Students who are looking to travel abroad have many options besides studying. Students can take a spring break trip, volunteer over the winter and even intern abroad. Today’s global economy has increased the need for having experience living abroad.
“The importance of studying abroad is it helps you to learn about the world and it helps you to mature. It helps you to be flexible and patient,” said Karen Mitchell, an education abroad coordinator. “Those are all characteristics of global citizenship and the world gets to learn about Americans when you study abroad.”
Spending time abroad also makes one more marketable. Mitchell said that showing that you have lived abroad is beneficial in the marketplace. Mitchell has personal experience with this after she studied for a summer semester at the Universidad de los Andes in Bogota, Colombia.
“It helped me to fine tune my Spanish,” Mitchell said. “I lived with a lady who did not speak any English and as I traveled around the country, I had to use my Spanish language skills. So it took my language skills to the next level in terms of reading, writing and speaking it.”
Mitchell said the time abroad strengthening her Spanish helped her get jobs later on.
According to information given by the Office of International Education and Development, 354 students have participated in opportunities abroad since 2007.
Mariah Williams, 21, a third-year political science student with a minor in international relations from Pompano Beach, Fla., spent the summer of 2011 interning in Barbados. She said the trip taught her many valuable lessons.
“I learned how to adapt in a different environment,” Williams said. “I learned a lot about of the country I was in and British culture as well. There is a strong influence from Britain.”
Williams encourages students to take the chance to go abroad. Whether the student has the money to travel, Williams said students should plan to study abroad at least once during college. She said students would learn things and gain experience money could not buy.
Mitchell warns students about making sure they have the right reason for studying abroad. It is necessary to go into the experience hoping to learn rather than to teach.
“First of all, there are some people who just want to study abroad to get away from the United States. That’s not the right reason to do it,” Mitchell said. “You want to do it because you want to be open-minded to learn about other cultures and for other cultures to learn about you.”
“There are some students that leave FAMU and they want to go over there and tell people to do things like the Americans do things and they are adamant about it so there are some myths about Americans and those people pump up those myths.”
According to information from OIED, the most commonly visited countries for studying and interning abroad are England, Panama and South Africa. For winter volunteering, spring break travel and summer short-term the most common countries are Spain, Haiti and the Dominican Republic.