For many, summer is a time for complete relaxation in the comfort of their own home. However, a select group of USF students spent their summers learning far away from campus.
According to USF’s Education Abroad website, 550 students traveled across the globe this year, taking part in a once in a lifetime educational experience. Of those students, 16 of them blogged their experiences for the Education Abroad website – sending dispatches from Asia, Africa, Europe and the Americas.
The Oracle talked with some of these students when they arrived home to discuss their experiences studying abroad.
Bulls back home might be bidding for books on eBay to prepare for the fall, but Farah Britto has brought back some hands-on bargaining experience from the time she spent in Cape Coast, Ghana.
Britto, a senior majoring in mass communications and anthropology, took an African Literature class and a sociology class for a program with Kennesaw State University. Britto said she spent much of her time shooting photos and videos to complete her Gilman Scholarship, which paid for her trip. Though she saw wild elephants and crocodiles, Britto said she enjoyed bartering in the local markets the most.
“The shopkeepers and craftsmen are very aggressive in their sales tactics, and bargaining is the norm,” she said. “I became very good at bargaining down the prices. It was like a strategic game. I wish I could do that here.”
Though she had to blog to complete her scholarship, Britto said she would have done so anyway to remember her experiences and keep a dialogue with family and friends.
“Blogging helped keep me sane,” she said. “Communication with family and friends was very limited. Blogging was a way for me to explain my experiences and also voice my frustrations.”
Patricia Sennhauser, a senior majoring in international business, learned about the history of Argentina while interning for a company in the country’s capital, Buenos Aires. Sennhauser said she interned for a company that sold alfajores, an Argentine cookie, with the proceeds going to underprivileged children in the area. The company worked toward building a place where the children of Buenos Aires slum La Boca, could study, learn English or simply enjoy themselves.
“My class revolved mainly around Argentine history,” she said. “We got to celebrate National Friends Day on July 20 with some Argentines at a local restaurant. We saw the Casa Rosada, where the president works, went to a farm, saw gauchos perform and rode horses.”
Sennhauser said she enjoyed blogging, but found it frustrating at times – as she sometimes forgot about them and had to turn them in late. However, she said the staff was very understanding and never counted it against her.
“The best part was it helped me reflect on everything I had done and seen in the past week,” she said.
For Jessica Church, a junior majoring in international studies, traveling to China wasn’t just an opportunity to learn how to speak the language, but also how to live there. Church said she learned about China in the most hands-on way possible – spending 10 weeks immersed in Chinese culture learning language, history and business etiquette.
“We lived in dorms in Quindao University, where we studied, and each (American) student had a Chinese roommate,” she said. “This helped (us) practice Chinese, learn about Chinese culture and also make a good friend in China.”
Rooming with a local helped Church and her fellow students prepare for some of the difficult tasks of the program, such as interacting with Chinese professionals and giving a presentation at a local bookstore in front of 50 people. Church’s topic: how a better Food and Drug Administration system could improve tourism in China.
“We were responsible for the final project ourselves, so we attended tutoring sessions every day with a Chinese graduate student to help us research and write about our topic,” she said.
Church said immersive experiences such as these are what set USF’s program apart from others. She also said that she found it most beneficial as a unique networking opportunity.
“The coolest thing I did while studying abroad was make a huge amount of friends, colleagues and contacts while in China,” she said. “If I ever wanted to return to China, I would have lots of places to stay, people to see, and job opportunities.”
Running out of the Raymond James Stadium tunnel before kickoff might be great, but at least one USF Bull got his chance to attend the original “Running of the Bulls.”
Ross O’Bryan, a junior majoring in international business and economics, said he had “the best time of (his) life” taking part in this centuries-old tradition in Pamplona, Spain.
O’Bryan traveled to Spain for his Spanish 4 class. Though he also visited Barcelona, Pamplona, Toledo and Paris, France, O’Bryan said the capital of Madrid was his favorite.
“In Madrid, I would just start walking and get lost and then try to find my way back,” he said. “I believe every student should go travel abroad because it really opens your mind to other cultures and is a life-changing experience.”
Fellow USF student and European traveler Courtney Coton got to experience a variety of countries in her study abroad experience. As a part of the “Know Europe Summer 2011” program, Coton, a senior majoring in marketing, traveled to Belgium, France, Holland and Spain. She had daily courses in international marketing, culminating in a group project where she and teammates introduced an American beer in a foreign market.
Though she learned about other cultures, Coton said the study abroad experience also teaches internal lessons.
“I would recommend studying abroad to all students, no matter what major,” she said. “Living in another country outside your comfort level really helps you to learn a lot about yourself.”