Students broaden their global horizons

Study abroad fair introduces students to opportunities

Do you have a pile of brochures and pamphlets from last week’s study abroad fair stacked in your room somewhere? Wipe off the dust and start doing some research because studying abroad is an experience that can alter your whole worldview.

“I feel like it changes your life somehow,” exchange student Tamara Bogenreuther said. “You get more comfortable with yourself, know what your boundaries are…and maybe even figure out what you want to do later in life,” Bogenreuther said.

Bogenreuther is a student at the University of Passau in Germany who is studying abroad at Puget Sound for one year.

The Study Abroad Fair, which was held Tuesday, Sept. 23 from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m., provided an opportunity for students to wander through the Rotunda and get an idea of the possibilities out there.

While seeing so many opportunities, programs and cities on different continents can be overwhelming, students were most likely inspired by at least a few. Students may be thinking, ‘Yes, I do want to go abroad,’ but dare to go further. Do some research online, talk to an advisor and make it happen!

An enthusiastic representative for IES Abroad, Dana Bumpus, was able to answer any question students may have about going abroad. She was one of many helpful representatives talking with students at the event.

“Good preparation is important,” Bumpus said. “Talking with your academic advisor prior to going, going to the study abroad office here about your options, making sure that you’re prepared with coursework. . . making sure that you have all of your ducks in a row. The second thing is once you go abroad, having an open mind.”

If you still aren’t convinced, students who have gone abroad have wisdom to share.

“Studying abroad is a unique opportunity that you can really only get in college,” senior Leah Shamlian said. “You can travel any time you want, but the chance to go to a different country and to learn and take classes, and, in my case, do field research in a foreign country is something that I would not have been able to do in another way than study abroad.”

Shamlian studied abroad with the School for Field Studies in the Turks and Caicos Islands.

Who knows what unexpected results may come from studying abroad for even just one semester? Perhaps this will be the place a student ends up living a few years down the road. Perhaps students will stumble upon a new passion while abroad.

“Personally, for me, when I studied abroad I didn’t have a major. I went abroad and that completely changed,” Bumpus said. “It helped me focus the rest of my life on that…I think it would help you academically, personally, and professionally.”

Choosing a program depends on what are you looking to get out of studying abroad.  Some students have a specific location in mind, a language they want to work on or specific academic classes they are hoping to take abroad.

In terms of logistics, the next step in planning time abroad is to make use of the resources here on campus. Talk with professors, advisors and students who have gone abroad. Learn about the range of opportunities that are out there, and the different ways one can experience the world. Make a list of goals for the time abroad.

“The most important thing is not to be afraid to try something new [and] meet new people,” Bogenreuther said. “I mean, it’s hard to get used to the language at first, but once you’re more comfortable with it, it’s actually fun.”

Besides the countless benefits for a student such as a new perspective, the chance to connect with another culture and the opportunity to learn about and explore personal interests, studying abroad will actually help later in life in other ways. It may even help a future career.

“People are looking for global experience, for students that have had some kind of international academic and maybe even work experience,” Bumpus said. “Students who have studied abroad tend to be open-minded, flexible…they learn cultural skills.”

Of course, there are challenges that come along with the experience. Besides the language barrier, once a student arrives at their destination they will have to adjust to a different culture and a different lifestyle.

If the idea of studying abroad terrifies a student more than anything else, maybe it’s not meant to be.

However, for those individuals who seek adventure, who love to travel or have a passion for learning within new cultures, studying abroad may just be the perfect solution.