Study abroad programs full of benefits for students

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Part of BYU’s motto is “The World is our Campus.” With 132 International Study Programs in 57 countries offered by the David M. Kennedy Center for International Studies, that statement rings true.

Study abroad programs are full of benefits like experiencing new cultures, as well as bonding with professors and improving foreign language proficiency.

Lynn Elliott, director of The Kennedy Center’s International Study Programs, said study abroad programs increase the cultural understanding of students.

“Students gain a better comprehension of diversity in the world from study abroad programs,” Elliott said. “It’s eye-opening to see that there are diverse cultures and diverse ways of approaching life.”

Students studying abroad learn to love the culture in which they are studying. Danielle Cronquist, an English major from Atlanta, Ga., studied abroad in Paris during the Winter 2012 semester. Cronquist said her time in France helped her immerse herself in the culture and appreciate the people there.

Danielle Cronquist standing in front of the Eiffel Tower during a Winter 2012 study abroad in Paris, France.
Danielle Cronquist standing in front of the Eiffel Tower during a Winter 2012 study abroad in Paris, France.

“My favorite thing about my Paris study abroad was getting to feel like I was part of a different culture and not just a visitor,” Cronquist said. “When you just go visit a city for vacation you see all the highlights and go non-stop, but when you live there for a few months you get the chance to find hidden gems that become your favorite spots, you get to spend lazy days just hanging out in the city and you get to know the people and learn what wonderful things they have to offer.”

Elliott added that learning about the unique communities and cultures across the world can help students as they prepare to leave school and enter the workforce.

“Understanding diversity can help (students) in jobs as they’re going into a field with a diverse population, or when they’re going into a job that’s in a community that they’re not used to living in,” Elliot said. “It can help them adapt faster.”

Another benefit of studying abroad is the chance to build strong, long-lasting relationships with professors. Jay Rainsdon, a chemical engineering major from Houston, Texas, said his time on studying abroad in Jerusalem helped him grow close to his professors.

“I was really lucky to have some awesome and personable professors on my study abroad,” Rainsdon said. “All of my professors were top-notch. I think it really made the study abroad as amazing as it was because they were the kinds of professors that you wanted to talk to and get to know outside of the classroom.”

Elliott said the opportunity to network with professors on study abroad programs is a perk of the programs.

“(Study abroads provide students) unique chances to develop relationships that can prove valuable when seeking academic or career advice or when they look for letters of recommendation,” Elliott said. “I am still in contact with some students with whom I traveled almost 20 years ago.”

Another advantage of study abroad programs can be the immersion into a foreign language.

“If they’re on a language study abroad, it will usually help them with the language and understanding of the culture,” Elliott said.

Receptionist Laura Diebel helps Susanne Whitehead.
Receptionist Laura Diebel helps Susanne Whitehead.

Laura Hatch, a comparative literature from Springville, said her study abroad to Germany helped her learn the language and piqued her interest in culture and texts.

“My study abroad really changed the way I approached my time at BYU,” Hatch said. “My experiences in Berlin gave me a confidence in the language that I didn’t have before, and that confidence in the language sparked a new interest in the culture and texts. This led to later interests in philosophy and comparative literature, which is what I am studying today.”

Elliott suggests students who are considering going on a study abroad during their time as a BYU student should begin to plan the trip as soon as possible.

“If (students) have any interest in it then they ought to plan early,” Elliott said. “Think about it early and come talk about it with us in our office … so you can start planning on it, and put it into your academic plan. Also if you think about it early, it will give you time to start planning your finances to make it possible.”

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