Have you ever wanted to study abroad? College students often want to experience a new culture and country and gain a new perspective. College is just the time to do that! Oregon State is a new and exciting adventure for many of you, but our campus has the resources to help you explore your passions overseas. In addition to being a Liberal Arts Ambassador, I also work at the International Degree and Education Abroad (IDEA) Office as an International Ambassador. After studying abroad myself during Fall of 2012 I became determined to help other students step out of their comfort zone and get as much out of an education abroad experience as I did. So how do you select a program? What are the different programs like? I’ll use my experience abroad as an example and then my fellow CLA Ambassador, Breanna Balleby, will tell you a bit about her time abroad as well.
I participated in a Spanish immersion program in Chillán, Chile at La Universidad del Bío-Bío. OSU’s World Languages and Cultures Department sends a group of students to Chillán each Fall to complete the entire second year of Spanish (Span 211, 212, 213) in just a term. There is also an option to enroll in Spanish 311 as well. Every student in my group lived with a different host family in the city, but during the week we had classes all together. My host family was without a doubt the best part of my experience– my host parents and all three host brothers only speak Spanish. All of the time I spent with them at family barbecues or just around the house contributed tremendously to my Spanish. I lived in Chillán with my host family until the end of November 2012 and then spent 3 weeks travelling with two other girls from my program. We went to Peru, saw the ancient Incan ruins of Machu Picchu, and made our way through the Atacama Desert! There are too many lessons and memories to encapsulate in this short blog, but I will say this: Living in a Spanish speaking country and experiencing a new culture solidified my decision to become a fluent Spanish speaker, and also to return to South America after graduation this coming Spring. I constantly reflect on my experience and all that it has given me. I not only gained a deeper understanding of the world, cultures different from my own, and Spanish, but also learned a lot about myself throughout the process. Breanna had the opportunity to go to France this past Summer, read up on how she selected her program below!
Like Alison, I have been fortunate to study abroad while here at Oregon State. I recently had my first out-of-country experience in France! I spent most of my time in Angers (a city in the Loire Valley region of France) and also visited parts of Normandy, Brittany, and eventually Paris. I was able to craft my perfect study abroad experience with the help of the IDEA office. I participated in two summer sessions in Angers, France through AHA International for the months of July and August and spent the last ten days of my trip in Paris. Since I am an International Degree student I worked hard (with the help of my advisors!) to create a program that would help me fulfill my 10-week experience abroad.
For someone who had never travelled internationally, I was worried about how to successfully plan this experience and my advisors were a great asset to me. They helped me before, during, and after my experience. I began planning seriously for my experience abroad in late Fall of 2012 for the following Summer of 2013. This gave me plenty of time to work through the application process, order my passport, and apply for various scholarships before any deadlines could pass me by! In the end, my efforts certainly paid off since I was able to have one of the most culturally-enriching experiences of my life! If you’re interested in seeing and reading more about my personal experience abroad, feel free to peruse my summer travel blog (a component of studying abroad I recommend for everyone as it helps you reflect on, share, and treasure your time abroad).
Finally, I encourage you all to consider study abroad. As you continue through your college career, you will most likely hear the same advice over and over again from upper-division and graduate students: study abroad. And of course, the advice that follows that is always: start planning early. So – I encourage you to seriously consider studying abroad! Check out the IDEA homepage and once you’ve decided to study abroad, take your “first steps” by completing the online First Steps presentation on their website. We both wish you the best with your international endeavors and can’t wait to hear about your experiences!