Study Abroad program question

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Brewman
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Study Abroad program question

Post by Brewman »

I hope this is a valid question for the group? I have mainly been a lurker the past year or so but I do find myself checking the board several times a day and I'm very impressed with the quality of advice given.

My Question - My daughter who just started her second year in college is very interested in doing a study abroad program for a semester (potentially a shorter version over the summer). Has any one had experience with a child doing a study abroad program? Was it worth it? What are the pros and cons? We have no experience or know of anyone who has done it. She has talked to several upper classman who have done it and they spoke highly of it. She does earn course credit for it so it won't be semester vacation -- there are actually courses and tests! She is an excellent student and a hard worker and is in no way the party type. From a cost standpoint we could swing it with out hurting too much and would love to give her the opportunity.

She is a double major in Spanish and international affairs and diplomacy so I definitely think there is value from that standpoint

The organization her university is affiliated with is USAC and her university has been a big proponent of students studying abroad, so it is not a new program.

I would love to hear of any feedback that have some first hand experience with these programs.

Thanks

Greg
mageedge
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Re: Study Abroad program question

Post by mageedge »

Both our children did study abroad. My son spent a semester in Granada, Spain and a semester in Cairo, Egypt through George Washington University. My daughter spent an academic year at Durham in England through UCLA.
Both had excellent experiences - they had an academic focus but found lots of time to enjoy, and learn from, the social experience. I'd recommend it as a personal growth opportunity for any student.
My son's time in Cairo led to a Masters in Arabic Studies and a career as a Foreign Services Officer currently assigned to the US embassy in Abu Dhabi - and he also met his wife during the Granada semester! Who knows what excitement awaits your daughter?!
In keeping with the focus of this forum I should also mention that the Charles Schwab Bank debit card served them both well during their time abroad.
123
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Re: Study Abroad program question

Post by 123 »

Our student mentioned study college abroad a lot during high school. When he went to college he talked to various students who had done it and it was a mixed bag of some that enjoyed it and some that didn't. It largely depends on the student's major and where/when they decide to go. Liberal arts students going to Europe for a term will likely enjoy it because there may not be much of a language issue. Students going to more exotic locations due to their interests, Russia or Asia for example, may face more language and cultural challenges. Separate from any study abroad program his university offered our son attended a 6 week "Summer University" program in Europe the summer after his freshman year. He stayed in a couple of hostels while there and got to travel some around the country. He thoroughly enjoyed his experience but then decided that he wasn't particularly attracted to any further study abroad option. He got his taste of independent living abroad, felt comfortable that he could handle local language and cultural issues, and put the experience behind him.

One thing to remember is that the costs of study abroad can vary widely. In some countries a university education is tuition-free for qualified students and if a foreign student is formally admitted while they may have room-and-board expenses there may be no tuition at the foreign school. However the study abroad programs offered by many US colleges and universities often have enough fees that sometimes the absence of a foreign tuition is not even noticeable.
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topper1296
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Re: Study Abroad program question

Post by topper1296 »

All I'll add to this discussion is not spending a semester abroad studying was my biggest regret in college.
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Brewman
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Re: Study Abroad program question

Post by Brewman »

Thanks for the replies!

Mageedge -Foeign service would be potentially one of the outlets she is interested in after graduation.

123 - My daughter would be mainly interested in Europe (spain. italy) South Africa or South America....I don't think Russia or Asia are in the mix

Topper -your response was the same as we fill
Valuethinker
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Re: Study Abroad program question

Post by Valuethinker »

Brewman wrote:I hope this is a valid question for the group? I have mainly been a lurker the past year or so but I do find myself checking the board several times a day and I'm very impressed with the quality of advice given.

My Question - My daughter who just started her second year in college is very interested in doing a study abroad program for a semester (potentially a shorter version over the summer). Has any one had experience with a child doing a study abroad program? Was it worth it? What are the pros and cons? We have no experience or know of anyone who has done it. She has talked to several upper classman who have done it and they spoke highly of it. She does earn course credit for it so it won't be semester vacation -- there are actually courses and tests! She is an excellent student and a hard worker and is in no way the party type. From a cost standpoint we could swing it with out hurting too much and would love to give her the opportunity.

She is a double major in Spanish and international affairs and diplomacy so I definitely think there is value from that standpoint

The organization her university is affiliated with is USAC and her university has been a big proponent of students studying abroad, so it is not a new program.

I would love to hear of any feedback that have some first hand experience with these programs.

Thanks

Greg
Given her major to get the benefit it should be a Spanish speaking country? That would count well I imagine in applying to international organisations- -especially emerging market experience.

Madrid is a big city (with lots of charm but also traffic, crime etc). Problem in Barcelona (amazing place) is Spanish is not the first language, Catalan is, (but she could still use her Spanish). There are lots of other nice cities in Spain eg Salamanca (small), Bilbao etc. Seville is a bit provincial but there is now a high speed train to Madrid and for a semester it would be fine (Cordoba and Granada are just amazing, but quite small places).

So Spain. Or Latin America. I have heard much better things about Columbia of late (having been a total no go when kidnapping was bad) and really positive things about some cities.

Venezuela is impossible.

Mexico City would be both fascinating but maybe hellish. Given the political-narcotic situation any city in northern Mexico is probably out?

Chile (Santiago) would be a fascinating place and quite developed. Buenos Aires one hears of much higher crime rates etc. with the economic problems. But it is supposed to be an amazing city.

I thought Quito (Ecuador) a pleasant place but the police and prviate security guards carried submachine guns and there were lots of them-- I don't think I saw a cop with just a sidearm. Suggesting to me that it might have quite a serious crime problem not immediately obvious to a tourist. If you've never lived at altitude, that might be a serious issue-- until you do, you don't know if you can adjust (city is like 10,000 feet?). We went up to about 13,000 feet on the plateau and I did *not* feel good.

Costa Rica I cannot speak to.

Germany has amazing university towns. So does Netherlands to a point (if more dull). And Copenhagen/ Stockholm/ Oslo/ Helsinki but cost of living is very very high.

So much depends on the university and the course. Generally universities outside the US don't have the same amenities and campus life that US ones do (one reason why they are so much cheaper).
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Re: Study Abroad program question

Post by SRenaeP »

topper1296 wrote:All I'll add to this discussion is not spending a semester abroad studying was my biggest regret in college.
+1

I would do it for the life experience, if nothing else. I considered doing a semester abroad but decided against it because most of the classes would not have counted toward my major (EE) and I didn't want to add a semester (of time and expense) to my graduation date. This is one of my few regrets in life.

-Steph
b42
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Re: Study Abroad program question

Post by b42 »

I studied abroad in the spring semester of my sophomore year in Ireland. It was a great experience and I'm glad I was able to fit it in with my major. You may want your daughter to check to see if any required classes need to be moved around (I had to get an agreement with the department to waive a class prerequisite that I would take in a later semester).

I did most of the work to get there myself. My parents helped some, but I paid for most of the trip on my own and I was able to get the honors program at my college to reimburse the cost of the plane ticket. Make sure your daughter knows how to manage money. I had more than one friend while abroad who basically ran out of money 2-3 months in.

Also, check and see how courses are credited. In my case (and it is college-dependent), my college did not take the grades, just the credits. Courses were also 3 credits in Ireland compared to the 4 at my college. So I ended up taking the maximum number of credits I could, 18 (6 courses). I actually got further ahead by studying abroad.
Da5id
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Re: Study Abroad program question

Post by Da5id »

I spent my whole junior year abroad in the UK, was an awesome experience. Going wasn't really relevant to my science major, but I got credit in my major for all my classes though grades came back as pass/fail in my case. Seems like a great choice for OP's daughter given the relevance to her major/career path...

As a result of my trip, mind you, I'm currently banned for life from donating blood in the US as it was during the BSE/Mad Cow period.
windrose
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Re: Study Abroad program question

Post by windrose »

I am another who would have liked to have done a program like this, but at the time I could not afford it.

After I graduated and started working, I ended up taking a different approach, and instead attended a language-only school in Europe (Italy). This was before the internet, and I learned about these schools from my European co-workers.

You don't get college credit for these schools, but they are designed to get students fluent in their chosen language--they have them all over Europe and offer a variety of options in terms of hours per day, focus (speaking vs. reading/writing), and course length (1 week to 3 months, generally, 2-6 hours per day). It is mostly group instruction, but they offer private lessons as well...or a combo. The most common class is 4 hours per day, for 1 month.

I ended up going 3 different times, all for 1 month, but to get really fluent it would be best to do 2-3 months in a row. I just couldn't do it that way with my job. I wish I would have known about it when I was in college, since it is a much more affordable alternative.

As I understand it, the university programs are taught entirely in English, and your classmates are all Americans. I'm not sure about the professors.
At the language schools, each time I was the only American. Classes are 10-12 students, and my classmates came from all over: Mexico, Greece, Japan, Australia, Austria, Norway, France, Spain, etc.

I consider it some of the best money I have ever spent, on anything. So if she decides to do the university program, I would still recommend a school like this to really work on her language fluency.
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Cyclesafe
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Re: Study Abroad program question

Post by Cyclesafe »

I spent two summers abroad, one in Florence, the other in Moscow.

I had lots of fun and I'm glad I went, but I would be lying if I said that there was any professional benefit to be gleaned from the experience.

Face it, any educated person outside the US learns English from a very young age. Rarely, does an American have this opportunity. In fact, the American "studying" abroad is actually spending more time helping his/her host friends hone their advanced English skills than the American is spending obtaining even rudimentary fluency. Of course, the American student comes home singing praises for the program - he/she had a high status experience that they can refer back to for, like, forever.

A native-born American with serious skills in a foreign language is an exception. A native-born foreigner with American-born level English skills is the rule. So no advantage to the American these days. Fifty years ago yes, Today, sadly, no. Chances are over-whelmingly high that a conversation over business in a foreign country with Americans present will be entirely in English.

So, by all means send your child to study in a foreign country. He/she will love you for it. The same as with a new car or a fancy wedding.
Last edited by Cyclesafe on Tue Sep 20, 2016 7:58 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Isabelle77
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Re: Study Abroad program question

Post by Isabelle77 »

I spent a summer studying in Nice, France when I was a senior in high school through an exchange program. We also spent 2 weeks in Paris.

One of the best experiences of my life. I came home fluent, with better street smarts, and really independent.
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Re: Study Abroad program question

Post by jabberwockOG »

We had a child spend a summer overseas taking a class and working a PT internship. They loved the experience.
fundseeker
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Re: Study Abroad program question

Post by fundseeker »

Our daughter went to Spain for a semester and although it was not easy to let her go, it was a great experience for her. The program was sponsored by the university and they sent a counselor, so that provided us with comfort. If she had not gone, there would have been much regret. And she had friend who went for just a summer and they wish they had gone for a semester. You just get more immersed that way.

This may not be that helpful, but here is a link to a thread with questions I had before we sent her off, and it addresses some issues you might need to consider.
viewtopic.php?f=11&t=127555&p=1903137&h ... d#p1903137
lgs88
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Re: Study Abroad program question

Post by lgs88 »

A summer program abroad is OK, a semester-long program is good, and a whole academic year abroad is excellent. Go for it.
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Valuethinker
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Re: Study Abroad program question

Post by Valuethinker »

Cyclesafe wrote:I spent two summers abroad, one in Florence, the other in Moscow.

I had lots of fun and I'm glad I went, but I would be lying if I said that there was any professional benefit to be gleaned from the experience.

Face it, any educated person outside the US learns English from a very young age. Rarely, does an American have this opportunity. In fact, the American "studying" abroad is actually spending more time helping his/her host friends hone their advanced English skills than the American is spending obtaining even rudimentary fluency. Of course, the American student comes home singing praises for the program - he/she had a high status experience that they can refer back to for, like, forever.
There is this risk.
A native-born American with serious skills in a foreign language is an exception. A native-born foreigner with American-born level English skills is the rule. So no advantage to the American these days. Fifty years ago yes, Today, sadly, no. Chances are over-whelmingly high that a conversation over business in a foreign country with Americans present will be entirely in English.
China is a big exception to this-- a grasp of Mandarin is very useful (and very rare amongst westerners).

Also for some kinds of business meetings, especially client ones, the ability to switch into their language is highly valued.

If OP's child can get a really fluent grasp of Spanish, that could be quite useful-- especially for a career in diplomacy.
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Re: Study Abroad program question

Post by Valuethinker »

windrose wrote:I am another who would have liked to have done a program like this, but at the time I could not afford it.

After I graduated and started working, I ended up taking a different approach, and instead attended a language-only school in Europe (Italy). This was before the internet, and I learned about these schools from my European co-workers.
I consider it some of the best money I have ever spent, on anything. So if she decides to do the university program, I would still recommend a school like this to really work on her language fluency.
There is a lot of merit to this approach. Immerse yourself in a classroom where your common language is the one being taught.

I did French in Tours, one summer, a long time ago. It does need fairly focused work (which I didn't always put in).

There is a foreign language school in Vermont, a friend of mine learned his German there. It was pretty hard core (they chuck you out if they catch you speaking English more than a certain number of times). Also friends learned foreign languages *really well* at a US Army school in Monterey California-- it was a way of avoiding being sent off to Vietnam (one learned Hungarian for example, one of the most difficult European languages). Army being Army, one learned Russian I think, and got sent off to Vietnam anyways ;-).

Apparently among Americans, it is Mormons who tend to speak foreign languages fluently, because of their missionary work-- Mitt Romney is fluent in French, Jon Huntsman in Mandarin Chinese. For similar reasons apparently there are a lot of Mormons in intelligence work.
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Re: Study Abroad program question

Post by Valuethinker »

Da5id wrote:I spent my whole junior year abroad in the UK, was an awesome experience. Going wasn't really relevant to my science major, but I got credit in my major for all my classes though grades came back as pass/fail in my case. Seems like a great choice for OP's daughter given the relevance to her major/career path...

As a result of my trip, mind you, I'm currently banned for life from donating blood in the US as it was during the BSE/Mad Cow period.
If you go to a smaller city you are more likely to have a "British" experience than if you go to London.

Places like Bath, Bristol, Exeter, Sussex (Brighton), Sheffield, Leeds perhaps. Durham. York. Manchester is a pretty big city and university. Glasgow requires an adjustment to the accent (;-)) and has really dreary weather. Edinburgh is nice and very cosmopolitan (but it's a long winter night-- check the latitude). St. Andrews is just a tiny town, but has a real university spirit.
BlueCable
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Re: Study Abroad program question

Post by BlueCable »

Absolutely do it. A full semester if at all possible. It was one of the greatest experiences I had in college and was worth several times the expense.

I couldn't count the number of conversations I've had with people about my experiences abroad. I'm not very good at small talk or talking with people that I don't know well. My semester abroad has helped me several times in my career to connect to colleagues, suppliers, and clients and be memorable to them.
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Re: Study Abroad program question

Post by Matt48Ritchie »

I studied abroad in Barcelona in college (Fall 2012) and would highly recommend it. I would recommend a home stay if that's an option. The family I lived with spoke Catalan to each other but had no problem switching to Spanish when I was there. If she doesn't do a home stay she'll have to be very intentional with immersing herself in Spanish as many of the other students probably won't be highly committed to speaking Spanish. My wife also studied abroad but was in Mexico (Fall 2010). She also encourages anyone to study abroad if they can.
BlueCable
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Re: Study Abroad program question

Post by BlueCable »

Let me put it this way: I've never heard someone who has studied abroad discourage people from studying abroad.
BlueCable
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Re: Study Abroad program question

Post by BlueCable »

Unsolicited advice: if she is majoring in Spanish, she should do at least 1 full semester in a Spanish-speaking country (unless she is a native-speaker herself). A 6-week program cannot compare to 5 months in a non-English speaking country.

I learned the mechanics of Spanish in the US. I learned to speak Spanish in Spain.

Also, a homestay is such a more complete experience than getting an apartment. I was very apprehensive about a homestay; almost didn't do my program because of it. She will improve her Spanish and learn much more about the culture in a homestay. Also she'll have a mom to cook and clean for her :D
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Re: Study Abroad program question

Post by Meg77 »

I studied abroad in Madrid for a summer between my sophomore and junior year. I HIGHLY recommend it.

Also please encourage your daughter to do her study Spain and get some of her Spanish credits out of the way while she is there. I minored in Spanish and took two of the required 6 courses that summer in Madrid. It was SO much easier to complete them and get good grades while I was immersed in the language! It was like I wasn't even in school. The beauty of it is that I didn't even have to take a "Spanish Class" where you just study the language itself. I took an art history class that just happened to be spoken in Spanish so it counted. The class met weekly at the Prado museum for tours/lessons in Spanish.

That summer is one of the most memorable of my life. It changed the way I view travel and my perspective to interact with students from all over the world with vastly different backgrounds. I got some credits out of the way for the same price it would have cost at my university, and really the experience wasn't that much more expensive than living anywhere else and studying for a summer would have been. Given her choice of study in particular, a semester abroad will be a great enhancement to her resume!
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Re: Study Abroad program question

Post by Da5id »

Valuethinker wrote: If you go to a smaller city you are more likely to have a "British" experience than if you go to London.

Places like Bath, Bristol, Exeter, Sussex (Brighton), Sheffield, Leeds perhaps. Durham. York. Manchester is a pretty big city and university. Glasgow requires an adjustment to the accent (;-)) and has really dreary weather. Edinburgh is nice and very cosmopolitan (but it's a long winter night-- check the latitude). St. Andrews is just a tiny town, but has a real university spirit.
Mine was Oxford. Nice experience... Yes, parts of the UK are not very nice in the winter. Visited a friend in Aberdeen during the winter, dreary indeed.
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Brewman
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Re: Study Abroad program question

Post by Brewman »

OP Here-

Thank you all for the fantastic responses! I think any doubts about it have been removed! I am a little surprised - I figured to get a more balanced response of maybe 60/40 in favor, but it appears that all who had a first hand experience or second hand through their child are highly in favor of it which helps me feel a little easier about it. I agree with the whole life experience that it can offer. Also nice to know there are some who wished that had the opportunity which is kind of where I was at but didn't want to be biased.
If any others want to share there experiences or provide any more tips please do!

Thank you all again!
retired recently
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Re: Study Abroad program question

Post by retired recently »

I think it would be great if she is able to spend a semester or year abroad. Unfortunately, many of us in the US are very insular and I really wish more folks went overseas when they were young.

I would be surprised if it helps her in her future career though? I went to work in the Former Soviet Union in 1995 and at first the company I worked for tended to hire locals who spoke English but that did not result in getting the best and brightest, just folks we could understand clearly. As time went by (I stayed for 14 years), we trained the locals and they did a much better job than any expat with language skills. Granted there are a few reasons to have expats from time to time, but by and large it is much better to have locals.

I do not think many native English speakers ever get their foreign language skills up to compete with a native speaker. Another poster mentioned a benefit to having Chinese language skills and that is probably good today but with the large numbers of Asian children who live in the US that are now excelling in all US scholastic competitions, I would imagine most companies will prefer to hire the more qualified Asian with fluency in Chinese.

Once again, I think tremendous benefits to getting the life experience and having the language skill but I do not think that many will be able to benefit in their jobs with it.
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Re: Study Abroad program question

Post by harrychan »

SRenaeP wrote:
topper1296 wrote:All I'll add to this discussion is not spending a semester abroad studying was my biggest regret in college.
+1

I would do it for the life experience, if nothing else. I considered doing a semester abroad but decided against it because most of the classes would not have counted toward my major (EE) and I didn't want to add a semester (of time and expense) to my graduation date. This is one of my few regrets in life.

-Steph
This probably adds to my experience from looking at people around me whose kids did the same. Do it for the life experience. Don't think studying abroad will suddenly catapult you to a job offer, acceptance to masters program or anything of the likes. In order to do that, you probably need to transfer and graduate from a prestigious foreign institute.
This is not legal or certified financial advice but you know that already.
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Re: Study Abroad program question

Post by Cyclesafe »

retired recently wrote:I would be surprised if it helps her in her future career though? I went to work in the Former Soviet Union in 1995 and at first the company I worked for tended to hire locals who spoke English but that did not result in getting the best and brightest, just folks we could understand clearly. As time went by (I stayed for 14 years), we trained the locals and they did a much better job than any expat with language skills. Granted there are a few reasons to have expats from time to time, but by and large it is much better to have locals.

I do not think many native English speakers ever get their foreign language skills up to compete with a native speaker. Another poster mentioned a benefit to having Chinese language skills and that is probably good today but with the large numbers of Asian children who live in the US that are now excelling in all US scholastic competitions, I would imagine most companies will prefer to hire the more qualified Asian with fluency in Chinese.
I believe that since the '90's US and European companies have wised up to this. The expat boat has sailed - except for English language teachers, of course. But these people are lucky if they don't starve.
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fundseeker
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Re: Study Abroad program question

Post by fundseeker »

To the OP, if your child does go, set aside some extra money because for our child, there were many weekend flights and train trips to many other touristy places surrounding Spain. Although travel over there was relatively cheap, but it can add up.
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Re: Study Abroad program question

Post by JakeFL »

I have 3 sons and all 3 studied in Europe over the last 7 years. It was well worth it for all three. One was in London, one was in Spain and one was based in Switzerland. All three countries worked well for them and all three traveled extensively while they were there. I am glad we could send them to study abroad and we would not hesitate in doing it again.
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ClevrChico
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Re: Study Abroad program question

Post by ClevrChico »

I had friends study abroad. I'm not sure how much studying was actually done. They talked about it like a great vacation experience. :-)
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Re: Study Abroad program question

Post by Pacific »

Valuethinker wrote: There is a foreign language school in Vermont, a friend of mine learned his German there. It was pretty hard core (they chuck you out if they catch you speaking English more than a certain number of times).

Middlebury College
Tatupu
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Re: Study Abroad program question

Post by Tatupu »

Yes. Absolutely. It is a no-brainer in my opinion.

I remember debating whether to do it and ultimately decided not to go for what I thought were sound financial reasons. Fortunately, my mother was much wiser than me and essentially told me that I would be making a big mistake if I didn't do it.

It was the first time I had ever been out of the country and it changed my life. I too studied international affairs and can assure you that your daughter would benefit immensely from this experience. As others have said, it is not that she should go for professional reasons (although for an international affairs major it makes all the sense in the world), it is for personal development reasons.

I am now more than 15 years into a career as a Foreign Service Officer and still have to pinch myself for this opportunity. It has been the greatest honor representing my country overseas and I could not think of anything else I would rather do. Had I not studied abroad, I wonder whether I would have found such happiness in my life.

By the way, the great Boglehead and author, Laura, is one of our country's finest career diplomats. She has had a very distinguished foreign service career and reached the rank of Ambassador.
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WallyBird
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Re: Study Abroad program question

Post by WallyBird »

I was fortunate to attend a summer German program in Germany, and enjoyed it so much I went back again. I found that enrolling directly with the foreign U's summer program was ridiculously cheap, and would recommend the OP urge the daughter to investigate this option.

I was hardly the world's most dedicated student, but the immersion was enough to seriously help my language skills.
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scubacat
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Re: Study Abroad program question

Post by scubacat »

I studied abroad for a year in France as a high school student and then spent a summer interning in Colombia while in college. I am now working overseas as a Foreign Service Officer. Some people have said that they feel that the value is reduced since English is so widely spoken overseas. I disagree. Part of the value in spending time overseas is learning about a different culture, different ways of thinking (not better or worse, just different), and the different styles of communication beyond verbal language. This is invaluable in my job and in the business world. I have also seen people damage their career by their inability to adapt to local norms.

Also there is a value in not having to rely on a translator or for the person that you are meeting with to speak English. It is hard to have a delicate conversation with a translator. You can also be perceived as arrogant if you are living in a country and don't try to learn the language. It is not just about meeting but the after-hours socializing where relationships are formed and business is done. Expecting everyone to adapt to you by speaking English will inhibit your success.

I would highly encourage anyone who wants to study abroad.
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