by Theresa Oo
Juniata College offers several ways for students to study abroad. Though these opportunities are available, some students are hesitant to travel out of the country due to finance, fear or unfamiliarity.
Emil Nagengast, professor of politics and a supporter of students studying abroad, said, “I think number one is money. Most of the short term programs cost at least $3000 and some of them cost more, but aside from money, I think the biggest part of it is that the students are afraid.”
“My assumption is that they are concerned about terrorism,” said Russell Shelley, Elma Stine Heckler Professor of Music and chair of the music department.
“But the other part of it is that people are afraid to be put in an uncomfortable situation. It’s probably human nature. We don’t want to do things that are going to make us uncomfortable, and students know that when they’re in another country, they’re going to be operating in an entirely different environment where almost everything is different from what they’re used to at home, but that’s also the reason why people need to do it,” said Nagengast.
“I think one of the big reasons why students in the U.S. don’t study abroad more often is because of the limitations of our K to 12 educations, which does not offer language opportunities at young age. Students in other countries learn a second or third language at an early age so these children developed the confidence to be able to travel and study in a foreign language,” said Sarah Worley, assistant professor of communication.
According to Kati Csoman, dean of international education, studying abroad should be a goal for Juniata students. “Juniata’s mission is to provide an engaging personalized educational experience empowering our students to develop the skills, knowledge and values that lead to a fulfilling life of service and ethical leadership in the global community. I think it’s really important because the best way to develop the knowledge, skills and values to be able to operate in the global community is by having an intercultural experience, namely, through study abroad,” said Csoman.
“It feels like a lot of college kids are put into this bubble, and they never really quite break out of high school, and I think experience something outside of the U.S. kind of opens your mind to be more accepting of everyone in your life in general,” said junior Jillian Bloise.
“Studying abroad makes you stronger, and helps you succeed in whatever you want to do in the rest of your life. There’s nothing more challenging than studying abroad and experiencing all of those different things so that when you go back to your country, it’s like you’ve gone to an Olympic training camp, you’re stronger than all of your peers who did not go abroad. It would be easy for you if I ask you to go to India and work in whatever office. You’re not going to run away scared,” said Nagengast.
Junior Tristan Wilson said, “I’ve done the study abroad, now I’m thinking more of working abroad. There are all sorts of opportunities out there, private and public settings, NGOs and non-profits. Also I would totally work for the federal government.”
Wilson studied abroad in Spain during the spring of 2015. In the fall, he accepted an internship with the NGO for transgender rights emphasizing in HIV prevention. “We drove around the city late at night and had a big camp, and passed out condoms, and I would serve coffee and tea. Also we did these HIV test for the sex workers around the area,” said Wilson.
Wilson was also close to the shooting attacks that happened in Paris while he was abroad. “We were just totally shocked. I and some friends were in the common area having some drinks before we went out and one of my friends came back and he said, ‘three people got shot,’” said Wilson.
Despite the experience with terrorism, Wilson said, “I wouldn’t take back that experience at all. Study abroad. Go. Don’t be afraid. You’ll have a phenomenal time as well.”
When asked about the benefits studying abroad, Shelley said, “What isn’t good about it? Everything’s good about it. It allows you to expand your understanding of the world. It puts you in a context where you are challenged personally.”
According to Nagengast, study abroad is a necessity in today’s world. The experience is an opportunity for education. “I want to make sure that we’re providing the best possible educational experience with good location for an educational experience as well as life experience, and helping students and their families to understand that there is risk associated with travel and living abroad,” said Csoman. “It is not possible to plan for every possible scenario that could go wrong.”
“Even a student that has had bad experience, and I have known a couple of students who got there and (it) wasn’t what they expected it to be, and the academics were not as strong as they should be and they just had a bad experience. Even those students, five years later, tell me, ‘I wouldn’t trade that for anything. I hated it when I was there, but now, look at how much more I understand about myself and about others. Look how much better I am at handling circumstances.’ They wouldn’t trade it for anything,” said Shelley.
“You have to think about why you came to this college. Why you didn’t go to Penn State Altoona or community college or to a beauty school. You came to a place like this to challenge yourself so that in four years you can put yourself in a position where you can be strong and successful in the path that you choose,” said Nagengast. “And the most important thing you could do to help yourself is to get yourself to study abroad.”
“I didn’t go out of the United States until I was 28 years old. I was way too old, and I wish I had done it a lot earlier. I missed out and because I did, I want as many students as possible to not miss out because I regret it every single day,” said Shelley.