Violence in Countries Not Stopping Studying Abroad
Parts of the world might be on the brink of calamity, but that is not stopping students from studying abroad.
An incident that received attention worldwide was the violent protests in Cairo, Egypt in late January. Panic infiltrated residents of dorms in Cairo as students were ordered to remain in their rooms. Several study abroad students of Georgetown University recall the hostility of the community, said Jenna Johnson, a writer for the Washington Post.
Two days later, the students who were to attend American University in Cairo were evacuated, according to the Washington Post.
Even so, study abroad and international exchange is more popular than ever before with more than 200,000 participants in the U.S. alone, according to the Open Doors Report on International Educational Exchange.
Study abroad staff and students with experience stress the importance of preparation and caution on trips. Doing simple things such as discussing what to expect with staff members and reviewing the Study Abroad Handbook — available on studyabroad.uark.edu — can make a difference, said Jinny Lowe, Office Manager who studied abroad in Italy and the Netherlands.
“Open Doors is an annual report on international education published by the Institute of International Education (IIE) in New York, with support from the Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs at the U.S. Department of State,” said Morgan Clark, information official with the Institute of International Education. “The report provides statistics on study abroad participation by U.S. students and international student enrollment at U.S. institutions.”
With 12 staff members dedicated to study abroad, UA officials make it a point to lay out the benefits and opportunities the program can provide.
“Not only did it open my mind to a more global perspective, it also gave me a deeper understanding of the different kinds of people and cultures that exist outside of America,” John Tucker a UA student studying in Vaxjo, Sweden said on the study abroad website. “I can say without a doubt that my semester abroad has been a truly enriching and inspiring part of my life.”
One RSO, the Study Abroad Student Association, is specifically designed for students interested in studying abroad or for students who have already studied abroad.
“We want to provide a resource for students that are studying abroad and be a community for students who already studied abroad,” said Megan Putney, study abroad student association president.
Putney studied in Spain last semester.
“It taught you to be more independent and to see cultures from a different perspective,” she said. “You see so much in so little time.”
Study abroad also gives participants the opportunity to sharpen their skills on a new language and effectively develop and enhance students learning experience, while gaining new insights and outlooks through new relationships, Haley Herrington, a UA student said on the study abroad website.
“If you spend your time in a foreign country watching TV or keeping to yourself, you won’t maximize this unique opportunity. If and when you study abroad, go into the country with an open mind and appreciate the rich diversity the world has to offer,” said Herrington, who studied in Germany.
Perceptions over a particular region can change if students dive into the culture, students said.
“I did not know what to expect when we arrived in Jordan. Americans hear of the Middle East and think of it differently than other travel destinations,” said Chris White, anthropology graduate student with the UA Field School in Jordan, according to the UA study abroad website. “Our perception of that area is more akin to a different planet with hostile inhabitants than a geographical region with a rich cultural heritage.”
Hopping on a jet and enrolling in some foreign university will not suffice, but the proper preparation can lead to an “amazing” new worldliness, Jared Park, a UA student said.
“During the course of the trip, I found myself doing incredible things that I had never done before. Studying abroad in Greece was an amazing experience, but it would have never had happen without preparation,” Park said on the study abroad website.