A two-week intensive on British Theatre or art in London, England over winter break, a Japanese studies program in Nagasaki, Japan or a volunteer program at a literacy school in Kolkata, India.
Choosing a study abroad program can be difficult, but actually doing it can be an unforgettable experience. It can also be a great opportunity for students to study internationally and experience a new culture.
Micole Baclija, a fourth-year history major, took advantage of the opportunity to study abroad last semester at Vesalius College in Brussels, Belgium.
“I wanted to travel to broaden my horizons,” said Baclija, “to open my mind and see what other people thought about America.”
Overseas study by U.S. students is up 8.5 percent and has increased four-fold over the past 20 years, according to Open Doors 2009, a report published by the Institute of International Education.
The Center for International Programs at SUNY New Paltz offers over 40 study abroad programs in countries such as England, France, Australia, Spain, Ecuador, Italy, Argentina and many others.
Kathryn Blessing, a fourth-year visual arts and journalism major, who studied at the Curtin University of Technology in Perth, Australia, said she benefited from the information sessions and the help of advisors at the Center for International Programs.
“They did everything in their power to get you ready to go out there,” said Blessing. “[But] When you’re immersed in a culture, you have to adjust.”
Students can choose to study overseas during the fall or spring semester, over the winter intersession, in the summer or an entire academic year.
Carlton Rounds, assistant director of study abroad for the center for international programs at SUNY New Paltz, said his goal was to teach students how to study internationally.
“Today study abroad is seen as the central tenet of an undergraduate education,” said Rounds.
He said students need to focus on “person to person diplomacy” to get more out of their study abroad experience rather than on cultural stereotypes.
“Stereotypes don’t translate across cultures,” said Rounds. “Experience translates across cultures.”
Ericka Vales, a third-year communication and media major, who studied at the University of Technology in Sydney, Australia, said her experience abroad helped her become student ambassador for Austrade, the Australian Trade Commission, in SUNY New Paltz.
But she experienced challenges in the beginning of her semester abroad.
She said Australian professors were “very hands-off.” They didn’t make announcements about assignments, and students were responsible to keep up with the syllabus on when assignments were due.
She also said it was the student’s responsibility to ask professors about assignments.
“I wasn’t used to it, but, personally, I preferred it,” said Vales. “I got over the initial feeling of discomfort.”
Most students agreed that they matured and learned to be independent from their experience abroad.
“I don’t take the little things for granted, don’t expect everything to work out,” said Baclija, “you have to work for everything you want.”