By Moises R. Cotto
Worcester State University has a lot of information and programs for students who would like to learn about studying abroad. Arguably, though, the most invaluable source of information about studying abroad is provided by the student body itself.
“I think students should study abroad because there is nothing like learning through experience,” said senior Haley Gosselin, an English major and Communication minor at WSU. “You simply can’t learn these things in a classroom.”
Gosselin took the chance to study abroad in Ecuador.
“We stayed in Quito, Puyo, Lago Agrio, and we actually flew into a province of the Amazon jungle and stayed with an indigenous tribe for 4 nights. The tribe is called the Sarayaku. My experience was both wonderful and terrifying,” said Gosselin. “It was the first time I ever traveled so it was an extremely intense first experience. The lessons and values I learned from the indigenous people are priceless and I will never forget them. Studying a culture so vastly different from our own was so valuable and eye-opening.”
Gosselin found Ecuador refreshing due to seeing most of the people living off the land which contrasts with the consumerist society that we live in here in America.
Another senior at Worcester State University had a similar experience. Jean-Philippe Matondo from Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, also had the opportunity to study abroad. He visited China during the fall of 2015 and thoroughly enjoyed the experience.
“The Chinese have succeeded in finding the equilibrium between tradition and modernity. I traveled inside China in different cities, and was I fascinated by everything I saw and experienced, from the delicious food from the city, to the bamboo rice at the top of a mountain somewhere in the southern part of China,” said Matondo. “I came to understand that we should never judge a country by its media coverage. Everything I had learned about China through the Western media proved to be wrong and a lot was erroneous. Every country under the sun has it ups and downs. I believe China has the best places that we have never heard of. I met China and I fell in love.”
Keeping the experiences of WSU students in mind, another opportunity for students to learn about studying abroad or undertaking an internship abroad is the Study Abroad Fair, which is organized multiple times during the year. The first one of the Fall 2016 semester took place on September 22, where representatives from different study abroad program providers had some wise advice for interested students.
Tom Durigan, a student advisor for Athena Study Abroad–which offers programs in countries like Japan, France, Ecuador and Peru—urged students to focus on the significance a study abroad program has on a student’s résumé.
“Less than 1 percent of students on the job market have studied abroad,” said Durigan, who studied abroad himself for a semester in Salamanca, Spain during his junior year. “The amount of people who have internships abroad is also low. When it comes to competition, you would be competing with potential employees, more than 90 percent of whom have never studied abroad. This is why studying abroad would look great on your résumé.”
“I recommend for students who study abroad to go to a country where they don’t know or are not fluent in the language because it forces you to learn a language more quickly,” said Olga Wright, a representative for Paideia Study Abroad Programs which focuses on studying in Greek cities like Thessaloniki and islands like Rhodes.
Paideia offers some of the least expensive programs, within the same price range as in-state tuition. There are programs available for winter/intersession, summer, and the academic year.
“Because of its historical and cultural significance, Greece would be a great country for those who are studying history, communication, art, architecture, ecology, political science, finance, and business,” Wright said.
For students who would like to go on a study abroad program with professors they know, there are actually many faculty members who conduct study abroad programs for students concentrating in different fields, such as world languages. One such faculty member, Judith Jeon-Chapman, French professor at Worcester State University, has led short-term study abroad programs in countries such as France, Monaco, England, Italy, Turkey, and Greece. She develops courses that prepare students to immerse themselves in the cultures of the countries they visit.
“I continue to organize educational tours because I want to offer students the opportunity to directly experience the rich cultures of France and other countries,” said Jeon-Chapman. “These experiences abroad can be life-altering experiences that cause students to view the world and their own cultures through a different lens.”
Jeon-Chapman is organizing a 10-day educational tour of sites—including Paris, Versailles Palace, Bordeaux, Saint Emilion, Sarlat-la-Canéda, Arles, Carcassonne, Nice, and Eze—in France and Monaco that will begin in May 2017.
“Student participants will enroll in the course I will be teaching this spring in conjunction with the tour. The sites span the history of France; for instance, the Pont du Gard, an intact ancient Roman aqueduct, Roman ruins in Arles, Carcassonne, an ancient fortified city with Medieval ramparts, Sarlat, one of the best-preserved Renaissance towns in France, Versailles, the famous 17th century palace of Louis XIV, and the most famous tower in the world, and the Eiffel Tower, built for the centennial celebration of the French Revolution in 1889.”
Among the various reasons we students should study abroad, Jason Grant from the International Programs Office offers perhaps the sagest advice to a student who is considering studying abroad:
“Students who don’t study abroad work for someone who did.”