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The basics
Study abroad : Before you leave

Q&A with a study abroad student: Heather Sanders

Meet Heather, who has studied abroad on more than one occasion. Read what she had to say about her time abroad studying, and how it has helped her.

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We spoke to Heather, an American student  who has studied abroad as part of her degree, about her experiences and what she has gotten out of these adventures.


Hi Heather, what do you study, and where have you been in your travels?

‘Hi Paul, I’m an International Relations student at Colorado State University. I studied abroad for a semester in Florence, Italy. While I was there I studied European Culture and Italian. I also did a semester in Vina del Mar, Chile studying Latin American Culture and Spanish.’


So why did you decide to study abroad, and how did choose where you travelled to?

‘I chose to study abroad because I felt like it would enhance my educational experience and I wanted to travel since I had never left the United States before.

I selected schools that offered the courses that I needed to fulfil requirements at my home university. I looked at places that would give me a completely different perspective than what I had been exposed to in the past.’


What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced when studying abroad, and how did you overcome this?

‘I think that my biggest challenge was the general lifestyle change one must submit to if they want to really learn about the culture of the country they are in. I overcame this by allowing myself to make the changes at a slow pace. For instance, I spent time with my friends that spoke English when I first arrived and once I felt more comfortable I transitioned into meeting locals and speaking with them.’


What have you learned or taken away from studying abroad which didn’t come from a professor in a lecture?

‘I believe that my memories are the most valuable thing that I have now. I would also have to mention that I have gained a second family because I did a home-stay. I can't imagine my life without them and they made studying abroad the amazing experience that it is for me. I also learned a lot about myself while I was abroad. I was able to start fresh and really learn who I was. I became completely independent and transformed into a globally conscious person based off of daily life in another country.’


Tell us a bit about staying with a host family.

‘Staying with a host family was amazing. It really made the entire abroad experience full circle. I was able to learn so much more about the culture and language through constant exposure. Mt family treated me as an adult and I was allowed to come and go as I pleased. They were very understanding and were there for me when I needed it, yet allowed me the necessary space an adult needs.’


How do you think study abroad will help you in your chosen career path?

‘I am interested in working with a non-profit, as a foreign specialist, or in international education after I graduate. I believe my study abroad experience will show each of these employers that I am able to work indifferent environments and show my passion for international affairs which is very important. This opportunity sets me apart from other students and will help me in the future.

Study abroad has provided me with endless possibilities in terms of my career. Not only is it a major selling point to future employers, but I have also learned that I have a desire to have a career that allows me to travel for the rest of my life. Due to my extensive time abroad, these specific employers will be more interested in me because of what I am able to offer them.’


What kinds of resources helped you prepare for study abroad, and what would you have liked to have seen?

‘I mainly used the resources at my university and those provided to me by my study abroad program (API) to help me prepare for my journey. We had a pre-departure orientation online that gave us many tips and suggestions so that we would be at ease before we left.’


How did you keep up with family and friends back home? What tips would you give to students to deal with homesickness?

‘Keeping in touch with family and friends is very easy these days with all the advancements in technology. I mainly used email and Skype to talk to people at home. I would suggest students to bring along a few photos of the important people in their life and keep busy when you feel as though you may miss your friends and family. If you are always on the go and having fun, it gives you fewer opportunities to think about what you miss back home.’


Were you able to make friends easily while abroad? What tips would you recommend?

‘Making friends was not an issue when I was abroad. I went over with a small group of people and we were quickly acquainted with one another. Most locals also enjoy the company of foreign students so I had no problems making friends in my host country. I suggest keeping an open mind and being friendly to people that you think may be good friends to you. If you want to chat with someone, make a conversation and see how it goes. You'll be amazed how quickly people will welcome you into their lives in the international community.’


Read more....

'5 reasons why employers like international graduates'

'4 more subjects you should study abroad'


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