Studying abroad is a great tool for broadening one’s social horizons and becoming educated on cultures other than your own.
The college environment on its own is a cultural melting pot that allows students to make friends from all around the globe. Studying abroad is a much more culturally immersive and unique experience. According to the website for the KSC Global Education Office (GEO), a student applying to study abroad must have completed equivalent to at least one semester of college courses, have at least a 2.5 overall GPA, and “Demonstrate sufficient maturity and independence to be able to function successfully in a cross cultural environment.”
GEO’s advisor intern Anissa Amidon was asked why studying abroad is beneficial and what can be gained from the experience. Amidon said, “There are many great reasons for studying abroad. Some of the most practical reasons for studying abroad are that it prepares you for the real world by allowing you to work with people from all different cultures and backgrounds, you’ll be working and gaining experiences from the world outside of college. Also, studying abroad is a great way to learn how to work in multicultural groups and will help develop a skill set that you can utilize in a real life work environment.”
Because students who participate in these study abroad programs already have college experience at Keene State, it gives them an interesting perspective and allows them to compare the experiences and gain a better perspective on the importance of culture and its influence on education. The term “studying abroad” typically conjures thoughts of traveling to exotic countries on the other side of the globe, however, there are many abroad programs that take students to other universities within the states.
Keene State Senior Bryce Chouinard studied abroad at the University of California at Chico and had this to say about the experience, “The school I went to in California was around 20,000 students, so it was a big shock when I first got there and found out that each of my classes had about 200 students in them. The teacher-student relationship was much less one-on-one than here at Keene State so it was interesting to experience a whole new style of learning.”
Chouinard was also asked if he would recommend studying abroad, “I would definitely recommend studying abroad, it was really cool to see what a different college is like and how it works, and it was fun to live in a place I had never been before. Studying abroad is a once in a lifetime experience and I think if you’re given the opportunity you should definitely take it.”
Another Keene State senior, Madeline Mahoney, who also studied abroad at University of California at Chico and in Italy, was asked what the experience was like and how it differed from life here in Keene. “The most important thing that studying abroad gave me was access to teacher and students with such a different perspective than what I was accustomed to here. I grew up in New England and never considered that there were so many other worlds and cultures happening just a few time zones away. I first decided to participate in the study away program when I saw that I could spend less money than I do at Keene, get to study anywhere in the country and have all my credits transfer easily back to Keene. I chose to go to California because it was far enough away to feel like another country without actually being one. Safety was a big concern of mine. As a fairly small young woman, I needed to feel safe wherever I ended up, but it’s hard to know if you will considering these places are too far away to visit. I have never felt safer in a city than I did when I was living in Florence. I found it to be even safer than Keene. When I think about what the greatest value my college degree has brought me, it must have been the opportunity to travel and learn in places I never would have thought accessible to me. Studying abroad isn’t necessarily more expensive than what it already costs to be a student, and in some cases it can save you money!” Mahoney said.
Mahoney was also asked if she enjoyed the experience and if she would recommend studying abroad to other students. “To anyone I know considering studying abroad or even those who aren’t, I insist that you look into it! Don’t take no for an answer if your advisor says its not possible with your degree. Anyone can do it, you just have to find a location in a place that suits you with a program beyond what you can imagine now,” Mahoney said. “One thing I didn’t expect, because the quality of teachers at Keene State is so high, that studying abroad would give me access to teachers with an incredible range of knowledge. With all the people I’ve met, my network has grown to the point where I can go to almost any state in the U.S. and have a couch to sleep on. Once you have this network, you gain access to priceless opportunities. For example, after returning from my fall exchange in Chico California, the following spring break I was invited to go on a road trip down the coast to Mexico with the wonderful friends I had made there. Studying away changed my life and I am eternally grateful I had the courage to go for it. The NSE (National Student Exchange) program’s slogan is that ‘adventure begins at the end of your comfort zone,’ but for me, my real education began at the end of my comfort zone.”
Studying abroad is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see how culture and lifestyle vary in different parts of the world while still working towards your major. Not only is it a great way to learn about different cultures, it allows students to interact with a large variety of people, which in turn, gives these students great interpersonal skills that can be applied later in life and in business.
William Patti can be contacted