Name: Lauren Sage
Program: UMSL exchange at Jean Moulin, Lyon III in Lyon, France
Term Abroad: Academic Year of Sophomore Term
3 Major Misconceptions About Studying Abroad
Alright so studying abroad sounds cool and all, but it’s too difficult. All of those places are really far away, and it’s expensive, and you have to speak a foreign language...
Studying abroad is a great experience, which I know you hear all the time. But seriously, you can’t know how cool it is until you try it and you shouldn’t pass it up!
I talk to my friends all the time and basically serenade them from my study abroad soap box, but of course, they’ve heard it all before; It broadens your horizons, you learn about other cultures and about yourself, this is a once in a lifetime opportunity... Etc. Etc.
What I always hear back is basically a medley of worries about cost, language deficits and fear of being so far from home. So I’m going to try to break down these arguments real quick and let you know how people are mistaken on these points.
It’s too expensive.
Yes, plane tickets and, in some cases, exchange rates can be very pricey, however, there are lots of scholarships that are specifically for study abroad. When I studied in France, I received UMSL’s study abroad scholarship. Plus Mme. Blank helped me apply for two scholarships from French organizations in Saint Louis. In total, these scholarships more than paid for the price of my round trip ticket, and helped to counterbalance the unfortunate exchange rate.
Also, finding a part time job while abroad is very doable. Being an English speaker is definitely an asset to getting any sort of babysitting/tutoring gig. If you like kids, and you’re studying in a non-English speaking country, parents will love the idea of you helping to teach their kids to speak English. You don’t need to be an Education major to do this, it can consist of as little as just watching the kids and speaking to them in English.
During my stay in Lyon, France, I babysat two boys, who were born in Chicago, where their parents had lived for 12 years. The family, including the parents, wanted to continue practicing English. Besides being a great source of income, working with this family provided me with a really important support system; I still think of them as my French family. They really helped me adjust to the cultural differences because they understood both French and American culture, and they helped me with favors like giving me a ride to a doctor’s office that was difficult to reach by metro and letting me store a couple bags in their apartment while I traveled around at the end of the year.
If kids aren’t your thing, there are plenty of tutoring jobs to be had around campus, helping other students with their English homework. All you would have to do is put up a couple of flyers with a way to contact you and I guarantee you will get replies. I always had students asking me if I was free help them practice speaking English.
I don’t speak a foreign language.
Not all of UMSL’s programs require you to speak a foreign language. There are programs in Ireland, the UK, and Australia, and even if you want to study in a non-English speaking country, you can attend universities that teach courses in English!
And here’s the kicker...
I don’t even know anything about any of those places, and I wouldn’t know anyone.
Studying abroad is an intimidating experience, it’s true. You’re far away from home, your family, friends, and everything familiar, but that’s the point. It is an amazing opportunity for personal growth precisely for these reasons! Plus I can guarantee that you will make some of the fastest and best friends of your life while abroad. See the thing is, all the other students who are abroad have also left all of their friends and so you’re all in the same boat. A boat of people who are open to new experiences. It’s a pretty awesome boat, because honestly, just the fact that you’ve all got the guts to study abroad pretty much means that you’re all open-minded,
I definitely experienced homesickness from time to time, but thankfully, at this day and age, technology allows you to talk face to face with family and friends whenever you want(skype, facetime- take your pick).
All in all, I can honestly say that studying abroad was one of the most rewarding experiences of
my life. So please don’t let these three silly misconceptions dissuade you from taking advantage of this amazing opportunity.