Leaving the place where you initiated your education and returning is far-removed from never leaving at all. There is an exorbitant amount to be gained from studying abroad that can later be applied back on home turf. Fresh wisdom is deeply imbedded in the distant lands that beckon you to venture from your familiar college in order to seize their astute treasures.
“The Beginning of Realization” was taken in China by Malik Martinez Hall and was one of the 2014 Study Abroad Photo contest winners. Photo via MSU Office of Study Abroad.
Incorporating a study abroad program to your college experience is what most would label a win-win. You will still receive credits while exposing yourself to the teachings of the chosen subject, just as you would at your original place of learning. Studying abroad, however, advances this by offering a unique spin on your classes that will douse you head to toe in the auxiliary bonuses of cultural awareness, access to novel philosophical arrays, a diverse network of friends, career opportunities, hands-on lessons and overall development as a person.
Porto Viro, a humble commune that resides in the Province of Rovigo in the Veneto region of Italy, is home to several Italian teenagers that I encountered and, without hesitation, adorned with the titles of brothers and sisters during my time in Europe with the extracurricular study abroad program People to People.
Eager to practice their ever-improving English, Cecilia Bernusso, Giuseppe Adamo and Andrea Picello were willing to answer a few questions that might arise for those interested in study abroad.
Adamo has an unquenchable thirst to observe and understand his hometown and neighboring countries, so it came as no surprise that his interview was perhaps the most edifying.
The Big Green: What about Italy attracts you?
Giuseppe Adamo: Well, Italy is my country, where I was born and where I currently live, I’m forced to love it! But, excluding this, with my experience abroad I can say for sure that we have the best food in the world and an incredible history. Our cities are filled with special sites and monuments. Also, even the tiniest village can provide something incredible to show.
TBG: What are your universities like? Do they support a wholesome education?
GA: Italy can offer the oldest university of the Western world (Bologna University founded in 1088) and some of the best education centers in Europe. Another example is the University of Padova where Galileo Galilei taught. Usually the tuition in public schools is inexpensive and there are benefits and discounts for foreigners. There are many Italian universities that are recognized for their high standards.
Giuseppe Adamo with Italian flag.
TBG: Will it be easy for an American student to make good friends in Italy?
GA: Without a doubt! Americans especially are really popular in Italy!! The Italians are usually very friendly as well and make for great hosts.
TBG: Would you recommend American college students study in Italy or abroad in general?
GA: Absolutely YES! Travelling and being submersed in another culture is the best way to open the mind, learn things and meet new friends! For example, in Europe we have the “Erasmus Programme” which permits European students to frequent an academic year in another European country and the European Union finances this programme with billions of euro! My advice is: no matter where you start off, travel as much as possible!
What becomes evident during Adamo’s enthusiastic display of Italian pride and, equally, from his affinity for traveling is that any and every study abroad opportunity your campus extends to you should be heavily considered.
Bernusso and Picello had a corresponding wealth of knowledge to contribute to the rapidly expanding pool of reasons why this intellectual tool is so highly revered. Their personas are similarly laced with a rooted respect for Italian culture, both beamed when presented the chance to boast how their food and history were superb.
Although this may seem as if they are being ethnocentric, they each imperviously promote that any destination will have its indigenous strong suits and there will never be a scarcity of valuable pockets of experience wherever one may choose to study abroad.
What next needs addressing is the myth that studying abroad adds complexity to a student’s academic plan. It seems that students tend to shy away from study abroad programs for fear that it might exert pressure and time constraints to the academic year.
It is principal for these students to keep in mind that these programs are designed for students and can harbor numerous options in terms of destinations, courses and departure seasons. Considering the aforesaid, any college students should have no quarry finding a convenient branch of the program.
In an effort to once and for all debunk this myth, a representative peer advisor from Michigan State University’s Office of Study Abroad shed some light on the topic of discussion.
The Big Green: How will this program fit with student’s academic plans? (When will they find time? What credits they earn?)
Study Abroad Office: It’s different for every student! One of the biggest things our office promotes is the variety of program options MSU offers. The diverse selection of locations, program types, course offerings, and timeframes allows every student the opportunity to fit study abroad into their degree program. We have over 275 programs in 60 countries around the world that are offered during every semester, including winter and spring breaks. One of the most important steps is for students to plan early and involve their academic adviser in their search.
TBG: What can a student expect to get out of this experience that he/she could not gain from staying in the country to study?
SAO: Studying abroad isn’t just a fun way to pick up some credits – it’s the ultimate experience for expanding your comfort zone and opening your mind. It places students in a culture completely different from their own and puts them in contact with opportunities to try new things every day. A study abroad experience can teach you to be resourceful and flexible. It can build your self-confidence and strengthen your problem-solving skills. It helps to stimulate your imagination and challenge you to deal with complexity, diversity and change that you will face throughout the rest of your MSU career and beyond graduation.
TBG: Are there any safety concerns? (Are students educated about hazardous taboos?)
SAO: Safety is definitely a priority for Michigan State. We regularly monitor safety issues in each of our program locations and employ full-time staff members responsible for health and safety concerns. Students educated on safety issues and cultural differences in mandatory pre-departure orientation sessions. They also have access to MSU’s emergency assistance line 24/7 where this information is given to them on a card to keep with them while abroad. All students are also covered with a comprehensive international health treatment, evacuation and repatriation policy.
TBG: What are the requirements to study abroad?
SAO: All students must be in good standing at the university with a minimum of a 2.0 GPA. Additional requirements differ for individual programs and may include a higher GPA, certain class standing, specific major, essays, etc. Each set of requirements is listed on the program’s webpage.
The simplicity and worth of study abroad is due its dignified praise. It is no opinion that admiring the beautiful aesthetic of watching the sun rise and set on the other side of the world, interacting with the local peoples and allowing your perspectives to be influenced by the force of global wakefulness will have you returning stateside enriched with an endless strand of prodigious stories and innovative outlooks.
To quote T.S. Eliot, “We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.”
In lieu of recent events in Paris it is palatable that students may hold apprehensive attitudes towards this overseas journey. Nevertheless, France and other targeted nations are strong willed and cunning. Instead of completely disbanding all hope of studying abroad, one might pick a more sheltered and uninvolved country, in the meantime while keeping the victimized countries in their thoughts and prayers.