Student Blogs & Vlogs | College Study Abroad Programs, IFSA-Butler

Letter to A Future Study Abroad Student

Time November 1st, 2016 in 2016 Fall, Australia | No Comments by

Dear Future Study Abroad Students,

There’s a reason there are so many clichés about studying abroad and that’s because most of them are completely accurate. It’s easy to say “don’t be afraid,” “try new things,” or “it’s okay to feel homesick” because most of the time these things apply to everything you do. When you’re in a foreign country suddenly going grocery shopping can be the biggest adventure of your life or the most familiar thing to being back home. The truth is your study abroad experience is what you make of it. That’s the plainest advice I can give. I came to Australia with an idea in my mind of what my study abroad experience would be. I couldn’t be more grateful that it didn’t turn out the way I had planned.

First, you’re going to have a preconceived notion of what the country you’re going to will be like. You’ll be thinking of stereotypes as much as you’ll deny it and you’ll be expecting things to be a certain way. This notion will be shattered, you will be surprised, and you might even be disappointed. Don’t let this upset you. Did I wish that everywhere I went there would be koalas and kangaroos and other crazy Australian wildlife, of course, because I love animals and that was a large reason I came to Australia. What I didn’t expect was to instead experience the culture and life of a city I’ve begun to call my home. I didn’t live in the middle of an outback or surf every day, but I did live a different life here. Flexibility is so important when experiencing life abroad. Things are going to be different, and different is the best way to describe them. Nothing is wrong or worse than the way you’re used to living back home, just different. The sooner you can realize this, the sooner things will begin to seem brighter. Homesickness will fade in and out, and you can respect the lives people are living around you and if you’re lucky you can become a part of it.

My second piece of advice is to travel as much as you can. This does not mean buy a hundred plane tickets throughout the semester and visit big touristy places for 2 days at a time, it means explore the place you’re living. It can be so easy, especially once you start classes, to get into a routine. You go to university, come home, do work, and repeat. Break the routine and walk down a street you haven’t been down before. Take a bus or a train to a different town, walk around, and ask the locals where their favorite spots are. These places can end up being your favorite places in the entire country and half the time you wouldn’t realize that they’re just around the corner from you.

Lastly, there’s the worn out “try new things!” but I truly can’t emphasize how important this is. You’re going to be in an entirely new country, surrounded by new people and new places. Don’t fall into what’s comfortable, but rather try to push yourself into trying something you would never be able to try back home. It’s terrifying, I know, but the result is worth the cost. Putting yourself out there isn’t easy and just taking the leap to up and leave everything you know behind is incredibly brave. Give yourself credit for what you’ve already done and remember that this is a once in a lifetime opportunity. You’ll be so thankful in the end of your journey if you look back remembering all the things you tried rather than all the things you watched pass by.

You’re going to have a wonderful time, wherever you go. Everything will different, and sometimes different is the greatest thing you could ask for.

From,

A Study Abroad Student

Victor Harbor 7.21.16-36

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A Typical Week at Oxford: Monday – Thursday

Time October 27th, 2016 in 2016 Fall, England | No Comments by

Hi all,

So I’m finally getting into some sort of a schedule here even though each of my weeks has looked drastically different. When I was considering studying abroad, I wondered how my semester would look different than my typical semester at Hopkins. Below is a breakdown of what I would consider a “normal” week:

Monday

10:15 – 11:15 AM – Management Tutorial: I meet with my tutor for my tutorial on Strategic Management. Even though I’m a student at St. Catz, tutors can be based in any college. Even though sometimes that means I have a long walk, getting to see other colleges is really fun. We meet at Mansfield College to discuss the differences between a resource-based view and an industry-analysis. We also go over my essay (which I e-mailed yesterday) and he highlights my strengths as well as places I can improve.

11:30 – 12:30 PM – Lunch at Home: I go home and make a quick lunch. I’m lucky to have a mini-fridge in my room so I am able to keep some groceries on hand. My room is conveniently located right next door to my floor’s kitchen.

1:00 PM – 4:30 PM – Studying: There are so many libraries at Oxford. I’m pretty certain that if I visited a new one every time, I still wouldn’t see all of them. That being said I’ve had a lot of fun exploring the city by exploring various study spots. Normally back at Hopkins I do most of my work during the evenings, but here it seems most people work during the day and I’m beginning to understand why. The assumption is that everyone is free in the evenings so people get together for dinner, drinks, and all sorts of other events. I usually have large chunks of unstructured time, so I use it to read, write, and prepare for my tutorials.

7:00 – 8:00 PM – Hall Dinner: At St. Catz we’re lucky to have formal hall every night which means I can get a three-course meal for 4 pounds. You have to book your place before 1 PM that day and I usually meet up with some of my friends beforehand. You sit down at long tables, get served by waiters, and share sides family-style.

8:00 – ??? PM –  Drinks at the JCR: After dinner it’s pretty common to grab a drink at the JCR (stands for junior common room which is essentially the name for the student lounge including the college bar) where drinks are school subsidized (my parents thought this was absolutely absurd). It’s a great place to hangout with friends as well as meet new people.

Tuesday

8:00 – 9:00 AM – Breakfast at St. Catz: Our dining hall has a breakfast deal with 8 items for a little over 2 pounds. It’s much earlier than I like to wake up but it’s such a great deal that I force myself out of bed.

10:00 AM – 12:00PM – Staying Up to Date: Even though I’m abroad, it’s really important to stay up to date with things back home. I still consistently check my Hopkins e-mail because I have responsibilities. For example, I am a chair for JHUMUNC (basically I moderate a room full of high school delegates as they simulate a UN conference and pretend to solve world problems…it’s fun) and part of being a chair means overseeing two dais members (assistant chairs) as they write a background guide. I wrote my portion over the summer, but my committee got an additional member in the fall so I’m responsible for allocating work and reviewing what they write. Additionally, I make sure to stay up to date with logistical things such as course registration and trying to figure out my housing for when I return.

3:30 – 4:30 PM – Philosophy Tutorial: I meet with my primary tutor for my tutorial in Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics. This woman is so inspiring, so intelligent, and so unbelievably kind – every time I leave a tutorial I realize my cheeks hurt from smiling the entire hour. Compared to the U.S. system in which I attend 2-3 lectures a week where and the learning is spread out, here all the learning is condensed into one weekly meeting for an hour. Because it is one-on-one, the entire session is dedicated to your personal needs and you are expected to have completed a substantial amount of work prior to each meeting. You are assigned a substantial amount of reading and required to submit an 8-9 page essay the day prior. Unlike in the U.S. where sometimes it is possible to get away with not reading, here that is not the case. My tutor will ask me what I thought about each assigned text and since I’m the only one there, it’s not like I can hope someone else answers. Luckily for me, my tutor is amazing and she makes our meetings totally comfortable and relaxed.

Wednesday

10:00 – 11:00 AM – Recommended Lecture: As a third-year humanities student, I don’t have any required lectures. In fact the thing that is mandatory for me is attendance at tutorials and since they’re one-on-one meetings with my tutor, it would be very clear if I didn’t attend. However, my philosophy tutor recommended that I attend a specific lecture that correlates well to our text. Since I only have 2 hours of required learning a week, I had no hesitation to attending this lecture. In addition I’ve regularly been attending two other lectures simply out of interest (which is entirely recommended and common). I really like going to lectures because it helps provide structure to my otherwise largely unstructured weeks.

12:00 – 1:00 PM – Out for Lunch: There are TONS of restaurants in Oxford, so even though the dining hall can be really convenient, it is important to get out and explore the city – specifically the city’s food. I recently went to Thai House and ate some great thai food. Additionally, there are great small sandwich stops and the food trucks are almost always a good decision.

3:00 – 5:30 PM – Consulting Career Fair: Something that I didn’t even think about until I got here was utilizing Oxford’s career services. There are so many events happening from the very first day of classes. Because Oxford encompasses such a wide range of colleges, the resources are equally as broad. There are events every day ranging from resume critiques, networking events, career fairs (for every industry), and more. Furthermore, since Oxford is a prestigious university it attracts so many different companies and (at least at the consulting fair I went to) a majority of them have a strong U.S. presence or at least have U.S. offices.

Thursday

9:30 – 10:30 AM – For Fun Lecture: Something really cool about the learning culture here is the strong belief that if you want to learn, you will. This is evident in the fact that many lectures aren’t required, but also in the fact that most lectures are open to anyone who is interested in them. I have looked into lectures in fields of study that I have never even considered before. Additionally, since it is not required you can go some weeks, skip other weeks, add new ones, drop other ones and there are minimal rules except for one: if you decide to sit in on a lecture, you can’t leave half way through. It’s considered exceptionally rude. Just sit through the rest of it and don’t go next week!

12: 30 PM – Weekly Lunch with Jilliann: Jilliann also goes to Johns Hopkins and she is at Oxford (St. Anne’s). Even though we have a lot of mutual friends back at JHU, we’ve only really spent time together after we flew across the Atlantic. Now we have weekly lunch dates to reminisce about our absurdly long nights in the library and how huge Oxford is compared to Hopkins. It’s such a great way to feel connected to home when I’m so far away. She definitely helps the inevitable homesickness :)

2:00 -3:00 PM – Housekeeping: I was completely dumbfounded when I learned that our accommodation (dorms) comes with housekeeping. Once a week a very nice lady vacuums my room, cleans my bathroom, takes out my trash, and changes my bed linens (for my staircase it’s on Thursdays). I was so surprised that the very first time she knocked on my door and said “Housekeeping!”, I responded “…what?” Since then we’ve become friends, and I love not having to wash my sheets because laundry is expensive here! When I return back to my freshly clean room, I can’t help but feel guilted into doing my part. I tidy up my desk, go do my laundry, and wash the many empty cups of water that accumulated over the week.

6:30 – 8:00 PM – Dinner & Networking: As someone who is considering going to law school, I joined the Oxford Law Society. A large component of the organization is being able to attend all kinds of events held by law firms. Many of these events have dinner or drinks as a component of the evening (again the casual drinking culture is still so strange to me). It’s a great way to meet other students with similar interests, meet potential employers, and get a free meal. Win-Win-Win.

Obviously this isn’t a schedule in a strict sense because many of the things I did this week are one time events; however, I will likely attend similar events next week. In some ways the weeks are very stable. I don’t have midterms/exams, so my studying hours are relatively stable compared to back at Hopkins. On the other hand, everything else I do is completely flexible. Since this post is extremely long, I will make a separate post about a typical weekend: Friday – Sunday.

Until next time,

xx

Zaya

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Where Has The Time Gone?

Time April 18th, 2016 in 2016 Spring, College Study Abroad, Ireland | No Comments by

With only a month to go and final exams looming, things are starting to become more and more bittersweet.  I am happy though because I don’t feel as though I have taken these days for granted.  I truly believe I have grown as a person and learned a ton from this experience… Hey, but let’s not get too melancholy yet.  There is still loads of time! Read More »

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