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Why not sign-up for a study summer abroad?

Updated on June 15, 2011

One of the life-long values of college is your ability to freely explore life.  Now that could mean a lot of things, but for now, let's stick to the things you can put down in your job résumé, and more importantly, things you can talk to your parents about.  Things such as another country's culture.

During college, the rigor of academics may seem to be so structured that you don't have time to look around for anything other than the classes confronting you.  But if you do a cursory research, you'll learn that somewhere out there is an opportunity for you to study in a different country.  Get a chance to learn a little bit about a different culture.  And receive credit towards your curricula.  Some students do it for a year or two.  Most sign-up for a study summer abroad program.

Courtesy: Flicker, doc.holiday41

Study Summer Abroad: Japan

In my personal circle of friends and relatives, there are memorable experiences of summer abroad programs.  To this day, I feel lucky that I managed to study in Japan for six weeks at Doshisa University in Kyoto.  It was during the summer after my first year law school.  Now, Kyoto itself is an intriguing city.  Very rich in history.  The city is about a 2 hour bullet train ride away from Tokyo and one of Japan's largest cities.  Since it sits in the valley of the Tamba highlands, there are plenty of green sceneries that blended well with the city scape.  Also, because it was a home for many Japanese emperors for over 10 centuries, there are plenty of temples, imperial palaces, and shrines to visit.

As for the class, there were close to twenty students from the United States who enrolled at the study summer abroad program.  We were from different law schools around the country.  I asked my roommate why he picked Japan over other countries.  What he said made a lot of sense.  He put to words my sentiments when I made my decision to enroll.  He said that as an English-only speaker, it was easier to visit and travel a non-English country through an organized program.  He pointed out that he could visit the United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia on his own at anytime.  Made sense, right?

The whole six weeks was quite an experience.  I still remember learning the etiquette for sento, the Japanese public bath house.  One of the judges for the local summary court, a friend of our professor, spent an afternoon teaching us the tea ceremony.  We had fun.

What added to the experience was Hideo Nomo's rookie season with the Los Angeles Dodgers.  Each time he was pitching, the city (and I'm sure the rest of Japan) seemed to stop and watch.  There was a large, billboard-sized big screen in one of Kyoto's busy intersection and passer-bys were looking up in awe, watching a live feed of a Japanese home boy pitching in a Major League Baseball game.  Day game, night game, it didn't matter.

They were watching in bars and taverns as well.  I often introduced myself as living near LA and a Dodger fan.  For that, the patrons bought me drinks and struggled to speak with me in what little English they could muster.

For the perennial academics, there was school to be had.  It was after all, a summer-study abroad program.  In fact, we were in classes for 2-3 hours per day, 3-4 days per week, including class field trips.  At the end of the class sessions, we had a final exam.

Study Summer Abroad: Australia and Mexico

My sister enrolled in a summer study abroad program in Australia.  She was there for six weeks also.  From what I understand, she did a lot of traveling within Australia by visiting as many cities as possible.  She enjoyed traveling other countries so much that she worked as a buyer for a large retail company after college.  In that job, she had gone to Shanghai, Mumbai, and Hong Kong.  Her most interesting memory was seeing elephants on the road.

My best friend, who is Mexican-American and fluent in Spanish, did the same thing while studying for a degree in education.  He went to Mexico and ended-up backpacking around the country side for a month and a half after finishing a summer program abroad.

Years later, when cultures of other countries come up in conversations, we find ourselves drawing from our actual experience during the lengthy summer stays.  I've visited other countries since then, but two-week vacations are only good for pictures.  They're not long enough to make lasting imprints of a different culture.

So I ask you, as an undergrad or grad student?  Why not sign-up for a study summer abroad?


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    • reagu profile image

      reagu 8 years ago from Los Angeles

      Europe is great. Though I never had a chance to study abroad there. I do know quite few students who did. The United Kingdom seems to be the most popular. Others went to France and Czech Republic. If I were to go for summer or one semester abroad, I'd shoot for Spain.

    • profile image

      Carl Madison 8 years ago

      You didn't mention Europe. That's my favorite place to recommend because you can travel so cheaply around while you are there.