WORDS TO LIVE BY WHEN YOU STUDY ABROAD
Studying abroad is a unique experience any college student should take, but it is also kind of scary. Not to mention, it can be a chip in the wallet! But with the amount of scholarships and financial aid provided, there is no reason to pass up such a great opportunity to view the world through a different lens.
Check out what some Alpha Gams have to say about their trips and follow these key words when planning your own.
“Even if you’re vaguely interested, make sure you speak to someone in your school’s study abroad office. I’ve never met someone who has regretted their experience. Life is short and there aren’t many opportunities to travel in a similar, fully immersive way after college. Studying abroad, to this day, was one of the greatest experiences of my life and I wouldn’t be the person I am today had I not done it.” —Ketzia Abramson, Delta Tau–Chapman University
After extensive online research of various programs and destinations, Ketzia chose Jerusalem and Tel-Aviv, Israel, for her base of abroad study to help her further connect with her Jewish culture. Websites like apistudyabroad.com, aifsabroad.com and studiesabroad.com can help you narrow your options.
“There are many scholarships and financial aid opportunities to make these experiences possible. Just a year ago, I thought I could never afford to go on a study abroad trip, but now I have been on two! Study abroad opportunities give you the ability to get a taste of the world for much less money than you will be able to later on in life. Immersing yourself in another culture—even for a week—is priceless.”—Amanda Webb, Zeta Sigma–Northwood University
Amanda studied in Greece. Visit your school’s study abroad office to learn more about the options available to you. Ask about their partner schools and approved affiliate programs.
“Do your research. Make sure you know what you want to do and where you want to go in a way that makes the best use of your time. Trust me, it goes by too fast!”—Casey Pagnotta, Lambda Alpha–St. Joseph’s College of Long Island
A future educator, Casey extensively researched her destination of Sydney, Austrailia, prior to her trip. While online research can be helpful, an old-fashioned travel guide can be a great investment (especially if you’re traveling to a place where wifi is scarce or prohibitively expensive. Frommers offers guides for many worldwide destinations that are ideal for beginning travelers. Or check out likealocalguide.com to find some off-the-beaten-path tips on excursions, cuisine, neighborhood markets and other experiences —all suggested by locals.
“Write all your expectations down on a piece of paper. When you are done, crinkle it up and throw it away. Studying abroad gave me a completely new perspective on life and made me grow in ways I didn’t know possible. If I could do it all over again, I would.”—Shelbi Torres, Delta Iota–California State University-Chico
Shelby studied in Accra, Ghana. Everyone’s study abroad experience is different. No matter when or where you go, or who you meet, your experience will teach you something you didn’t know and mold you into the person you are meant to become.
“I learned to see the world through a lens beyond just America. From the locals and other travelers I met, I was challenged to think critically about politics, economics and even communication strategies that are so different from what I experience at home.”—Amy Stark, Rho–Iowa State University
Amy attributes her study in Buenos Aires, Argentina, to expanding her understanding of the world and becoming a more well-rounded individual. While it’s important to focus on your primary field of study, abroad learning is an ideal time to branch out to learn new languages, cultures and customs.
“Embrace the difference–the people, food and culture will be different. Just embrace it.”—Alexis Moreira, Gamma Beta–Florida State University
Alexis studied abroad in London. During that time, she visited Cornwall, United Kingdom and the Louvre in Paris, France. Studying abroad can often lead to culture shock, and in a world that is more prone to judge difference, how much better would it be if we just embraced it?
“I learned that every place has a unique culture and way of life and that you can learn from every person you meet as long as you keep an open mind. I was immediately dropped into a new culture and surrounded by a language I was mostly unfamiliar with. While there was a brief period of culture shock, I quickly learned how to adapt to new situations and to appreciate other ways of life. “—Lindsey Astrom, Theta Upsilon–Georgetown College
Encouraged by her Spanish professor, Lindsey studied Barcelona, Spain. While you may feel a bit uncertain when you first arrive at your destination, don’t let it hinder you from embracing your new surroundings. The more immersed you feel in the new culture, the quicker you’ll adapt and thrive.
“Do not be afraid and reach out to those around you. Getting to know the other interns in my embassy was a great part of my experience. So go grab a coffee with your classmates or check out a local store with a coworker and get to know them!”—Emily Buice, Beta Eta–Southern Illinois University at Carbondale
Emily studied abroad in the United States Mission to the European Union based in Brussels, Belgium. Making relationships while studying abroad is a key benefit of the experience. By the end of your trip, a group of strangers will become some of your closest friends—much like when you first joined Alpha Gam.
“Having a 6-hour time zone difference made it difficult to stay connected with people back home, I encouraged everyone to follow my journey via Snapchat. I made sure to frequently update it—especially whenever I saw a squirrel. It helped me remember my sisters are always with me.”—Emily Whittle, Gamma Omicron—Eastern Kentucky University
A French and social work major, Emily studied in Grenoble, France. Use social media to stay in touch with family and friends. Don’t forget to tag us in your study abroad pictures and use the hashtag #AlphaGamAbroad and email your experience to firstname.lastname@example.org or the email@example.com to possibly be featured in upcoming publications.
“Journal while you’re there! You’ll want to take back all the memories to relive and share the experiences.”—Sydney Patrick, Upsilon–University of Oklahoma
Sydney studied in Arezzo, Italy. She also advises finding a sister or two to go with you to make the experience more fun. And don’t forget to take actual photos! While it’s easy to post a quick pic to Instagram, you’ll want to have higher resolution, non-filtered images to look back on in years to come.
“Every place has a unique culture and way of life. You can learn from every person you meet as long as you keep an open mind.”—Lindsey Astrom, Theta Upsilon–Georgetown College
Lindsey studied in Barcelona, Spain. Keeping an open mind helps you learn and grow. Be honest with yourself and realize that you are not all-knowing. And although you are keeping an open mind during your trip, it doesn’t mean you must abandon your beliefs. If anything, it strengthens them!
“Family and friends are there to support you no matter what. Whenever I felt homesick or had any apprehensions, my family and sorority sisters were there to support me and bring me back to earth. They were my absolute rocks and kept me up-to-date on everything happening back home in the States.”— Haley Baker, Theta Iota–Western Kentucky University
Haley studied in Edinburgh, Scotland. Although you may be in a different country, lean on your family, friends and fellow Alpha Gam sisters! You’re just a quick FaceTime call away from home, and you might be having the time of your life but they still miss you so don’t forget to check in on them too.
“Don’t even think twice, do everything you can to make this happen. You may feel anxious at first, even homesick at times, but realize there is no better time in your life to travel and adventure the world. You will gain far more knowledge and unique experiences than you’ll realize until your back home again wishing it never ended.”—Margaret Carroll, Zeta Gamma–Gannon University
Margaret studied abroad in Rome, Italy, and she urges you to DO IT—there’s no better time than now!