Get out and study abroad for new experiences, perspectives

Jackie Keating

I’m sure you’ve heard the mantra multiple times: “Studying abroad changed my outlook. It was an incredible experience I’ll never forget. You should do it too.”

Perhaps you get weary of these proclamations, think it’s too expensive or wonder whether or not your credits will transfer.

These are valid concerns, but as a student who just got back from a Study Abroad trip, I cannot stress enough that studying abroad is possible, and that it truly is an incredible experience.

I studied abroad last term in Cork, Ireland. I took mainly English classes that will count toward my degree, but also took an Irish history class and Irish tourism class, hoping to get a good understanding of the community I would call my home for three and a half months. However, I quickly realized that as much as I liked my classes, the most I learned about Ireland was through traveling through Irish towns and talking directly to the people.

For instance, I knew before I left that there was conflict in Northern Ireland. However, it wasn’t until I took a tour in Belfast and was warned by my B&B host to wear neutral colors (no union jacks or Republican orange and green, especially) and saw the “Peace Wall” separating the Catholic and Protestant sides of the city, that I realized how bad it still was.

On a less solemn note, one of the most fun experiences I had was when my roommates and I hosted a Thanksgiving party and invited over some Irish students who knew about the holiday but had never seen it being celebrated. By inviting them over we were able to talk and laugh about our cultural differences. It was surprising how much they knew about American politics, and it was fun to learn about their experiences growing up in rural, Gaelic-speaking areas. I know it sounds cliche, but making international friendships is one of the best things you can do for yourself in this increasingly globally connected world of ours.

Now that I’m back in my old routine here in Corvallis, I have made it my mission to spread the word about studying abroad. This is the best time to do it, while you’re young enough to sleep soundly on a creaky hostel bed and resilient enough to go to class on Monday after having flown to another city during the weekend, all the while taking classes that will count toward your degree.

The very first step in starting your international adventure is to choose where you would like to go.

There are “OSU-approved study abroad programs in nearly 70 countries,” according to the Office of Global Opportunities website.

Also, you’re not limited to study abroad—you can also do an International Internship, like Anshu Prakash, a senior in biology and public health with an option in health promotion. Prakash, who now works at the IE3 Global office as a student ambassador, completed an international internship in India, working in pre-med and public health.

“I wanted a different experience; a different healthcare setting,” said Prakash about why she chose to intern in India. She worked in a hospital committed to teaching.

“There were lots of students, lots of interns,” Prakash said.

Caitlin Colburn, a senior in Biohealth and Animal Science, studied abroad in South Africa for a month this summer working with animals for her Animal Science degree. “[Studying abroad] is definitely worth it,” Colburn said. “More people need to do it.”

Colburn’s favorite experiences from her trip were the young South African children she met while abroad. She met one child in particular, a girl with cerebral palsy, who remains firm in Colburn’s memory for the struggles she has overcome.

“As much as I was there to learn about the animals, I really learned most about the people and the culture,” Colburn said.

Only 500 Oregon State students per year study abroad, according to Prakash, despite the numerous programs and scholarships available to students. If you decide to study abroad, give yourself time to apply—I started applying for my program a year in advance. You don’t necessarily have to start that early, but I recommend you give yourself at least two terms in order to apply for your programs, scholarships, passports and to meet with your adviser and fill out paperwork.

The opinions expressed in Keating’s column do not necessarily reflect those of The Daily Barometer staff.

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