Editors Note: This article was written by Cierra Spurlock and was originally published on bloomsburgnews.com.
Studying abroad for some individuals can seem extremely far out of reach due to things like cost, apprehensions, experiencing a different culture, and even curriculum differentiation.
These things did not seem to stop two Bloomsburg University students and one exchange student, hailing all the way from East London who deemed studying abroad as a more than gratifying opportunity and an unforgettable experience.
Benefits of Studying Abroad
Many students may initially shy away from studying abroad, but the benefits of going abroad are endless. Some of these benefits may include improving a current resume, meeting different kinds of people, and an opportunity to learn about other cultures.
Michael Bryan who is a super-senior at Bloomsburg University and is studying both French and Communications talks about his experience when studying in Strasbourg, France, and the benefits study abroad has offered him.
Bryan stated that French students typically take eight to 10 classes, but he decided to only take four classes. These classes included a French class, a Wine class, a Greek Methodology class and a History Integration class. “I think taking the History Integration class was helpful because it was great for learning the history of the city I was in,” Bryan said.
Bryan highlighted some key benefits of studying abroad and why this particular opportunity to study in France was so important for him. “For me, personally since I’m studying French it was important that I went to a French speaking country to practice my French,” Bryan said.
“You learn to meet new people and be more open to people and other cultures and things like that because you can’t go abroad and think that it’s going to be like things in the U.S. I think that it is good personal development to go abroad,” Bryan said. He also mentioned that studying abroad will also allow you to become more independent because you are unable to depend on others.
According to the International Education of Students, 82 percent of alumni said that they developed a more sophisticated way of viewing the world because of their study abroad experience. These same individuals were more likely to seek out diverse groups of friends and even long after these individuals’ study abroad experiences, these individuals are finding that their enticing experiences in other countries seem to affect their life choices and values still today.
Apprehensions, Helpful Tips, and Affordability
Studying abroad is differently priced based on where you choose to travel so it is important that students do extensive research before studying in a different country. Students’ initial thoughts on studying abroad may bring upon some major fear and anxiety, but Nadine De Jesus, a Bloomsburg Univeristy study abroad program student, covers how students should deal with the fear and anxieties of studying abroad by offering some amazing tips from her personal experiences while also discussing her personal expenses when studying abroad and how students’ study abroad trips may be cost effective too.
Nadine De Jesus is an accomplished academic honors students involved in various organizations including being an Orientation Workshop Leader, a Study Abroad Program Symposium Panelist, and a secretary for the National Broadcasting Society.
Though De Jesus seems to have more than enough on her plate, she took a huge leap in going abroad to further her education in Aarhus, Denmark where she attended Aarhus University. “Being on my own is what I was really scared of,” De Jesus said. She mentioned that she is an extremely family oriented, and prior to her departure she felt quite anxious with being so far away from home.
Another apprehension that De Jesus had before going abroad was not knowing anyone or the language for that matter. De Jesus knew that there would be an extensive language barrier initially before even arriving in Denmark.
After returning back to the United States, De Jesus offered some amazing tips for students interested in studying abroad: “Use every day as a learning experience, budget your trip before going abroad and most importantly be open minded. People in Denmark are more quiet and reserved,” De Jesus mentioned.
“Time is too short, let go and enjoy things, and do not limit yourself. Studying abroad made me into who I am today!” beamed De Jesus. She discussed how she felt upon returning to the United States. “Since you have changed when you come back you may feel that everything is different, but it will all be the same,” De Jesus said.
Beyond the amazing experience, De Jesus discussed her thoughts on the cost of living when studying abroad and breaks down the specifics in expenses that she had to dish out of her own pockets in Denmark.
“I had to pay for my room and board and as well as food of course, but it definitely was affordable I think. I can’t remember how much my rent was, but it was definitely close to the amount you pay [here] for the dorms if not cheaper,” De Jesus stated.
De Jesus mentioned that she was unsure of how much she spent on food in the four-month period she had studied in Denmark, however, she estimated it being close to $5,000 which she stated as not being a lot of money when counting the amount of scholarships she had received.
These scholarships helped financially support De Jesus as she said, “I had a bunch of scholarships which helped me a lot … that was through BU sponsored programs so that was wonderful. So it was definitely affordable and I would definitely do it again,” De Jesus said.
Nawal Bonomo, the director of the Global and Multicultural Education department assures students who may not have these same scholarships as De Jesus, that studying abroad is still possible and can be just as affordable. “If you can afford to come to Bloomsburg Univeristy to study, you can go study abroad for almost the same cost with the addition to the airfare. This is true for exchange programs where you pay Bloomsburg University tuition and fees and study at one of our exchange partners.” She also made clear that if you have the Board of Governors Scholarship that the scholarship can be used at another university across the country you wish to study at.
Culture Shock & Curriculum Differentiation
Many students experience culture shock when studying abroad. This could be experienced in the way one individual is unable to properly communicate to a person, experiencing different culture norms, and simply by feeling a disconnect with the people around an individual. Culture shock can lead to an individual feeling homesick and even stressed. Studying abroad for most students may seem difficult for the matter of the curriculum being different from what a student is used to.
Fiona Williams, who is an exchange student from the University of Essex and is now attending Bloomsburg University highlights her experience with culture shock. “I didn’t know that it would be this much of a culture shock because I always pictured that England and America be hand and hand, more or less the same, but coming here has been a completely different story,” Williams stated.
“Here, people are a bit more standoffish and less friendly. Black, African-Americans, they don’t know the country they come from because in my country everyone’s really cultured and they know like the Caribbean specifics of where they are from,” Williams said.
Williams also included another concern of hers while studying in the United States. “I was also worried about the food and going back like two sizes bigger. There are lots of fried foods that are much greasier, fatter and larger here. I didn’t know fried vegetables was such a thing.” Williams interjected.
Williams discussed some the places she’s already visited while studying in the United States. Williams has gone to the Bloomsburg local fair, Knobbles, the Baltimore Aquarium, and New York City.
Williams prefers her curriculum in England than the curriculum in the United States. “The workload is killing me because I noticed here that you guys get a lot of work really consistently like every single class, and if you don’t study consistently you won’t be able to keep up or succeed for that matter, whereas back at my home university we get work, but it’s more difficult than what is here. I noticed the work is easier here, but it’s more consistent,” Williams said.
She went on to discuss the difficulty of work that she is used to and the difference in how the work is given to students at her university over a gradual period of time. “We get harder work and it’s spaced out. Another thing is that you guys get midterms and exams in between your semesters whereas we just get summary exams in the May, and like before those exams you get like a month holiday–like a month for Easter from April to May and a month for Christmas where you get time to revise for your exams. Here it’s like you go straight through and you don’t get a break. It’s too much!” Williams declared.
Williams also mentioned the grading percentages over in England compared to the United States. For example, a 70 percent at the University of Essex is an A- while a 70 percent at Bloomsburg University could be a C or even a D depending on a professor’s set grading rubric.
Though there seem to be huge differences in curriculum; Williams agrees that the fast-paced and often work overload will help her to develop a much better work ethic and even prevent her from procrastinating, which she said is one of her bad habits.
According to California University, MERCED, 97 percent of study abroad students found employment within 12 months of graduation while only 49 percent of college graduates who did not study abroad found employment in the same amount of time. This means that the study abroad students were twice more successful in landing a job than those graduates who did not study abroad.
Study abroad students are also shown to have 25 percent higher salaries compared to those students who do not study abroad while 80 percent of study abroad students report that having the opportunity to study abroad has allowed them to better adapt to diverse work environments and 70 percent of study abroad students even reported overall job satisfaction.
Further Assistance and Advisement
Studying abroad is something that all students should at least look into. For more information on studying abroad be sure to visit the Global and Multicultural Office located in the Student Services building to schedule a time to speak with Bonomo.
Bonomo will be sure to discuss any student’s concerns about studying abroad. These concerns may include the cost of the trip, how to properly obtain scholarships for your study abroad trip, information on curriculum credit equivalency for the country you wish to study in as well as many other questions that students may have.