OSU Abroad

knowledge without borders

OSU Abroad

Fueled by Curiosity

September 28th, 2015 · No Comments · College of Engineering, Returnee, study abroad

Jordan Mach. (4)

While at Oregon State University, Jordan Machtelinckx majored in Civil Engineering and International Studies, and spent a semester in Cape Town, South Africa in the Spring of 2012. Since his graduation, he has embarked on a journey to explore Eastern Europe and Asia. In this blog entry he articulates how his perceptions of various cultures have changed. Read on to learn about an Oregonian’s experience across the world!

In travelling to entirely unfamiliar places, I have been happily overwhelmed by the complexity and relationships of cultures. Currently on a journey to experience the spectrum of culture and landscapes across Central Asia, I am constantly surprised by the way seemingly different cultures are actually hugely related. I’ve come to realize that geographically neighboring cultures which have always seemed, in my inexperience, to be similar have been, in actuality, historically unrelated until relatively recently. The bottom line is that cultural and political borders are not the same.

I must admit that I have little background knowledge on the subject compared to those who may have studied it academically so my revelations may come without surprise to many, but jumping into the trip with no preparation was a conscious decision on my part. I have been lucky enough to travel by numerous methods for various objectives, but this trip was fueled by little more than curiosity for what I might learn along the way.Jordan Mach. (1)

For example, hitch hiking across Turkey illustrated the difference between the European-style west side and the Central Asian east side with its significant Middle Eastern influence. Meeting the inhabitants of various backgrounds along the way piqued my interest about the cultural history of the area and motivated me to dive into some articles on regional history that provided headaches of confusion rivalling those of my time as an undergrad in engineering. Trying to research more about the boundaries of Kurdistan led me through articles that felt like condensed political science courses and clarified why so many residents of Turkey identified themselves to me a bit differently than others. Some were proud of Turkish heritage, some of Kurdish heritage, and some of each group embraced Arabic language to varying degrees. I was fascinated to see the associations of these cultural distinctions with my geographical eastward progress.

Language itself is a cultural attribute I have always taken interest in. It was news to me that before Ataturk (modern Turkey’s first president) circa 1928, the Turkish language useJordan Mach. (3)d an Ottoman script which was closely related in appearance to the modern Arabic script. Crossing from Georgia to Armenia brought me through a small Georgian region where most residents are Muslim Azerbaijanis. Despite the Azerbaijanis being separated from Turkey by Georgia and Armenia, which both use vastly different languages and alphabets, they are in fact historically most related to the Turkish culture (not to be confused with the country of Turkey… that’s the confusing part). In researching the next leg of my journey I discovered that the Kazakh language was originally written using an Arabic-derived script as well, and is actually also a Turkic language. Simply because Kazakhstan now uses Cyrillic, I had always associated both the language and the culture with those of Russia instead.

Coming across these kinds of discoveries as I move eastward was exactly what I was hoping for when I (didn’t) plan this journey. With my lack of previous knowledge I find it hard to retain all the details of this region’s cultural, political and linguistic history I learn along the way, but I am pleased with myself at the knowledge I have managed to retain. I consider myself well-educated in various domains, but the culture and history of this part of the world was not one of them. Wandering across it with no itinerary has proved to be an efficient method of satisfying my curiosity and exposing me to culture and history at which I am – all pride aside – a complete novice.

Jordan Mach. (2)

To learn more about study abroad opportunities at Oregon State University, click here!


Meet a Resident Director: Madeline Lennon

August 20th, 2015 · No Comments · IE3 Global Internships, Resident Director, Spanish, study abroad

Madeline-Lennon (1)Madeline Lennon is a Resident Director with IE3 Global in Santander, Spain. Originally from Ireland, Madeline has a passion for travel, adventure and Spanish culture. Using these skills, she helps students studying abroad make unforgettable memories, lifelong friends and develop a love for Spain. Read on to learn more about her exciting position with IE3 Global!

What brought you to be a Resident Director?

I was living and working in Santander, teaching English as a foreign language in the Language centre, Centro de idiomas de la Universidad de Cantabria (CIUC) where the Oregon students have classes. Someone was needed to be the on-site Coordinator, who was based in Santander, was a native speaker of English and interested in working with study abroad students, so that somebody turned out to be me! That was over 10 years ago now and I feel I was really fortunate to have been in the right place at the right time!

What are some unique aspects of your city and country? 

I’m actually from a small town in Ireland, and I am still very much Irish at heart! My ‘adopted’ country is Spain. It is a fantastically diMadeline-Lennon (3)verse country; each region has something wonderful to offer, from distinct cuisines and traditions to art, history and architecture. From the smallest village hidden in the mountains to the bigger cities, there really is a lot to see and do and tons to experience! Santander, where our program is based is a really beautiful medium sized city, lying on the north coast on a Peninsula completely surrounded by golden beaches. Inland it’s surrounded by the mountains. It really is picture postcard stuff!! It’s an incredibly easy city to get around in, it’s not too big but, better still, it’s not too small. It has a wonderful lively, compact city centre, with all modern amenities and everything in walking distance. The students reside with families near the centre of town and are also in walking distance from the University.

What I particularly like about the city as a base for a study abroad program is tMadeline- Lennon (4)he fact that it is very safe and is not over run with English speakers, like you might find in the larger cities of Madrid, Barcelona or Sevilla. While there are other foreign students around, many from the European Erasmus program, they are also here to immerse themselves in Spanish language and culture. I also love the fact that we have an international airport with low cost flights to many Spanish and European cities. The bus and train system running from Santander is also really good and there are plenty of destinations and combinations to choose from. The program is structured in such a way that students are free to travel most weekends.

What is one thing most of your students may not know about you?

Gosh, difficult questionMadeline-Lennon (7)…I have quite a lot of contact with the students, generally seeing them on a daily basis, and over the duration of the program a relationship builds up; we talk quite a lot and do activities and excursions together so I get to know the students quite well and they get to know me. In result, there’s probably not much ‘important’ stuff they don’t know about me. However, I don’t think I have ever mentioned that I came second in the All Ireland under 8’s 80 metre sprint; I was 7 years of age.

What are some of your favorite aspects of being a Resident Director?

My favorite aspect of the job is the interaction with the students and teachers. I have always found that the students who sign up for study abroad programs to be fantastic to work with. I have met so many really nice people over the years; every group is different so it always feels new. I really enjoy forming part of the team.

What are some of the challenges of your job?

This is 10 week intensive immersion program so it is all engines go right from the start. The first week is crucial to a successful program. There is a lot going on and you have to be a step ahead of everything, whilst making sure that everyone is settling in and doing well. I am very fortunate as our students have been well informed and guided by the staff in Oregon before coming here. That really helps making the transition period a lot smoother for everyone.Madeline-Lennon (6)

What have you seen as the biggest challenge for incoming students?

Again while it is true to say ‘Spain is different,’ it is a modern country in the European Union, so I think the initial challengMadeline-Lennon (8)e of deciding which study abroad program to choose and then setting out and organising it! It’s plain sailing after that, at least on the Santander Program.

This immersion program is not just about learning a language though, the students LIVE here for a term and that involves adapting to a new country, language, host family, teachers, classes and timetable to name but a few! All of these are challenges, and while not to be taken lightly, our students rise well to the challenge and by the first week most students have adapted and are living life like the locals. In fact it usually turns out that the biggest challenge the students face is the reality that after 10 weeks the program does comes to an end and they have to go!

What is your advice for students planning to attend your program, or to study abroad in your country?Madeline-Lennon (10)

Be prepared to immerse yourself in all aspects of the program and take advantage of all the opportunities to practice Spanish that come your way. You will learn more Spanish here in one day of class than a week of classes in the States, better still; the classes are only a part of your day. You live with a Spanish family and have Spanish conversation partners, and it’s all in Spanish! It is practically impossible not to greatly improve your language comprehension.

 What is one thing you think students shouldn’t forget to pack for life in your country?

A genuine interest in doing a study abroad program and in learning Spanish. On a practical level, comfortable shoes for walking and a rain jacket. On an even more practical level I think less is more when packing, as you might want to pick up some stuff along the way and you’ll need the space to get everything back.

Why do you think is the most important take-away for education abroad students?

To be able to ‘take-away’ you have to also ‘eat-in’. Meaning, to really benefit, you have to give it your best, and really want to make it work. By doing this, students gain on all levels. Academically students obtain a major boost, a fast forward in their language capacity. On a personal level students ‘grow’ and gain more confidence, a better understanding of themselves and others, more insight the world and their relationship with it and their part in it. Study abroad is such a unique experience, something you have to do to really know what it’s like.Madeline-Lennon (9)

To learn more about study abroad programs offered in Spain, click here!


Meet an Exchange Student: Midori

August 10th, 2015 · No Comments · College of Liberal Arts, Exchange, Japan

Originally from Kyoto, Japan, Midori Nagai spent the academic year of 2014-15 at OSU through the Doshisha-OSU exchange program. This exchange is open to all OSU students who meet the admission criteria. In this entry, Midori shares her academic and cultural experience at OSU.

Midori (right), an exchange student from Doshisha University, Kyoto, Japan

Midori (right) with Benny the Beaver

What inspired you to pick OSU?
The reason why I chose OSU was because OSU is one of the best universities in the United States, and also because I heard that Corvallis is a student friendly city where I would be able to enjoy many outdoor activities.

In what ways is OSU different from your home University?
One of the biggest differences that I noticed between OSU and my home university was how everyone at OSU, including students, professors, families, graduates, and even the city itself, supported the school spirit of the Beaver Nation. It was a cool thing for me to see how many people were wearing orange clothing and OSU t-shirts daily to express their pride in being part of OSU.

In what ways is OSU similar to your home University?
I noticed that both of the universities encourage students to go overseas to experience different lifestyles and cultures during their college years.

What is one memorable experience you’ve had in Oregon?
One memorable experience I’ve had in Oregon was the INTO skiing trip that I signed up for during winter break.

What are some of your favorite aspects of studying abroad?
My favorite aspect of studying abroad is that I can experience a completely different lifestyle from my home country, which allows me to experience something new all of the time.

What has been/was one challenging aspect of studying abroad?
One challenging aspect of studying abroad for me was having to take care of everything by myself in a country that practices a different culture, while also being away from home for a long time.

What is one thing, person, or experience you are/were excited to reunite with when you return to your home country?
I was excited to reunite with my family and friends, and definitely also the Japanese food.

What is your message for OSU students considering studying abroad in your home country?
Japan is a unique country that practices different customs and has a unique culture. I strongly recommend considering Japan as a study abroad destination. Japan’s capital, Tokyo, is hosting the Olympics in 2020, and preparations are already transforming Japan into a more welcoming country for foreigners. Such changes will make it easier for the foreign students to live in Japan and study. Students have the chance to be part of the changes that Japan is making toward preparing for the biggest event in the country.


Meet a Resident Director: Christiane

July 20th, 2015 · 1 Comment · Resident Director, SIT, study abroad

CMR-Christiane-MagnidoChristiane Magnido is a resident director through SIT Study Abroad in Yaoundé, Cameroon. In this blog entry, she provides a valuable perspective on what it is like to study abroad in Africa and tips on how to succeed in another culture. Read on to learn about her experiences as a resident director!

What brought you to be a Resident Director?
Before SIT, I worked for the Peace Corps as a trainer and a coordinator. I trained Peace Corps volunteers in their initial 3-month training in French, culture and business skills. I worked in this capacity for four years before joining SIT Study Abroad in Cameroon.

What are some unique aspects of your city and country?
Cameroon is commonly referred to as “Africa in miniature.” It encapsulates the geographical, language, ethnic and religious diversity of the continent within a relatively small surface; it is the size of California. Yaoundé, the program base, is the political capital of the country and referred to as the city of seven hills. Cameroon is also bilingual with two national languages, English and French. The culture is very diverse with more than 250 ethnic groups and 3 colonial legacies. The program takes students to five out of the ten regions that makes the country. Students visit and learn in Kribi, a coastal town, Batoufam in the grass fields, and in Bamenda, an English speaking region located in a valley.

What is one thing most of your students may not know about you?
That I love singing, because they always see me working. They also may not know that their research projects and participation in class are very inspiring at a personal and professional level.

What are some of your favorite aspects of being a Resident Director?
Meeting young, curious and energetic students every semester. Making a difference in the lives of my students. Giving an opportunity to Cameroon students to join the program and learn about Cameroon with more depth and the cross cultural learning that occurs between them and students coming from the US.MAGNIDO, Christiane (2)

What are some of the challenges of your job?
It is time consuming. When the program starts, I am on call and work every day until the end of the program, but I have a few weeks to breathe between the fall and spring semesters and in the summer.

What have you seen as the biggest challenge for incoming students?
The first two weeks of the program, students juggle between academic success and cultural integration, and they sometimes think they will not be successful. What they realize as the program unfolds is that their life out of the classroom is also an integrated part of their learning. We emphasize and give value to the learning that occurs outside the classroom as much as we do to lectures and readings.

What is your advice for students planning to attend your program, or to study abroad in your country?
The first secret is to be open minded, because what you expect to see might be different once you are in country. Try to have few or no expectations and let yourself be driven by what you learn and the people you meet. That way you are better prepared to embrace differences and a diversity of opinions and ways of life.

What is one thing you think students shouldn’t forget to pack for life in your country?
Their medicines and the required books, everything else they need they can find in country.

Why do you think is the most important take-away for education abroad students?
Rediscovering yourself because you learn about yourself in a way that cannot be done at home and in your comfort zone. You live in a new environment and it gives you a new understanding and appreciation of life, human relations, how you see the world and what impact or professional path you will like to follow.MAGNIDO, Christiane (1)

To learn more about studying abroad through OSU, click here!


Back to the Real World

July 6th, 2015 · No Comments · College of Public Health and Human Sciences, IE3 Global Internships, research, Returnee, study abroad

Katherine Larsen, a recent OSU graduate, interned with IE3 in Cape Town, South Africa during the summer of 2014 at the Cape Town Refugee Centre. Majoring in Human Development and Family Sciences through the College of Public Health and Human Sciences, Katherine was able to help counsel and provide guidance to refugees in the small community of Observatory. She is currently pursuing a Masters of Social Work graduate degree from Portland State University and plans to focus her career on clinical social work with the intent to work abroad in the future. Read on to learn about the ups and downs of returning from a life-changing IE3 Global Internship

LARSEN- Katherine (1)

It has been a year since I have returned to the United States. I still cannot believe that my time abroad is over. As I reflect back on my 10-week internship at the Cape Town Refugee Centre, it feels as though time simply flew by, although I know that each day was packed with adventure. There are so many qualities that I have gained through this experience and I feel as though I have changed in a more than noticeable way. Not only do I feel more independent, I feel confident in myself as a person, a future social worker, and a community member. I have made an abundance of new relationships and now have global friendships that will last a lifetime. By consistently challenging myself to work diligently at the Cape Town Refugee Centre, I have gained valuable skills that will stay with me throughout my future career. Through volunteering and living within a new culture, I connected to the suburb Observatory and the city of Cape Town in an unexplainable way.LARSEN-Katherine (5)

 I learned an abundance of life lessons throughout this experience. I took time daily to reflect on my experiences, journal, and conduct continuous research regarding South Africa. One of my favorite pieces of reading I completed during my internship abroad was “After Mandela: The Struggle for Freedom in Post-Apartheid South Africa” by Douglas Foster. The biggest lesson I learned was that I cannot have control over all situations. This trip allowed me to be more spontaneous and to stop sweating the small things. My stress levels had never been so low! In addition to learning to go with the flow, I learned how to immerse myself deeply into a culture and adapt to the changes in lifestyle. My work as an intern at the Cape Town Refugee Centre taught me that everybody has a story and I will never learn that story if I judge a book by its cover. Opening myself up to experiences and simply listening during one-on-one conversations has massively shifted my opinion of others and has taught me to be more empathetic to those who aLARSEN - Katherine (2)re different than me. Furthermore, I have come to realize how much circumstance plays a role in an individual’s life. I worked with people in South Africa that have worked so hard to better their situation but were held back by many obstacles. Many people will continue to struggle throughout their lives, simply because of the family and geographic region they were born into. I will hold all of these realizations that I made during my global internship with me for the rest of my life.

Coming home and learning to adapt back to the United States’ way of life has been a challenge. One of the most frustrating parts of ending an internship abroad is my inability to explain in words what my experience was like. Friends and family have asked me to share what it was like and although I try my best, nothing comes close to what my summer actually was. Cape Town is a city unlike any other place I have ever been and it is hard to capture in words the beauty of the culture and the people. I especially miss walking to the train in the mornings and seeing Table Mountain hovering over the city. Regardless of my struggles adjusting, being home with my loved ones is wonderful.

Although my time in South Africa has come to an end, I know that I will return to the wonderful neighborhood of Observatory in the future. There is a quote on the streets of downtown Cape Town that holds so much truth: “I came here to change Cape Town, but Cape Town changed me.” I feel blessed to have had such a wonderful experience in the amazing country of South Africa. I left part of my heart in the city of Cape Town and I cannot wait to visit my second home again soon.

LARSEN - Katherine (7)

To learn more about the study abroad and international internships OSU offers, click here!


The Voyage of a Lifetime

May 26th, 2015 · No Comments · College of Agricultural Sciences, College of Liberal Arts, Returnee, Semester at Sea, study abroad, Uncategorized

Jeannie Sullivan is a Junior in Agricultural Sciences with a minor in Speech Communication. Last fall, she embarked on the journey of a lifetime with Semester at Sea. Currently an Ambassador for the OSU Office of Global Opportunities, Jeannie is fully versed on how to make the most of a study abroad experience. Read on to learn about her incredible voyage and the opportunities SAS has to offer!

Jeannie Sullivan (7)

Everyone asks if life on the ship was like “The Suite Life of Zach and Cody” and I always say no, not at all. When we were at sea, we had classes every day. That means we had homework, midterms, and finals to go along with that. When we were in port, we got to go explore the countries and do independent travel. For my program, I was able to see an array of countries. I boarded the ship in London and from there I spent the next three and a half months sailing and having the sea as my campus. The countries that I was able to visit on my voyage were: Russia, Poland, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, France, Ireland, Portugal, Spain, Morocco, Italy, Brazil, Barbados, and Cuba. We were supposed to go to Ghana and Senegal, but since that was during the height of the EJeannie Sullivan (3)bola crisis, we were rerouted to go back to a different region in Spain and Italy. While I took classes on the ship, I had a required field lab that I went on for each class. These field labs were hands on learning experiences that brought the classroom and reality together. On my voyage, I was able to go hiking and see flamingos in Tuscany for my invasive species lab, learn about the history and architecture of Portugal for my architecture class, learn about Ireland’s health care system and how the LGBT community is treated for my public health class, and learned how history and communication correlate with each other in Russia.

Living on a ship is pretty much like living back in the resident halls. On my voyage, there were a little over 600 students and 150 professors and faculty on board. One thing that I thought was awesome was that the professors and faculty got to bring their families on the ship, so occasionally there were little kids running around, which was always fun and a nice stress reliever. I was always surrounded by people and it was really hard to get quiet time, but it was nice to always be socializing with people at the same time. For my program, I was still meeting people on the last couple days of my voyage. I was able toJeannie Sullivan (4) meet people from all around the States and the world. Being on a ship, I got to see everyone in their best attire, and their not so best attire. So it was always interesting walking around the ship (I always wore orange sparkly slippers when we were on board). With tight quarters, I got to know my professors very well. I loved having lunch or dinner with them. I got to know them on a personal level, and they did not seem as intimidating as they would have back at Oregon State. While living on the ship, I was able to be put into a “family.” This meant that I was grouped with a faculty member and other students. It was nice to be able to have a group to have dinner with, hear their travels, and meet people that I would not have met otherwise.

Being able to go on this voyage was a chance of a lifetime and full of once in a lifetime opportunities. I was able to go to Cuba two weeks before Obama eased the embargo. I learned how to salsa dance from the locals, I got to meet students from The University of Havana, and got to see the site of The Bay of Pigs. I was able to sail down the Amazon River and sip on coconuts on the beaches of Copacabana and Ipanema in Brazil. I was able to ride a camel in the Sahara Desert (and it just happened to be a Wednesday when I did thJeannie Sullivan (2)at). I was able to experience real Belgium waffles, crepes, pierogis, Brazilian barbeque, and Italy’s pizza and pasta making skills firsthand. I was able to see festivals and listen to local music in Russia and Belgium. I was able to see the filming site of Michael Jackson’s song “They Don’t Care About Us.” I got to overcome my fear of heights by zip lining the boarder from Spain to Portugal. I saw the iconic symbols of Paris and the ruins of Rome. I was able to see a Champion League match between FC Barcelona and Ajax at Camp Nou. But most of all, I was able to meet lifelong friends, see beautiful sunsets and sunrises, whale watch, see pods of dolphins and fly fish, and be able to star gaze while in the middle of the Atlantic and see the end of the Milky Way Galaxy while looking at shooting stars.

Jeannie Sullivan (8)

I could not find a better program that fit what I wanted to get out of my experience abroad. I wanted to see as many places as possible, learn to put my preconceived notations aside, and to take advantage of once in a lifetime opportunities.


Meet a Resident Director: Sian Munro

May 21st, 2015 · No Comments · IFSA-Butler, New Zealand, Resident Director, study abroad

pic2Sian Munro is a world traveler. She has worked in international education for 10 years. This field has brought her all over the world, but there has always been a special spot in her heart for New Zealand. Currently based in Dunedin, Sian is the Resident Director of all New Zealand Programs for The Institute for Study Abroad – Butler University (IFSA-Butler). Read on to hear more about the beautiful land of the kiwis!

What brought you to be a Resident Director?
Like many people, I fell into International Education and loved it from the first instant. I have been very fortunate to make a career out of it. I worked at the University of Otago (Dunedin, South Island) for a number of years providing student support to international students. I lived in the UK for 2 years where I worked in a cultural exchange company based in London and traveled in Europe and the US. Then I went to the US and worked at a summer camp in the Pocono Mountains, PA and did a bit more traveling. I joined IFSA-Butler as a Student Services Coordinator for University of Otago students and am now the Resident Director of all 5 of our New Zealand Programmes.

What are some unique aspects of your city and country?
For a country only 1600km long and 450km wide New Zealand is incredibly diverse. You are never far from water and you are never far from breathtaking wide open uninhabited spaces (even if you live in our largest city!)

What is one thing most of your students may not know about you?
Aside from spending time with my family and friends, my favourite pastime is sewing.

What are some of your favorite aspects of being a Resident Director?
I love working with college age students and as only 1% of study abroad students choose New Zealand as pic3a destination (we would welcome more!), our students tend to be real go-getters who are keen to venture out of their comfort zones. I love to hear their stories of traveling in New Zealand and gushing about how beautiful it is as much as I do. As I have a social anthropology background, I also like to talk to our students at different stages of their time here about their views on our culture and how their study abroad experience has altered the way they see the world.

What are some of the challenges of your job?
It’s challenging when things happen to students while abroad that are out of their control but negatively impact their experience. While I never want anything bad to happen to any of our students, the beauty of IFSA-Butler is that our staff in NZ are here on the ground to offer an extra layer of support on top of university services.

What have you seen as the biggest challenge for incoming students?
When our students first arrive a b  ig challenge is adapting to the lack of central heating and insulation in our housing- but we tell our students that libraries on campus are always warm! The second is that New Zealanders are friendly but to become friends takes effort on both sides.

What is your advice for students planning to attend your program, or to study abroad in your country?
Come to NZ through IFSA-Butler! Our programme is a great way to get into New Zealand culture from the moment you step off the plane. We have an awesome 4 day orientation so that our students get over their jet lag, get to know each other and enjoy some quintessential New Zealand activities. On the final night we stay on a Marae which is a Maori meeting place in a big room altogether, this is a real highlight for our students. My advice once students get to their new cities is to make the most of being in New Zealand and travel when you can, but at the same time try and join a club that has kiwi students in it so that you can get an intercultural experience.

What is one thing you think students shouldn’t forget to pack for life in your country?
Being a tiny island nation surrounded by large oceans the weather in New Zealand is extremely changeable. The best things you can pack are layers of clothing for cool and warm temperatures and a 100% waterproof jacket with a hood (which you always carry with you)!

What do you think is the most important take-away for education abroad students?
A semester abroad will seem like a long time when you are preparing to go but it goes insanely quickly. Much of what you learn on your study abroad experience you won’t have time to reflect on until you return home. If you don’t feel like your study abroad experience has even in a small way changed how you view the world (especially your own culture) then that should be something you reflect on.

To learn more about attending one of Sian’s 5 IFSA- Butler New Zealand programs, follow this link!


Making the Most of Every Moment

May 19th, 2015 · No Comments · IE3 Global Internships, Returnee, study abroad

This blog entry is by Erin Chapman a Human Development and Family Sciences major at Oregon State University. She is an IE3 Global returnee.

In Fall 2014 I had the amazing opportunity of spending 3 months in Cambodia working as an intern for a non-profit NGO called Cambodian Organization for Children and Development. This is a blog entry taken from Day 49 of my trip in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

I have reached and passed the halfway point for this amazing adventure and the first thing that comes to mind…I am not ready to leave. So much has happened in just 6 and half weeks. I have learned so much about Cambodia, about this beautiful culture, about working and living abroad, about COCD and working in a non-profit organization, and about myself. This experience is changing my life.

This is not a countdown though. I’m not thinking how many days I have left but instead I am going to think about now and what I can do to make the most of Optimized-010every moment. When it comes to my internship with COCD, up to this point I have been easing into the office culture and finding my place. Now I am going to use this time to focus and contribute as much as I can to support the staff and the clients. Also, I have two big goals I need to cover: 1.) Learn as much of the Khmai language as I can, 2.) learn how to cook some Khmai food. I’m sharing these goals with you all so you can hold me accountable! I can do this!

There is one very personal thing I want to share about what this trip has meant to me so far. My home back in Oregon is wonderful and I love and miss all my friends and family so dearly. At the same time, I have never felt more accepted and happy in my life then how I feel here on this adventure. I have met some wonderful people who have made me feel incredibly loved and fulfilled. Some things in life are meant to be and I KNOW I am meant to be here. I feel as though I have found a place where I belong and this trip is definitely going to have a huge influence on what happens next in my life after I graduate from Oregon State. I still don’t have any idea what those plans will be though. I’m just going to have to wait and see!


So as usual, lots of exciting things have happened in the past week. Within the past 8 days I have:
– Dressed up as a lion for Halloween dodgeball (rawr!)
– Joined some of the staff from COCD on a full day visit to the Pursat Province to observe a meeting and discussion about a new project proposal
– Ate some fried crickets, worms, frogs, AND TARANTULA!
– Hiked 7 kilometers around the Anloung Chen Island with a group of 60 people
– Went on a 3 day trip to the beautiful beaches of Sihanoukville
– Joined a van full of teachers to the beach, and on the way, got stuck in the most ridiculous 40 kilometer (24 mile) traffic jam you can imagine. Somehow we managed to get out of it in about 4 hours (it doesn’t sound all that bad, but there was definitely potential for us to be stuck there for days)
– Spent a couple nights in a hostel literally ten steps away from the Gulf of Thailand waters
– Made some new friends with people from all across the world (Spain, England, Cambodia, US)

Throughout my trip, the adventures were endless.

To read Erin’s full blog, follow this link!


Meet a Resident Director: Christi

May 18th, 2015 · No Comments · Australia, IFSA-Butler, Resident Director, study abroad

Christi Hoover is a Resident Director in Gold Coast, Australia for IFSA-Butler. Her background in education and travel has prepared her to help students get the most out of their study abroad experience. Read on to learn more about Christi and some of her favorite parts of Australia!

What brought you to be a Resident Director?
I came to Australia to backpack for 6 months and fell in love with the country. I had left a job in education to travel and knew that I wanted to continue to work with students. So, I started in student support as a student services coordinator. Then a few years later, I became manager of student services. That progression lead me to becoming a director. I have been working in international education in Australia for Christi Hoover8 years now and can honestly say that it really is a part of who I am. I love having a job which combines my passions: education, recreation, culture and travel.

What are some unique aspects of your city and country?
Many of the flora and fauna in Australia cannot be found anywhere else in the world. I live on the Gold Coast which is Australia’s most biologically diverse city. 80% of the population lives within 100 km (62 miles) of the coast, making it one of the world’s most urbanized coastal dwelling populations. Over 25% of Australians were born in a different country making for a very multicultural population. Melbourne has the largest Greek population in a city outside of Greece. Australia is home to the largest monolith (Uluru) and the largest living organism in the world (the Great Barrier Reef). You can see it from space! Also, Australia is the only country that is also a continent, and the only country that started as a prison.

What is one thing most of your students may not know about you?
I am from a very small town (population 300) and never got a passport until I was 24. Moving to live overseas was only the second time I had been on a plane. I really had no experience traveling and suddenly, there I was in London with little money and not knowing a soul. I was pretty much just out of school and had turned down a great job to come overseas, so it hadn’t been an easy decision. But challenging myself well outside of my comfort zone was one of the best decisions I have ever made. And let’s just say I’m now on my third passport (and filled every page in the first two).

What are some of your favorite aspects of being a Resident Director?
Getting to know the students. I love hearing how this experience has changed students’ lives and how they see themselves and the world. When students share their discoveries, challenges, and successes with me, it really makes it apparent how important cross cultural learning is and I feel privileged that I am involved in this process. I also work with some amazing staff, have the opportunity to take part in some pretty unique experiences, and visit some iconic locations.

What are some of the challenges of your job?
Managing crisis situations and incidents. Student safety and security is such a priority. A lot of work can go into assessing risk, creating contingency plans and keeping informed so that should there be any situations which require our involvement, we are ready. Rarely are these plans needed, but I always want to stay one step ahead in ensuring that students are informed and feel secure. Unfortunately not everyone has the perfect semester, but if there is a problem I’m usually a part of the solution. Although this can rewarding, it can be challenging.

What have you seen as the biggest challenge for incoming students?
Students are challenged in different ways. However, to pick one challenge that seems to effect most to some degree, I would say homesickness. The first few weeks in a new country can be hard and many students will find they do feel homesick and unsettled. But the vast majority of students don’t want to leave when the semester is coming to an end! I advise students to come to us for support during the tough times as my staff and I have been there ourselves! It’s likely we may be able to really help students feel better and more settled in this new experience. Some others may find it challenging financially. Australia is one of the locations where minimum wage is great and students are able to work part time. But it’s not always easy to find a job, so students shouldn’t rely on this and expect that it is a given.

What is your advice for students planning to attend your program, or to study abroad in your country?
Instead of comparing and contrasting when you come across things that are different, just embrace those differences! Analyze it later should you wish, but just jump into the experience and meet it with enthusiasm and a positive attitude. Like anything, this experience is what you make it. So come with the idea that you are going to try new ways of doing things, learn about new cultures, join new communities and grow as a person! If you wanted things to be the same, you could have stayed back home, but you stepped out of your comfort zone for a reason, so don’t waste time or negativity when those differences present themselves.

What is one thing you think students shouldn’t forget to pack for life in your country?
Sunblock, togs (bathing suit) and sand shoes (sneakers) are pretty essential for exploring our amazing environment. And depending on where you study, it does get cooler here in the winter (your summer), so pack some jumpers (sweatshirts) and such. But you can buy those items here if needed, so instead I would say your sense of adventure!

What do you think is the most important take-away for education abroad students?
Study abroad can be life changing and you will probably learn more about yourself, Australia, and the U.S. then you ever imagined. But you’ll need to be open to new experiences for it to really sink in. I am sure that your semester here in Australia will be one standout experience in your life, but when you return home, don’t shelf the experience. Realize what you have achieved, how you have grown and then continue your journey in learning more about yourself and the world around you.

To learn more about this study abroad program, check out this link


Meet a Resident Director: Laurie

May 11th, 2015 · No Comments · France, study abroad, Uncategorized

Laurie Wilson is a Resident Director through IE3 Global at the Université Lyon 2 in Lyon, France. She has a doctorate degree in Romance Languages from the University of Oregon. Using her past experience from studying abroad and extensive French culture and language study, she helps students acclimate to life in France and get the most out of their own time abroad. 

What brought you toLaurie-Wilson-IE3Global-Lyon be a Resident Director?
I happened to be in the right place at the right time with the right combination of experiences under my belt. I first studied abroad in France as an undergraduate in Poitiers through the University of California EAP program. I later worked as a graduate assistant for the Lyon exchange program for one year while I was a doctoral student in Romance Languages at the University of Oregon, then returned to Lyon once I had advanced to candidacy to join my husband, whom I had met during my time as the graduate assistant. I then worked as a graduate assistant at Université Lyon 2 for two years while I was writing my doctoral dissertation. The Lyon Resident Director position became available one year after I had completed my degree, and I was fortunate to be selected based on my experience studying and teaching in both the U.S. and French university systems and my background with study abroad and the Lyon exchange program in particular.

What are some unique aspects of your city and country?
Lyon has been inhabited for an uninterrupted period of over 2000 years, and has managed to preserve structures from its past throughout its constant evolution as a dynamic European center of innovation and trade. Evidence of this is everywhere, be it the Roman ruins near Fourvière, the medieval and Renaissance structures of Vieux Lyon, vestiges of the silk industry, the factory where the Lumière Brothers invented cinema, Interpol’s world headquarters or the International Agency for Research on Cancer. Lyon is also the gastronomic capital of France!

What is one thing most of your students may not know about you?
I have also worked as a professional translator. I have translated two novels by Lebanese author Alexandre Najjar from French into English: L’Ecole de la guerre and Le Silence du tenor, both published by Telegram.

Lyon-FranceWhat are some of your favorite aspects of being a Resident Director?
I love the ever-changing nature of my job – it’s anything but monotonous. I enjoy accompanying students as they face and work through the challenges of adjusting to and learning to thrive in a culture very different from their own, learning what is a source of joy and what is a source of frustration for each of them and observing how they navigate their emotions and grow throughout their study-abroad experience.

What are some of the challenges of your job?
The biggest challenge is needing to be competent in so many areas without truly being able to master any of them. I am at once activities coordinator, rental agent, academic advisor, university administrator, counselor, health-care specialist, cultural mediator, international program developer, and educator. I adapt to the varying needs, interests and challenges of each new group of students.

What have you seen as the biggest challenge for incoming students?
By far the biggest challenge for students in our program is avoiding the comfortable fall-back of spending most or all of their free time with other American program participants, which can be lots of fun but is catastrophic for both language progress and cultural integration. It takes a great deal of courage for students to be more independent, to avoid contact with English as much as possible and to work through the awkward stage of initially only being able to communicate at a very basic level. But those who take the plunge end up attaining a much more enriching level of linguistic and cultural integration than do those who take the easy road.picnic

What is your advice for students planning to attend your program, or to study abroad in your country?
Students should know that their role during a study abroad experience is not to compare and to criticize differences, but to observe and to try to understand what lies behind them. Come with an open mind, appreciate the experience for what it is without comparing it to what you thought it would be, adopt Lyon as your home while you are here rather than waiting for it to take you in and push beyond your comfort zone every day so you can make the most of your time here. Prior to arrival, students should do all that they can to improve their level of French so they have a solid base to build from once they get here.

What is one thing you think students shouldn’t forget to pack for life in your country?
Comfortable walking shoes and an appetite for adventure, both culinary and otherwise.

What do you think is the most important take-away for education abroad students?
Learning how to navigate an unexpectedly different culture, how to persevere in the face of incomprehension and frustration, learning new forms of independence, gaining an appreciation for tolerance, and rethinking “right and wrong” in terms of cultural norms.

To learn more about studying abroad in Lyon, France, click this link!