Saturday, April 05, 2008

Study Abroad!! A Strong Suggestion ...

LKA Brother Speaks Up for Foreign Travel

One of my classes was cancelled today so I decided to try and get my brothers on onboard with studying abroad!

I’m an alumnus of my chapter at Northern Michigan University (”NMU”). I made the dire mistake of not traveling abroad while an undergraduate between 2002 and 2006. There’s many reasons why I didn’t, but the main reason was that I wasn’t interested in the opportunity (and I was too lazy to fill out all the paperwork). The opportunities I’m talking about were to study art, architecture, or language abroad, which were generally the trips available to students of my major. Big mistake! Fact is, it’s not the “studying” that matters so much as the living abroad. Plus, let’s be honest, knowing a little about art, architecture, and especially language immersion will be, not might be, useful someday!

I am about to finish up a business M.A. degree from the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities Carlson School of Management. (If anyone has questions about U. of Minnesota, just ask me.) I am studying abroad right now in Barcelona, Spain and I’m fortunate enough to be going to a business school called E.S.A.D.E. in Barcelona, Spain. (Questions about E.S.A.D.E.? Ask.)

Im my opinion, location matters first. The school almost doesn’t matter. Okay, the school does matter but the thing is, most universities, even the “not so amazing ones,” work with at least fairly good schools abroad. Of course, of course you are going to want to perform proper due diligence when determining what school you go to. My only suggestion is to avoid the “pay to go here” schools where either they are not actually affiliated with your university or you take literally the exact same classes as you would at your university. Generally these schools are only for American students and as a result, you’ll be surrounded by Americans, which dilutes the international experience. (I’m pretty sure this type of school generally only educates international students, just in another country. In other words, they have no actual local students.) You’ll get a good education at them I’m sure, but, in my experience, it’s not the ideal experience and I equivicate them to for-profit, chain colleges in the U.S. like DeVry. I digress…
In my opinion, it’s not the classroom education that matters the most while studying abroad. It’s the cultural experience! When I applied to schools, I had a list of something like 20 good schools to choose from in Europe, Asia, and South America. I chose to apply, in my order of preference, to E.S.A.D.E. in Barcelona (and chose to go there), a school in Copenhagen, Denmark, and a school in St. Gallen, Switzerland. Why? I’m interested in Europe, especially it’s history and the whole backpacking experience. I chose each country because Spain has a huge Catholic and, especially in southern Spain, Islamic influence and Denmark and Switzerland are progressive countries (something that I’d like to experience living within) and central to many of the countries I wanted to visit. E.S.A.D.E. happens to be ranked higher than the other schools, but it’s not the highest ranked school I could have applied to (like H.E.C. in France, for example). Again, I chose the school based on location. I liked Spain the most, and here I am! Spain also had a plus that Denmark and Switzerland didn’t: the Spanish language!

What does choosing a school based on location mean? That means you are choosing to study abroad for the cultural, international, and mind-broadening experience; something that will benefit you in life, in business, and in relationships. Let’s face it, how much do you really learn in class in the U.S.? What, like 33% of what is taught? Now think about how much you’ll really learn in class while living in another country where there is so many important things to see, so many different people to meet and know, and, let’s face it, in terms of nightlife, the clubs close at 5AM or later and you can actually have fun at them (less stupid rules!). What you’ll learn in class is how students in another country learn, how they think and analyze, and how they view and approach, in my case, business. Those are valuable lessons which more people need an understanding of in the U.S. But, in my opinion, you studying abroad to learn physics (unless you want go to Oxford or something learn from their world renowned professors… that’s a different reason to “study abroad”). You’re studying abroad to learn about life outside of the U.S.! That’s more important than Supply Chain Management or whatever.

The lesson learned while studying abroad was, taking a semester and learning about art, architecture, and/or language in another country when I was an undergraduate could have only benefited me! Instead, back then, I wanted to study abroad for less “frilly” and “fluffy” reasons. I was naive because that’s what I care about most while here! Of course I care about my classes, but let’s be honest, I’m here in Spain for other reasons too, and you will be too when you study abroad. Really, most people just don’t care all that much about classes, and frankly they aren’t that hard anyway (usually). I guess that last point depends, but think location first!If anyone wants study abroad advice, I’d be glad to help. First, talk to your advisor and then your study abroad office. I know nobody ever talks to their advisor (or knows their name), but do it first and keep in touch with them. They’ll put you in contact with the right people in the beginning and later help you justify your study abroad choice with your major by selecting the right classes and so forth.I know study abroad costs a lot of money. The Dollar to Euro/Pound ratio as of this writing is like getting kicked in the balls (it sucks), but deal with it! Figure out a way. You will not regret it!!!!

Important side note: Take it from a guy who screwed this part up. If you have a girlfriend and you don’t want to lose her and you don’t mind not being single (and honest about it) while abroad, have a good long talk about studying abroad with her! I avoided this and, well, I’ll spare you the details. Take it as I learned the lesson for you. Fact is, you’ll be apart for months, keep that in mind! It might be easy for you to jet to another country for months, but it won’t be easy for the girl you leave behind. I know you’re all laughing at this point but don’t make me say, “I told you so.” Got it?!
Have fun!

from LKA Vocies
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