- Posted March 17, 2014 by
College Station, Texas
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Why study abroad? Ask Michelle Obama
Study Abroad and A British Graduate Degree: My Reflections, Advice, and Why I Did It
I decided to study abroad as an undergraduate because I was so captivated by the idea of exploring and learning about other people, other cultures, and other countries. What led me down such an internationally oriented path really began when my family decided to host a French exchange student for a month one summer many years ago. Looking back, I can easily say that he taught me as much as I taught him – if not even more. Since then, I found this simple, yet important experience so eye-opening and refreshing which sparked – and really is the foundation – for my interest in everything international (something I would not have if it wasn’t for this great experience).
Once I entered college, I continued my study of French and took two January-Terms – one in London, England studying theatre and another in Cannes/Paris, France in which I studied French language and culture. These moments solidified my interest in Europe, languages and different cultures. Some people I remember being quite skeptical of travelling and studying abroad and thought that I would have a negative experience but in fact, I had a very positive one and only became more engrossed in international relations and the world, not to mention how to confidently navigate a foreign city.
Secondly, I also embarked on a semester abroad during my junior year of college and chose to study in Brussels, Belgium due to my interest in languages and international relations. This unique experience was fascinating because of how international and diverse Brussels, as well as Belgium as a whole really is. Brussels spoke French; the north spoke Flemish; the south spoke French; and the east spoke German. Making friends and talking to Belgians was very intriguing by itself from a language perspective. I remember one of friends and I discussing how he felt it was strange that he spoke Flemish in his native town of Leuven, yet when he came to visit me in Brussels, he needed to speak French and was a bit frustrated. I can also recall my “host mother” discussing with me how she didn’t like Flemish, yet had her answering machine set to Flemish for some reason. On another note, I proudly remember my father coming over one time to visit and how my French had improved so much that I was comfortably able to help facilitate the conversation between French and English. This was such an exciting moment and one that makes you proud. In short, I learned so much from my study abroad, including: a better understanding of myself; my own perceived limits and how you can achieve things beyond what you perceive yourself capable of; a more knowledgeable understanding of Belgium, French language, and how interconnected we are as a global society, in addition to truly being able to emphasize and understand other people, our differences and similarities…plus, how Americans and our foreign policy, are/is perceived and how it effects other countries.
I enjoyed my experiences so greatly, that I decided to enroll in a master’s program at the University of Glasgow, UK and now hold a degree from a British institution. It was the right decision for me because of the area of study that I wished to pursue; because it was actually cheaper than graduate school in the U.S. (tip: no GRE); I would get to experience SCOTLAND (huge fantastic plus); learn about another people and culture, enhance my resume in an age of globalization and have overall the experience of a life time!
Scotland is such a great place for so many reasons. As someone who loves a more mild and wet climate, Scotland certainly has this. If it’s the summer and it hits 60, people think it’s a heat wave and you’ll see people in the parks, lots of shorts, and a very happy people. It’s amazing what sunny weather does for people I suppose. When I arrived, I remember several people saying, “welcome to sunny Scotland!” Naturally, they were being facetious. If you’re an outdoor type of person, love of history, castles, kilts, and/or Scotch that sums up Scotland quite nicely, but is only a small part. The accents took some getting used to, but even if you cannot always make out what they were saying, you still managed to have a laugh and a great time. These are some of the experiences and memories that you can have if you make the leap and choose to study abroad – the chance to make new memories in a foreign country.
Overall, I cannot readily think of any dreadful consequences that result if you choose to study abroad, for most are life changing, empowering, and lead to self-discovery, self-knowledge, and enlightenment.
For those who are timid or unsure about studying abroad, all I can say is the following: “Do it! It’s worth it; you only live once, and the benefits you can keep counting months and years after you come back from abroad. You meet new people, develop an appreciation for other countries (as well as your own), and can see things from other perspectives, which you will find to be very helpful, as well as refreshing. You will also develop better communication, leadership and analytical skills (something that will help you for future employment purposes) and perhaps even learn or improve upon that foreign language you have been studying, or want to pursue.” So many people may, or indeed will, have negative thoughts about study abroad or get bogged down on the logistics and think that “it’s not for me”. As someone who has beaten the odds and achieved their goals when it comes to tackling study abroad and international education, I can tell you that anything is possible. And if you have specific questions in regards to studying abroad, speak to a study abroad advisor! That is what they are there for. I cannot say enough great things about my former study abroad office. They will be your right-hand go-to-person during the process.
Cheers to study abroad!