Studying abroad: Students share advice, stories

On Monday evening in Commencement Hall, the Student Study Abroad Experiences Chat was in full swing. Students who recently returned from studying abroad took the time to share their experiences and give advice to other students planning on studying abroad.

This chat was one of the many exciting events that took place as part of International Education Week. Students voted in the annual study abroad photo contest, attended study abroad research presentations and volunteered at the Tacoma Community House.
Among the students present at the chat were senior Lauren Fellows, who spent a semester in Japan; senior Hannah Fagerbakke, who spent a semester in Costa Rica; senior Jake Novak, who was in Argentina for six weeks; senior Brendan Trosper, who spent a year in China; and senior Rosie Jaye, who spent a semester in Denmark.

“I was in Beijing for an academic year, then Taiwan for a summer.  I couldn’t stay long enough.  I didn’t want to come back.  If you are interested in taking a [full academic] year, go for it.  I had a friend who [only] spent the summer [there], and for some people that’s enough,” Trosper said.
“We spent three to four hours a day learning [the] language.  Just memorizing characters and stuff.”

“The Japanese language class was in Japanese. All the other classes were taught in English.  They had to because there were students from all over the world.  It was an International school,” Fellows said.
For current freshmen, the seniors had some words of advice.
“Keep your options open.  Next year you might take a class and find something you really want to do.  Really it depends on a major and how attached you are to the people back home,” Fagerbakke said.

Other seniors gave their advice as well.
“It’s important to make sure you know what counts for what. Ask your professors for advice, what they liked and didn’t like [about certain programs],” Fellows said.

Overall they were very encouraging to students hoping to study abroad.  “Go check in with the Registrar.  They were a big help,” Trosper said.
As to the workload abroad the seniors had some great news.

“The work load was fantastically light in comparison [to Puget Sound].  [Instead] we’d have field trips all over the country. That’s one of the things that makes it unique, study abroad takes you outside your comfort zone,” Novak said.
Fellows also loved the opportunity to travel. “If you get the chance, explore your country a little bit,” she said.
The seniors also offered some insight into host families versus living in a dorm.  When considering a host family over  “Student City” (dorms where international students could stay) the seniors were adamant that individuals consider carefully what experience they want.

“Usually you’ll fill out a questionnaire about what you want.  You can sign up for a host family or not,” Novak said.
Students had different experiences, some with homestays and some with the dorms.  “You have to be careful with home stays,” Jaye said.  “[You need to find a balance], don’t just spend your time with other students studying abroad.”
Though Fellows herself lived with a host family, she had good things to say about the dorms.
“They had people from all over the world, even places like Finland, and some people from Mexico.  So I went to school with a wide range of people,” Fellows said. “Join clubs, get out and meet people.”
The panel members seemed to agree that there were advantages and disadvantages to each housing option.
“I wanted to be with a host family because I was tired of living in dorms and eating dorm food. [The downside was] I was twenty minutes outside of the city and had to commute every day,” Jaye said.

“I had a host family the second semester and it was a completely different experience.  My host mom made the best food ever,” Trosper said.
The deadline for the University’s study abroad application for next year is quickly approaching. Applications for both the fall and spring semesters must be submitted by Jan. 31, 2014.
Once the University has accepted a student’s application to study abroad, a second application must be submitted to the program of interest.
Studying abroad is a unique chance to explore the world and have life changing experiences.

For more information about studying abroad contact Roy Robinson at rrobinson@pugetsound.edu, visit the Study Abroad page on the Puget Sound website or visit the study abroad office in Howarth 215.