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You can combine travel and study as an overseas student

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Simple exchanges can break down walls between us, for when people come together and speak to one another and share a common experience, then their common humanity is revealed’ US President Barack Obama.

“Why do you want to go to Florence for a semester?”

I was not quite sure how to answer my parents’ question. Why wouldn’t I want to go to Florence, Italy? More importantly, why wouldn’t anyone want to live there?

I was tempted by sarcasm but I resisted, realising my study abroad choice would be quashed if I did. So, instead I mounted my case.

My problem? My university in the United States did not have a programme in Florence, Italy. Did that stop me? Have you followed this column?

Of course it did not stop me. I went online and started my research. I found a great programme through Fairfield University, which had a partnership with a college in Florence and courses so I could finish my double major and graduate with my peers.

My case was mounted and I presented my research.

“Plus, a semester in Florence would give me a chance to continue learning Italian and it would cost the same as sending me to college in the United States for this semester.”

I was given the green light and applied for the Fairfield programme and years later I sat down to write this week’s Rock Fever column: studying abroad and why every student who is about to leave Bermuda in the upcoming weeks should apply!

Before I go any further in this column and you tell me that Bermudians are already studying abroad when they choose to leave the Island for a college, I will say this: studying abroad, in this column, refers to taking a semester or two away from “regular” college to “try” a different country, culture and community.

And now I move to reason one for doing that, which leads me to the timing of this column: don’t procrastinate! The applications are going to be due soon, are easy and take no time with the help of your college’s study abroad office or, failing an office, this website can help: Global Student Experience: http://www.gseabroad.com/.

Which brings me to reason two for study abroad: it is a chance for college-age students to experience a culture that is completely different from their own in the safety of a college setting. Case in point? I studied in Florence which allowed me to live in Italy without having to organise my own apartment, figure out transportation or travel alone.

OK parents, you have your child safe in school abroad, but you’re worried about finances. Well reason three for a study abroad programme: you will be paying the same, if not less for the school programme your child would be attending in the US, Canada, or England, but now they will be in Morocco, India or Italy! Possibilities also abound for students to receive scholarships for studying abroad too! They can ask their study abroad office for more information (or work two jobs before studying in London like I did).

Worried about their studies? Well reason four for travel abroad is: the programmes are so developed that your child will be able to find courses abroad to satisfy their degrees in economics, English or even social work! Don’t believe me? Visit here: http://www.studyabroad.com/ for more information.

Which brings me back to you, students. Reason five: you will be able to finish your degrees so do not give up studying abroad no matter what your programme of study. I managed to complete a double major in English and women’s studies while studying in London for one semester and Florence for a second semester in my four years of studies. Visit your study abroad office at school or failing that, visit the websites I have already suggested in this column.

Reason six brings me back to Florence, which is: do not give up on studying abroad if your college does not have the country or programme you want. I was able to study in Italy because I found a programme through a different college. Yes, my application process was slightly more intense and I had to do more to ensure my credits would transfer, but I spent three months walking past the Duomo in Florence and travelling to Rome for the weekend. Fair trade? I would say so.

Which brings me to Rock Fever reason seven: Three days or three months in a country, which would you choose? Without a doubt three months! Be a tourist no more and take the chance to better understand a different culture, learn the language, meet new people and actually enjoy weekend trips into countryside you previously only saw on the covers of olive oil bottles.

Now for reason eight: parent/s, sponsors, basically anyone supporting a college student financially, close your eyes. OK, students seriously, when in your life will you be able to live in another country on the bill of someone else???? Fill-out the application already!

OK parents open your eyes and let me win you over now. Reason nine is: a study abroad programme will make your daughter or son more attractive to employers. With an international workforce and clientele in Bermuda, who would be better to understand the different cultures than someone who chose to live in a different country? Those who have studied abroad, of course! They will also be more confident (they would have to be to travel to a completely different country).

Which brings me to my last reason for students to embark on a study abroad programme (which, by the way could be a semester at sea): a chance to expand your world view and therefore better yourselves. OK, when I spent three months in India I wasn’t studying abroad, but I could have been. The lessons I learned travelling through that country changed me forever. I had never seen poverty like that before or since and I found it very difficult to return to Bermuda. The trip also gave me a very different view on my life ambitions.

Before I finish this article I want to apologise for not taking you on a vacation as I promised last week. So I will next week. But only if you have applied for your study abroad programme! Until next week, adios.

A Kashmiri fisherman smokes a hubble bubble pipe on his boat as the sun sets over the Dal Lake in Srinagar, India, Friday, July 16, 2010. Authorities re-imposed a rigid curfew throughout most of the Indian portion of Kashmir to prevent street protests after Friday prayers following weeks of unrest that has killed 15 people. ¬ (AP Photo/Dar Yasin)
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Published August 31, 2011 at 10:57 am (Updated August 31, 2011 at 10:57 am)

You can combine travel and study as an overseas student

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