Study abroad

"It all depends on where you want to go. You're creating an experience unique to you," said one of the many helpful advisors in the study abroad office. I stood overwhelmed in front of a wall of international pamphlets. She gave me a few moments to pick some of the programs that seemed to catch my interest.

Southern Oregon University offers study abroad programs to many countries including Ghana, Argentina, Chile, Ecuador, Mexico, China, Japan, Thailand, South Korea, Austria, Denmark, England, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Poland, Spain, Australia and New Zealand, as well as international internships in more than 45 different countries.

Annie Walsh, a junior at SOU, is planning a trip to Ghana next fall. "I didn't want to miss the opportunity to study and work over there," she said, when asked about why she chose Ghana. "Other study abroad locations I was interested in didn't offer the same program Ghana does, where students are able to get credits for school and for work experience."

Some students around campus have mentioned that while they'd be interested in a study abroad experience, they don't know how they would pay for it. However, most study abroad programs end up costing around the same amount per term as staying on the Ashland campus. "SOU's programs are really affordable compared to the other schools I've been involved with," said Walsh. Of course there are the costs that the programs don't cover, like airfare and spending-money, but such things are attainable.

As there are many personality types, it is impossible to suggest that study abroad programs are for everyone, but there are many positive aspects to experiencing a culture different from ours, and studying abroad seems like one of the safest ways to travel. Students are enrolled in an educational institution, most likely in a home stay or dormitory environment, and sharing experiences with other people in the same situation. "I can't say study aboard is pertinent to scholastic experience, but it's pertinent to life experience," said Walsh, who has been to Sweden, Siberia, Taiwan, France, England, Scotland and New Zealand. "It's really about getting out of your comfort zone."

"We do a good job at analyzing other people's lifestyles, but we're never fully able to understand till we go and actually experience the culture," said Walsh.

I remember being asked by the woman I was staying with in London, in the midst of my culture shock, if I was having a good time. I confessed to her that while I was having an amazing time, it was sometimes too busy, that I hated riding the tube and that it wasn't as European as I had imagined. "Well this isn't Europe dear," she said. "This is England." Right. I had never really made that distinction before. Up until that point I was always "here" and everything else was "over there." I just generalized and distilled that area of the world down to a Charles Dickens novel.

While traveling to another country may be intimidating, it is also awe-inspiring and character building. It can also be one of the loneliest times in our lives, while at the same time offering the opportunity to meet people we most definitely would have missed. "I think it goes both ways," said Walsh. "The majority of my closest friends are people I've met overseas, but there are definitely people I've lost contact with. I think loneliness is a huge part of the experience &

being alone and really learning about yourself and also establishing friendships." We create our own experience. "Traveling abroad is stepping into a new way of learning because it is all unfamiliar. That's what's so important about going &

it's a full body experience. It doesn't only apply scholastically," Walsh said.

While a study abroad experience may not be for everyone, everyone sure should try. Let's step out of our trusted environments and into a different province where all possibilities are unknown to us. It is only by experiencing another world that we are able to better understand the one in which we live.

is a student studying communication, video production and creative writing.

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