Monthly Archives: March 2015

4 Crucial Tips for Study Abroad Preparation

With warmer weather just around the corner, many students at IU South Bend are gearing up for study abroad trips to Costa Rica, Florence, Oaxaca, London, and Edinburgh during spring break or summer break. As a student who traveled on a study abroad trip last summer to Berlin and Prague, the main advice I can give to these students and any prospective student is an old standby: preparation, preparation, preparation. How exactly can our IU South Bend students prepare for their study abroad trips? How can preparation and organization make other students want to study abroad, too? These questions are going to be answered in four ways that I believe all students should know before they study abroad.

1. The first preparation tip should be the most obvious and most important of all: the passport. Do you need a passport to travel to your destination? If so, make sure to apply for a passport about three to six months in advance of the departure date of the trip. Not only that, but make sure to have copies available of your passport with you in case of an emergency. Keep your passport, passport copy, and personal identification card on you at all times during your study abroad trip!

2. The next tip is one that should begin around the same time as acquiring your passport. When preparing to travel to your specific location, you must first become familiar with the place you will be visiting. Researching the location will help you to better understand local cultures and differences between your home country and a foreign country. Two of the most fun aspects to research, in my opinion, are local delicacies and the country’s language. Although you may be tempted to revert to English, make sure to learn a few key phrases in the country’s native language.

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IU South Bend Students in Costa Rica, 2014

3. As a chronic over-packer, my biggest issue was deciding what to pack and what not to pack for my trip. The essentials are appropriate clothes (for layering in case of warmer and/or cooler weather), comfortable shoes, plenty of socks, underwear, or swimwear depending on your location, cell phone/cell phone charger, basic and minimal toiletries, and any books you know you will need for your time overseas (i.e. English to foreign language dictionary, books to read on the plane, sketch books and/or journals). It is extremely important to keep in mind that although it might be tempting to bring all your own toiletries along, most locations will be able to provide you with cheap and small versions of your favorite products. Keeping enough space in your luggage for souvenirs and goodies to bring back home is key when deciding on how much to pack into your suitcase.

4. Lastly and equally as important, when you prepare yourself to study abroad, you must go in with an open mind. Traveling to a foreign country can seem exciting and frightening all at the same time, but just remember that you will learn to grow as a student and as a person when experiencing a new culture and gaining lifelong experience with internationalizing your education. The most important piece of advice I can give you all when preparing for study abroad is this: put yourself out there and have fun!

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IU South Bend students in Prague, 2014

Need more preparation tips and advice? You can find a few fantastic resources for study abroad and traveling here, here, and here. Do you have any study abroad advice or stories? If so, let us know in the comments!

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A German Student’s Perspective

11022881_871140402948029_137498649_nTo those of us born in the United States and have little or no international experience, it can sometimes be difficult to imagine the vast diversity and cultural differences present in the world outside of our own sphere of influences. This challenge also faces those who were born abroad, when they choose to pursue a study or work opportunity here in the U.S. To these international adventurers, our lives and cultural norms may seem completely new and foreign (literally and figuratively), from their own worldly views. During the fall of 2014, IU South Bend was fortunate to be called home by several international students who decided to leave behind their comfort zones and join us for their academic study. One such student was Alina Felder, who connected with us through a mutual exchange program with the Catholic University of Eichstätt-Ingolstadt in Bavaria, Germany. Alina is pursuing her undergraduate degree in European Studies and was afforded the opportunity to study in the U.S. before returning to Europe to continue her education.

After sitting down with Alina for an interview, it became clear that she had a very different global view than many Americans I’ve met who have not had the chance to travel or study abroad. Alina reflected, “I do not usually judge people, I attempt to shy away from that. I did have some preconceptions of American life before I came, but in most instances they turned out to be wrong.” One major standout that Alina noticed was in the style of clothing worn by people of similar age groups in Germany as compared to here in the U.S. “In Germany,” she mentioned, “you never see young people wearing yoga pants or sweat pants in public unless they look like they are going to exercise. People, I feel, judge these persons because they are not properly clothed according to societal standards. In America, it is more relaxed. You frequently see young women wearing yoga pants and I do not believe that people judge them as harshly, if at all, as compared to Germany.” From my standpoint, it is difficult to imagine our society actively judging young women who wear these types of clothes in public as part of their casual dress. I often think about Alina’s words, and it is clear that yoga pants and sweats are really becoming staples for many men and women, both young and old. It is interesting to see this small difference through Alina’s eyes and realize we have just become accustomed to seeing such casual clothing without pausing to consider that they could cause controversy in another culture.11024836_871140416281361_1740623346_o

Alina also mentioned a difference in school routines between her own university in Germany and IU South Bend. In Germany, they are much more focused the final result of their learning in classes, as opposed to the gradual result that we employ in the U.S. Alina noted, “the class schedules are very different in the U.S. than in Germany.” The content and frequency of the homework in American institutions also shocked her. “I felt overwhelmed at times. In Germany, we do not have homework, we only have our final exams. It is difficult to complete all the readings and assignments during the semester, especially for someone who does not speak English naturally.” The rigorous classroom assignments and demands cut into her freedom to see more of what the U.S. had to offer outside of the academic halls. Alina is looking forward to wrapping up midterms and having more time to get out and experience American culture to the fullest.