out in the job market. . . .

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