Views on Campus: thoughts from a study abroad student

By on October 7, 2013

By Brianna Quinn

So how much studying actually goes on abroad?

Stereotypically, co-eds who study abroad are perceived as having done so to skip a semester of “real” classes, opting to instead rack up stamps in their passports on a term-long spring break.

But is it really an “easy” semester? In my opinion if you are doing it correctly, then absolutely not.

Academically, Quinnipiac University holds students to an exceptionally high standard while studying abroad. I learned this well when I chose to attend University College Cork (UCC) in Cork, Ireland the spring of my sophomore year.

At other colleges and universities, students taking classes abroad are graded on a pass/fail basis.

But at Quinnipiac, every student learns from the necessary and extensive planning process that grades transfer back as they are; an ‘A’ in Ireland, for example, will get me an ‘A’ at home. Knowing that each course would have an impact on my cumulative GPA was enough to keep me focused on my studies when I needed to be.

While at UCC, I took challenging upper-level “modules” in politics and sociology that would count toward my political science minor. But along with these more difficult courses, I did have the opportunity to take courses that I would not have the time to at Quinnipiac. Learning about Irish history, literature and folklore ultimately contributed to a deeper understanding about otherwise unseen aspects of the culture in my new home.

What some might not realize is that most education systems in foreign countries are actually quite rigorous, Ireland being no exception. What was lacking in homework assignments was replaced with self-instructed learning, drafting term papers and studying for final exams which could count for up to 80 percent of our total grade. Classes met in different rooms on different times and days, and handing in assignments became difficult when realizing that administrative offices would close for morning and afternoon tea time. Whether a student ends up going to school in Italy, Australia, South Korea or Spain, he/she will encounter difficulties such as these when acclimating to a new way of doing things.

Admittedly, and still in defense of the academic demands, I would still have to say that the greatest lessons I learned while studying abroad were outside of the lecture hall.

Taking this short period in one’s life to go live and study in a different country is one of the most beneficial things to do as a young person.

 Studying abroad is purposefully abandoning normality to immerse oneself in a new culture. It means being without family or friends for months at a time, thousands of miles away from home. It requires having the courage to step outside one’s comfort zone to take up a new locale, make new friends, try new things and sometimes even use a new language. And all of these aspects of studying abroad are by no means “easy.”

I particularly like a quote by Lillian Smith that says, “I soon realized that no journey carries one far unless, as it extends into the world around us, it goes an equal distance into the world within.”

 As I mentioned earlier, studying abroad is an amazing, life-changing experience when done properly. Choosing to challenge oneself academically is, of course, a part of this. But I believe that it is an equally beneficial challenge to simply live abroad in the first place. To actively engage in a new culture, learn more about the surrounding world and as a result learn a great deal more about oneself.

So if you ask me, those who study abroad may end up actually learning more in those few short months than they ever have before.

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