This past summer I had the opportunity to study abroad in Beijing, China with a small group of Bloomsburg University students and my professor, Dr. Luo. For four weeks, I took Intensive Chinese Language classes at China’s most prestigious school, Peking University. The best part was that I had the chance to speak Chinese to people every day. Eventually, it became a norm to use Chinese daily, especially when I was ordering food or shopping. Although I enjoyed spending a portion of my summer in a developing country, it was more than just a luxury. Studying abroad gave me a chance to see life outside of the U.S. and gain a better understanding of people as well as their culture. I’m sure most of you have already been told that this will make a great addition to your resume but that’s not the only benefit of studying abroad. “Most people have gone to college, but what will set you apart from those graduates? Study Abroad.” says Dr.Jowi. Dr. Jowi is currently a professor of Communication Studies and works in the office of International Education in which she specializes in helping students through the travel process and creating more study abroad trips available for BU students.
Where do I start?
There are two ways in which a student can study abroad: through a Global Exchange program or Summer Immersion Program. The Global Exchange program is a program in which a student will live and take courses in a foreign country. The Global Exchange program usually lasts from one semester to a year. Bloomsburg currently has semester/year programs in places such as France, Spain, China, Germany, the Netherlands, etc. For those who have never gone overseas and have a tendency to get homesick, the summer Immersion program may be a better choice for you. The summer immersion program consists of language classes, field trips, and interaction with the natives. During my stay in China, I visited historical sites like the Forbidden City, the Confucius Temples, the Temple of Heaven and the Great Wall. In addition, the program counted for a total of 7 credits added towards my graduation. For about 2 years, Bloomsburg has provided summer programs in China, Africa, and Russia.
Recently, there is an available opportunity to study abroad to Cameroon and Ethiopia this winter break. The trip will last for 3 weeks starting from Jan. 1-Jan. 25. Dr. Jowi is recruiting students to take advantage of this opportunity. The office of International Education is currently working on establishing more programs for students to study abroad in Western Europe.
The opportunity to study abroad through the university is a wonderful experience but is not available for all students who desire it. In order to study abroad, one must meet all the general criteria:
- You must be a good student. Being considered as a good student is more than just having good grades. It is one who also has good behavior. This is a crucial part of the study abroad process because any student that studies abroad becomes an ambassador for the university as well as the U.S. “Character, behavior, and how you live in the community factors into the application”, says Dr. Jowi. To ensure that students do not jeopardize relations between universities overseas, students who have records of any bad behavior are prohibited from being admitted into the program. In addition, students must also be cleared by the Office of Student Standards and receive approval from the Department chair and the Dean of College in which depends upon your degree program. Before I studied abroad, I needed the approval of the Department of Mass Communications and the Dean of Liberal Arts.
- Depending on which program you desire, you must meet the GPA requirement. If you decide to study abroad in the summer, you are required to have a 2.7 GPA. However, you must have a 3.0 GPA for the Global Exchange Program.
- Dr. Jowi explained this significant rule the best. “You can study abroad anywhere as long as you have the money.” I was blessed to have my mom pay for my expenses and my mom was reimbursed by my financial aid. Talk to Financial Aid Office to discuss possible payment options. For spending money, I wrote letters to family and friends, asking for donations. As a result, I raised $500. Not bad!
- If you meet the criteria listed above or are unsure if you would be able to study abroad, make an appointment to visit the office of International Education (located in the Student Service Center, 3rd Floor) on Fridays to fill out an interest form and discuss possible travel plans.
Things you should be aware of if you plan to study abroad:
- Make sure to do well in your classes. If you receive less than a “C” average, the credits will not be transferred over to Bloomsburg University which means you won’t get those credits added to graduation.
- You are first, a BU student. Although you may have freedom to go where you want and do what you want, you still have obligations. Think twice about your choices because what you do will reflect you, Bloomsburg University as well as your family. Please use your good judgment when you are in a foreign country.
- Doing research on the country doesn’t hurt. It’s good to be aware of the culture you will be immersed in. Perhaps you can impress the natives of your knowledge of the culture. You will be surprised at how different their customs are compared to the norms in the U.S. In China, I never left a tip after eating at a restaurant because it wasn’t required or recommended. Chinese people are not accustomed to people giving them extra money for their services and can sometimes see it as an insult. In China, the waiters and waitresses are paid by the government. Of course, this differs from what I am accustomed to. In the U.S., it is recommended that you leave the waiter or waitress a tip. When you are in a foreign country, it’s their rules that count, not yours.
- Make sure to pack lightly. Regardless of if you study abroad for a summer, semester or year, you must pack light. Try adding outfits in your suitcase that you can rearrange and wear differently. For the ladies, buy travel size bottles to bring your favorite hair products with you.
- Don’t forget all the essentials. If you have never travelled overseas, do some research about necessary documents (like passport, visa, insurance card, etc.) to bring with you
- Save your money. When travelling abroad, you will probably find some things you would love to purchase for friends, family or for yourself. In addition to souvenirs, make sure to have enough money for emergencies or for food. Don’t forget to exchange your currency at a local travel store before you go on your trip.
- Most importantly, “Go out there and see what is there!”
Want to know more about my study abroad experience in China?
Check out my blogs: http://www.bloomu.edu/blog/smith/