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The Benefits of Studying Abroad

The Benefits of Studying Abroad


Have you ever wondered what it would be like to travel the world and earn credits toward your degree? Alex dives into some of the benefits of studying abroad and how it helps mature a young adult with a special guest interview on this podcast.



Studying abroad offers various benefits such as developing global connections, learning new languages, and enhancing time management skills. It also allows students to build confidence and independence. Personal experiences in Vienna and Tokyo were positive, with opportunities to make connections with locals and explore different cultures. The COVID-19 pandemic affected study abroad experiences differently, with one student having to return home early while the other had a relatively unaffected stay. Both students found their experiences educational and career-enhancing. Recommendations for studying abroad include choosing a country of interest, ensuring credits transfer, and considering a homestay for a more immersive experience. Have you ever wondered what it would be like to travel the world while still earning credits for your degree? Hey guys, it's your friendly neighborhood Alex, this time let's talk about travel. One of my favorite things to do is to travel the world. I've been to dozens of countries worldwide and have plenty more lined up. However, one of my favorite trips I've ever taken was actually with my former university to study abroad in Vienna, Austria. This trip was significant because it helped me become more independent and consider myself a more mature adult. Studying abroad is intended to enhance our learning experiences in college and travel the world. According to most university webpages, studying abroad helps one develop a global connection, learn a new language, travel the world, and help with time management. While this statement is true, studying abroad also allows a student to build confidence. For instance, my study abroad experience was in the spring of 2020, right before the pandemic arrived in the U.S. For the most part, it was a positive experience until we got the call that we were being sent home. During my experience, I created many connections, not only with the students I traveled with, but also we have made friends with Viennese locals and other students from Austria, Norway, and Afghanistan, to name a few. But I would say that my study abroad experience matured me from the crazy person I used to be because I had to learn how to budget my time and money while juggling schoolwork, all the while making weekend plans to independently explore the neighboring countries. But don't just take it from me to tell you to go. My very good friend, Brooklyn VanderWaal, also has some stuff to share about her experience abroad. So I graduated from APU with a degree in film. I went on to be a production assistant for WhatFX and then for Netflix. And now while I'm between gigs, I am a bartender. So where did you study abroad and why? I studied abroad in Tokyo, Japan through Temple University and I knew I always wanted to study there because in high school I started learning Japanese and the culture really interested me. So was it for classes there or was it purely like research purposes? I took classes there, so I took five altogether, actually four, because one was an internship class. So I actually was able to be an intern for a small film production company there and then the rest were GEs. Did you have a positive experience while studying abroad or a negative experience? Definitely overwhelmingly positive. I also stayed with the host family, so that really impacted my stay. They were able to help me figure out weird administration forms I had to do, just like as a student from another country, at the beginning and end you have to physically go to a government building to do paperwork. So my host mom was really helpful because she was an English teacher, so anytime I needed help with more complicated things, then we could communicate in English, but for the most part, we always spoke Japanese, so it really enhanced my learning experience, as opposed to being like an introvert. So you were talking about how you had to fill out forms as a student. I know I had to do that in Vienna as well, but all my forms were in German. Were yours all in Japanese or did they have another form that was in English that they could... No, they were all in Japanese. Did you have a little bit of trouble with the language barrier too, trying to read Japanese? I mean, you had said that you had studied a little bit of Japanese, or was it like an easy transition to fill out the forms? It wasn't easy, just because I had my host mom to help translate, I ran into trouble. Thankfully, the forms were pretty easy to fill out. I really forgot what they were for. I mean, they were for school, but I forgot the specifics. I know mine was a 90-day student visa requisition form that I had to fill out the day after I got to Vienna. Was yours the same day that you arrived, or was it like a week after you arrived? The next day? I think it was the next week after I arrived, and then when I was about to leave, I also had to see, like, hey, I'm leaving the country, so... Yeah. And I know your experience was completely different than mine, since you went with Temple University, and this was right as COVID was hitting. I remember you and I were communicating through it all, and that you were able to stay longer in Tokyo compared to me in Vienna, where I was put on one of the last humanitarian flights out of Vienna for the university, and then I got back to Chicago the same day that the travel ban was in effect, so my study abroad experience got cut short. But since you had that longer experience, what was that like during COVID? So it hadn't really hit Japan at all. I think it hit the States in March, but I stayed until the end of April, and it was like swirling around, but there weren't a lot of cases. So because my host family had young kids, I opted not to, like, travel far. I just went to, like, city center and stuff, but yeah, it was really unaffected, just because it hadn't hit us yet. Completely different experience than what you had with the pandemic and everything. So do you think that studying abroad benefited you by going? What are some of the takeaways that you got from that experience? Yeah, so it benefited me educationally and career-wise, just because I was able to get that internship that directly had to do with video production. And even on a personal level, too, it helped me appreciate a culture that I hadn't lived in my whole life. So that really opens up your eyes to see, like, oh, I mean, it's obvious, but everyone lives differently, just because the environment around you really shapes who you are. You're pretty much on your own, because it's a very individualized curriculum. I didn't get close to a lot of students there, just because I only had four months. Obviously, I wanted to explore, so a lot of my exploring on the weekends, I did alone. And that definitely helped build confidence in traveling and just knowing what you want to do, even if you don't have a fine social circle to do it with. So while you were there, were you able to build personal relationships with some of the locals? Yeah, actually, it was funny, the person I got closest to during that trip, I had, like, a four-day weekend to Kyoto. And while there, I went on couch surfing. You can stay over at some random person's house. They have a profile, so you can see if they're not creepy. But my friend, Kiyo, she's really cool. She's, like, also a senior at Sankyo University, which is in Kyoto, and she's the same, pretty much the same age as me. We were both seniors, so it worked out. She's really nice, like, nicer than she should have been. I, like, lost my wallet, and she's going to go out and play tennis with some friends, and then she's like, oh, I'll help you find it. So she missed her tennis match, and then she's like, you know what, I'll just, like, spend the day with you and, like, do tourist things. And I'm like, sorry, I ruined your whole day. Do you think that studying abroad helped you mature as a person? I think it helped me mature just because you have to navigate a completely new city on your own. Tokyo is literally seven cities squished into one tiny area. So a few times during the beginning of my stay, I accidentally went the wrong direction in the, like, metro system. And I'm like, no, I'm going to miss class. So it was a learning curve, but eventually you grow to love the transportation system there. And you're like, wow, I never want to drive a car again because it's so convenient. If someone was trying to decide whether or not to study abroad, would you recommend it to them? And what recommendations would you give to this person who decided that they would study abroad? Like, what do you think they should be open to? What do you think they should know before they travel anywhere? If you have the means, you should definitely do it, at least for one semester. Take a language class, obviously. And to make it worth it, because it can be a little expensive, it's definitely, you want to make sure all the classes can transfer to your university if it's not through it. At least for me, I could petition my school to be like, hey, this class isn't a direct one-to-one, but it's pretty similar. It can still count for this actual class I need to take. And they're like, sure. So I did that for, like, three classes and my internship. And I got all my credits to count. So that's really important just to make it financially worth it. But also on a personal level, definitely fight for a country that you're interested in. Like, my school didn't offer Japan, so that's why I went with Temple. But I did have to do my research online. Like, which university will let me piggyback on their program? And then you have to arrange that with your actual school. Be like, hey, can I do this? So I had to take a semester leave, but they were fine with that. And I could keep all the credits. Just do your research on which programs you want to do, if it will count for class credit. And definitely do study abroad. Definitely do a homestay. Because it's so much better than hanging out with, like, other random college kids. Not that you don't love them, but you're doing that for the rest of your four years. So just stay with someone else. Now that you've heard about my and Brooklyn's experiences abroad, are you ready to go?

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