Summer study abroad Italy
By: Leigh Moscrip (justin) 2013.10.04
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=Summer study Abroad Italy is a process of continually adding and removing layers from yourself. First to shed are the most familiar sights and sounds: your college home, family and friends, and your own comfy bed. Next to go are the creature comforts of American culture: nice toilets, carpool lanes, "customer service agents" and cable. By the time you arrive at your study abroad destination, you'll be peeled down to the basics. Who you are, what you have to say and how much you want to learn in the coming term all will be influenced by how you build yourself back up.
St. Andrews, Scotland, has 4,500 students in a town with three main streets (two are called "North" and "South"), and about 22 pubs. As any study abroad advisor will tell you, you need to know certain things before deciding on a school. In St. Andrew's case, the big question was: What the heck do you do in a town with three streets, more than 20 pubs and Arctic weather most of the year? When I studied there last year, I found a friendly community of hard partying, hard studying international students mixing with native Brits in a sophisticated yet laid-back lifestyle. There were picturesque stone houses and a castle, and crazy Scottish tradition like ceidlidh dancing, evening-gown-and-kilt black tie balls and academic families. All this helped us overcome the constant wind, torrents of rain and the isolation of the sheep fields and golf courses that surrounded us. For me, studying abroad at a small school became a great break from being a UCLA number, and an amazing experience having mainland Europe just next door for a year.
So what about you? Studying abroad is probably the best way to learn about yourself and another culture, but you have to figure out where you want to go first. Some popular programs try to send everyone to Italy or France, but do you really want to go to a different country to hang out with Americans? Why not do something completely different for a year. Think Chile, South Africa, Australia or China. You'll find people with similar interests to yours wherever you end up, and students all over the world are the same-we all like to party, study as little as possible and stay open to new things. Push for something outside what you normally experience. For me, that was leaving sunny Southern California for snowy Scotland. For a friend, it was staying with a family in Southern France; for another pal, it meant studying in China and then traveling back to Europe by train at the end of the year. Whatever is truly different for you will enhance your experience that much more.
So think about your current situation at your university: Do you like the size, the community or the weather? Want to make a change or try more of the same in a different environment? Don't let language hold you back or push you towards a well-traveled path. Most universities require a minimal knowledge of their language but many programs, such as those in China, Mongolia, Japan and Brazil, are less strict. What's your interest: nightlife in Munich, backpacking in Costa Rica or trekking in South Africa? It's a hard choice.
One side benefit of studying abroad is that you'll probably come into close contact with your home university's bureaucracy. It takes much effort to go abroad and then graduate in four years, so accept it and be prepared. When dealing with things like classes or transferring credits and grades always cover yourself. Make photocopies of every syllabus, term paper and any other important academic document, and bring them back to the States with you. It's easier to convince your school to accept foreign classes if you can produce reading lists. Also, don't base your entire decision to go to a university on the fact that it has an amazing class in your department. The school might not teach it when you're there, and you might not know that ahead of time. Communication is essential when dealing with these annoying issues. So make sure you ask questions and get what you need. Anyway, it's better than having to do summer school after you get back.
Obviously, it's a personal choice picking which country and what kind of university you'd be more compatible with, but don't let stereotypes make the decision for you. Studying abroad is like traveling without moving around a lot-you blend yourself in with an entirely different world every day. After a few months, a great thing happens: you stop feeling like a tourist, and start feeling at home. Often times, learning another culture is more useful for "real life" than learning by the books in a classroom. So get out there and get the most of your college experience.