Imagine launching yourself off the highest bridge in the world and then swimming with great white sharks, all in the same semester. Students did all that and more when they studied abroad.
The Education Abroad Fair, held Nov. 15 in the LSC North Ballroom from 10 a.m.-3 p.m., offers students the opportunity to get information about one invaluable college experience — studying abroad.
The fair will have booths from dozens of programs offering the chance to go to countries all over the world. Every student in every major has the opportunity to study abroad.
The number of personal benefits that students can get from studying abroad are immeasurable according to Laura Thornes, director of the Education Abroad office.
“They get the language skills and they improve their academic knowledge, but they also get an international perspective that you can’t learn in the classroom,” Thornes said.
Thornes studied abroad several times in her academic career in countries such as Austria, Guatemala and Germany. She is what is known in the department as a “repeat offender,” meaning someone who fell in love with learning abroad and has done it several times.
“We’ve done it, we love it, we believe in it and we want to share that passion with other people,” Thornes said.
Most students who have had the opportunity to study abroad consider it to be one of the best experience of their lives to date, if not the best. Many say that not a day goes by that they don’t think about the things they learned and the people they met.
“Studying abroad is the best experience you can have in college,” said Kate Douglas, a senior fermentation science and technology major. Douglas spent a total of six months in New Zealand and said the experience was nothing short of incredible.
“I seriously considered not coming home,” she said. “You learn a lot about yourself because you’re getting thrown into a situation where you don’t know anyone, but that means you can just be yourself and it’s a rare opportunity to be on your own and be independent.”
Madison Witkin, a senior human development and family studies major, spent last semester in Capetown, South Africa and considers her time abroad to be one of the best things she’s ever been able to do.
She did the highest bungee jump in the world, swam with great white sharks, rode an ostrich and took a day trip to the southernmost point of Africa.
“I think that if someone decided not to study abroad that they would regret it later in life,” Witkin said. “I’ve talked to people who had the opportunity and they didn’t do it and now they regret it.”
Both Witkin and Douglas said that they realize that most students considering study abroad programs worry about things like the cost and credits not transferring over and missing family, but that there are many ways to deal with those issues.
Douglas was able to get financial help for the trip, and when it comes to missing family and friends, that’s what the internet is for.
“Just do it,” she said. “It’s easy to Skype your parents as long as you teach them how and there are so many scholarships you can apply for if you’re worried about financials.”
In regards to credits and the fear some students may have about falling behind during their time abroad, Witkin pointed out that she was able to take three classes and earn sixteen credits.
“There are ways to make it work,” Witkin said. “It’s just about educating students beforehand so that they know what credits to save for time abroad.”
The Education Abroad Fair is the place for students to get educated and find the program that is right for them.
“You don’t even know what’s out there until you start to do your homework,” Thornes said. “If you think that it’s not for you, you haven’t done your homework because there’s something for everyone.”
Collegian Reporter McKenna Ferguson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.