International & Off-Campus Programs hosted its first panel featuring six students talking about their experiences studying abroad. The panel, which took place Nov. 15 in the library auditorium, was part of a series of events planned for International Education Week, which ran from Nov. 12 to Nov. 16 this year.
“I am really interested in studying abroad, so I try to go to all of the events where I can learn more information about the programs,” Lauren Crespo, sophomore psychology major, said. “I thought that this program was a really great way to find out about what studying in a different country is really like.”
The purpose of this event was for those interested in studying abroad or exchange programs to get firsthand knowledge about the experience from their peers. For this reason, students who traveled in various countries and for various amounts of time spoke at the panel.
Four of the students who spoke had participated in programs offered by the College in Paris, France; Madrid, Spain; Frankfurt, Germany; and Valparaíso, Chile. The other two students had come to the College this semester from their respective colleges in Frankfurt, Germany and Osaka, Japan.
Todd Stoner, senior political science and international studies major was the first to speak about the year he spent abroad at the Catholic University of Valparaíso in Chile. He was followed by Eliana Reyes, senior communication studies major, who took advantage of the summer program in Madrid, Spain.
The third to speak was Ivette Franco, junior international studies major, who studied at the Catholic University of Paris and lived with a host family in Paris. The next to speak was Hyeyoon Lee, senior finance major, who came to the podium to speak about her move this semester from the University of Frankfurt to the College.
After, Jessica Noll, senior philosophy major, spoke about her time at the University of Frankfurt. Naomi Sumiya, a junior English and communication studies major who came to the College from Kansai Gaidai in Japan, was the last to speak.
Many of the students had a background, but little expertise, in the languages of the countries they traveled to. However, most of them felt very comfortable with the language after their experiences and recommended going for a year. Those who were from America also spoke of how being in another country really put perspective on life here.
“My most changing experience was waking up to a student protest. There is just a sense of organization and awareness of what was going on around them. I took away a new viewpoint of U.S. policies and actions,” Stoner said.
All of the students not only had a desire to study in their given country since they were younger, but they all spoke of the great impact it had on their present and future lives as well.
“I believe that going to Madrid planted a seed in me for experiencing more. The trip prepared me, opened up my appetite and gave me a different perspective,” Reyes said.
After the short presentations, the floor was opened up for audience members to ask questions of the panelists. One question made by a professor in the audience was: “What would the students who had studied abroad tell their peers about the experience?”
Reyes answered, “I feel like telling them to get out of this bubble. Speak to different people and get out of your comfort zone because how else are you going to grow not just academically but culturally and emotionally as well?”
Also discussed as an alternative to the semester/s abroad were the summer programs which could be considered a stepping stone for those who are afraid to study in a different country by themselves or for students with very demanding semester schedules.
Isabel Kentengian, a Spanish instructor in the Modern Languages department, said, “These programs are great because when you experience another culture deeply, once you get past being a tourist, you learn to be in both cultures, to be successful in intercultural communication and you understand yourself better.”