Mount St. Joseph University

Step out of your comfort zone: Study abroad

Dateline: student newspaper, Education

File Under: study abroad

Students studying abroad.

College is a time in your life for adventuring and discovering who you really are. Exploration is key to discovery. What better way to discover who you are than by exploring a new country, while furthering your college education?

Neale Donald Walsch once said, “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” For many of us, the end of our comfort zone is at the end of our culture. By participating in a study abroad program through your college or university, you can step out of your comfort zone and begin living your life.

According to the “Open Doors Report on International Educational Exchange,” in the 2012-2013 academic year, over 283,000 U.S. students took the plunge into study abroad, which broke the record.

Dan Mader, Director of Study Abroad at the Mount, says, “It’s probably the most fun thing you’ve ever done while you’re here, and probably the most important thing you’ve ever done. It changes you in ways you would never expect.”

Exposure to new cultures helps to open your eyes and change your perception of the world. Michael Klabunde, Associate Professor of English and History at the Mount, realizes that study abroad is all about the cultural experience.Mader and Klabunde agreed that the best time to study abroad is for a full semester (fall or spring). According to Mader, a full semester gives you the most time to travel and fully immerse yourself in another culture.

Mader also pointed out that many of your study abroad professors understand that you are there to travel and experience a new culture. Therefore, he said that you will often find yourself having three or four day weekends, which gives you plenty of time to further explore and travel.

In order to stretch your time even further, Mader advises his study abroad students to take no more than 12 credit hours. Catie Adams, a senior Graphic Design major at the Mount, took Mader’s advice during her study abroad trip to Limerick, Ireland in the spring semester of 2013. “I took 12 credit hours… I’ve never taken so little; but, if you’re able to, I recommend taking the minimum. It’s less to worry about; and, it’s easier to travel.”

When asked if she would recommend participating in a study abroad program, Adams proclaimed, “Absolutely… follow your dreams. It will change who you are in so many ways.”
According to Mader and Adams, you will learn much about yourself while studying abroad.

Adams learned that she is capable of doing anything. “I learned that, no matter what the situation, I’ll be okay… I can do anything.”
One thing that pushed Adams to realize that she would be okay is the extreme homesickness and loneliness that Adams suffered from after landing in Limerick.
Adams recounted the event saying that she was so homesick and lonely that it made her sick and bed-ridden for about a week.

This is a commonality to differing degrees among many study abroad students. Mader stated, “You will be lonely for your first week or so, no matter how old you are.”
However, Mader says that the best way to beat the loneliness is to make friends. And, he says, if you want to study abroad and make friends, you have to be an open person.
This rang true for Adams, who opened up to two girls in her Irish Folklore class. By opening up, Adams had “the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”

Adams left Limerick with a new wealth of friends from all over the globe, including France, China, Ireland, Australia, Germany and different parts of the U.S. She still keeps in contact with them. In fact, Adams and the Americans she befriended are planning a reunion in North Carolina next year.

If you are considering studying abroad, Mader says that the next step is to first talk to your parents and advisor. Then, talk to the Financial Aid office.
Studying abroad can come at a steep price. According to the American Institute for Foreign Study (AIFS), a traditional semester program with them will cost $15,995 per semester.
The Financial Aid office can help you figure out how to reconfigure your financial aid to help cover some of this cost.

Though different programs will vary in cost and what that cost includes, AIFS’ price includes tuition, housing, 10 meals (five breakfasts and five dinners) per week, some cultural activities, comprehensive insurance and assistance package, service from the Student Advisory Center and on-site director and a pre-departure handbook.
However, what should you do about your flight, cost-of-living, other travel and other cultural experiences?

Adams said that she took out a $4,000 loan to help cover expenses while studying abroad. “It’s nice… You don’t have to worry too much about it.” After you figure out your finances, Mader says that the next steps are to get your passport and register online.

For more information about study abroad opportunities at the Mount, contact Dan Mader at Dan.Mader@msj.edu.