Study Abroad Resources
Study Abroad Myths DebunkedPosted on May 2, 2011
(As a study abroad veteran, I felt that I was qualified to debunk some of the myths surrounding this utterly unique educational experience.)
Myth #1-It will be easy
Fiction. Unless you study abroad with the intention of failing every class and having the foreign equivalent of F’s show up on your college transcripts, studying abroad is one of the most difficult academic endeavors ever. Not only are you being faced with cultural differences in the academic medium, if you’re studying abroad in a non-English speaking country and are not fluent in that language, you’re also dealing with language barriers. Pardon my French, but while a student in Costa Rica, Spain, and South Korea, I busted my a** academically speaking. I was always a motivated and go-getter style student in the United States, but I had to work that much harder as a student outside of it. Although South Korea was difficult due to major cultural differences, Spain and Costa Rica were much harder because I was taking college level classes in Spanish. I can still remember after one disastrous grammar quiz in Spain how I almost had a panic attack in the school’s computer lab after seeing not only that I had failed it, but how terribly low my score was. If you ever think back to a particular class you had a lot of trouble with, try imagining taking it in a language other than your native tongue.
Myth #2-You can’t study abroad in a country where you don’t speak the language
Fiction. Although there do exist programs that require you to either have an intermediate to advanced language proficiency in that country’s target language, there are plenty of programs available for complete beginners. I knew no Korean prior to studying at Seoul Women’s University and only acquired a few phrases and the ability to count to 10 by the time my program had finished. However, I still made it through quite fine and have incredible and some hysterical memories too.
Myth #3-It costs too much
Fiction (provided you do your research and plan accordingly)
When I studied abroad in Costa Rica and Spain, both of the programs were affiliated with my college in the United States which means I paid the same amount in tuition just as if I had been taking classes in the US for those two semesters. The extras were my airfare and spending money, but if you’re not opposed to working and truly saving some significant funds, those study abroad dreams will fast become reality. A summer spent working at a law library and a church nursery were the main reasons why I was able to travel all around Europe while studying in Spain. That and I didn’t blow all my funds each and every week getting drunk. Priorities, I’m just saying.
One word-SCHOLARSHIPS. If you’re not at all opposed to spending a semester in places like China or Morocco, you’ll find there exist many scholarships whose aim is to promote studying abroad in non-traditional, not so immensely popular destinations (Paris, Rome, London).
Myth #4-It’s a once in a lifetime experience
Fact. One of the most common regrets I hear from people my age is that they didn’t study abroad in college. They don’t ever say the reason why, they simply wish it was something they had done as studying abroad is truly a once in a lifetime experience. Although you can always see the Eiffel Tower in Paris or take tango lessons in Buenos Aires while on vacation, it’s entirely different when you actually live someplace abroad and are playing the role of native (at least temporarily). When my dad came to visit me while living in Spain, I had never felt so proud being able to navigate Seville’s windy and maze like streets for us, or when I brought him to a beloved café of mine where I frequently ordered a café bombón (Spanish coffee with condensed milk). Those are things I wouldn’t have been able to have done had I just been a tourist. As the famous slogan of the Peace Corps goes-“it’s the toughest job you’ll ever love,” studying abroad is indeed the toughest experience you’ll ever love, but trust me, you’ll love it.