Civic Issues #3: Study Abroad

Abroad-CollageI have brought up in my other Civic Issues blogs how diversity is important to have on a college campus and backed up my claim with statistics and examples. With this, I think that an important step a college student should take is to look into study abroad programs. To experience more diversity than what is provided on a college campus, it is good for a student to broaden their horizons and try to travel to a country where they are interested in learning about that culture. Students have many different options when it comes to their living situations and learning environments when studying abroad.

There are some programs that allow a student to live with a family that speak the native language of that country. These families host students all the time. I feel that this is the best way for a student to live abroad because it gives them the opportunity to only speak that language and adjust to their culture. For example, if a student were to study abroad in Spain, they would be living with a family who would only speak Spanish to them and try to avoid speaking English back to them. This would help the student become fluent in the language and help them adjust to the family’s Spanish lifestyle. I have been told by students who have done these this type of program that it allows you to either take several classes or find a job.

Eiffel-Tower 1A girl in my French class did this similar type of program. She lived in France for several months with a French family who hosted her and three other students. She only spoke French with the family but she did occasionally get asked by the kids to help them with their English. That might be annoying if the student is there to only speak French but connecting to the family you are living with is important in order to have a more comfortable living situation. She got a job as an Au Pair, which is a babysitting company where she, as an American citizen, can work as a babysitter for a French family. Not only did she get to speak French a lot of the time, but was able to see how the kids were raised in France because she took care of them. Living with that family and working as a babysitter was her way of connecting to the French culture.

Other types of programs include studying on another school campus abroad, staying with families with other students in the same program as you, or just traveling the country while living in places like youth hostels. Penn State offers many different types of study abroad programs. Some of these programs include spending a summer in Egypt and tour around the country, partake as an exchange student in Beijing at Peking University, or study abroad in a program provided by the college you are in (i.e. College of Liberal Arts).

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For the 2008-2009 school year, Penn State had a total of 1620 students do an education abroad program. About 77% of these students studied in Europe, 7.1% studied in Latin America, and 6.3% studied in Asia. The University Office of Global Programs website provides any information needed for a student who is interested in studying abroad through Penn State. I feel that every student should give studying abroad a chance because it is a great way to open up to new cultures besides the diversity already shown on a college campus. Many Universities all over the world have study abroad programs which comes to show the interest students today have in the education abroad programs.


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4 Responses to Civic Issues #3: Study Abroad

  1. Pingback: Adjusting Back to Normal After Studying Abroad: An Essential Guide

  2. Sarah Summers says:

    I agree with you about the value of staying with a family. Staying with other students in a dorm might encourage students just to hang out with their peers, but staying with a family and getting immersed in the language might give students a better sense of what it’s like to really live–not just study–in another place.

    I’d be interested to know how people measure the value of Study Abroad. Have there been studies done that it improves people’s awareness of or attitude toward diversity? How does immersion in another language change people’s beliefs about language diversity at home, for example? This post could strengthen its connection to diversity, and looking at studies like this might be one way to do it!

  3. Hollace Kutay says:

    I think study abroad is a fantastic opportunity! I personally plan on spending part of my junior year in Florence at the art school SACI where I will have the opportunity to take art classes that would never be offered in the U.S. For example, in a art history, we learn all about fresco wall paintings. In the states we could never teach a class about this because it would lack first hand experience. Though it may seem annoying to some students who do not speak a second language, I think that all study abroad programs should require taking language classes to further the immersion process. Part of understanding a culture is taking in the language that the people of the country speak.

  4. Lindsay Zavislak says:

    I have been looking at study abroad programs since I started at Penn State. Like you, I believe it is essential for a student to learn about another culture and be as diverse as they can. The fact that Penn State has so many study abroad programs available proves to me that they truly care about bringing diversity to their campuses. Another topic of diversity that you might explore would be the different organizations and clubs on campus that attempt to keep the diversity alive but may inhibit it as a result. The clubs for nationalities and races, such as Italian club or African American club, are open to everyone. However, it is unlikely that a non-Italian person might join the Italian club for fear of intruding. How do the different aspects of diversity on campus help or inhibit its progress?

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