Study abroad to enrich your life
Glenwood Springs, Colorado CO
When stepping off a plane for the first time in a new country, there are so many things to stress about. How will I exchange money? Will the taxi drivers bother me? Did my luggage arrive? Shouts and signs in foreign languages only add to the usually overwhelming scene as you walk out of customs.
In the airport, people who have just arrived home hug their family members in the waiting area, and I usually think how nice it would be if someone familiar would step out of the crowd and smile, wave and zip me off to a comfortable spot.
But this column is not about your typical vacation – study abroad is a different experience entirely. An estimated 300,000 U.S. students study abroad each year, and the most popular destinations include England, France, Spain, Italy and Australia. Traditional college students study abroad for a semester, a year or even just a summer in order to earn credits toward degrees.
Students studying all fields benefit from being pushed to reach out to someone different and learn about other ways that systems can work. Study abroad students today come from a variety of majors: languages and international business are the most obvious, but students studying biology, technology, tourism, ski industry and geology also receive invaluable experiences through study abroad.
Studying abroad is more than just traveling and more than taking a longer trip. It’s taking a chance that you might try to find a place in a different culture, live for a while in the daily patterns of a city and learn from a different style of teacher in a new and challenging setting.
With a home stay, you have a chance to really become part of daily life, step outside of tourist sites and restaurants. You can learn about what people really eat in a country, how they celebrate birthdays and holidays, what TV shows are popular, or how families spend their time together.
Study abroad offers a chance to build a relationship with a new school and a new group of people. Most of all, students build a strong, understanding relationship with a country and a culture. Many students I meet, when they talk about their study abroad experience, place their hands on their hearts, feeling the love they still have for a place.
There are many programs for students and adults of all ages. As a language teacher, I hear from adults all the time, “I’m too old to learn a language.” Most of these adults are in their 20s! I believe it’s never too late to learn a language – just think of all the words you’ve learned in English in the last few years (to text, friend or Google someone, to name a few).
If you’ve ever considered setting off on a different type of trip, I encourage you to take a chance, buy a ticket and step off the plane into a study abroad experience. There might be someone waiting there, ready to welcome you into their family.
Lauren DeAre is coordinator of Colorado Mountain College’s international programs and an adjunct Spanish instructor. For more about a study abroad experience, contact her at 319-5817 or ldeare@coloradomtn. edu.
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