Record Number Ready for Study Abroad

Posted on May 18, 2016
Alice Jackson

South students and faculty participate in the USA in Russia Study Abroad program in the summer of 2015. data-lightbox='featured'
South students and faculty participate in the USA in Russia Study Abroad program in the summer of 2015.

On a recent afternoon at the University of South Alabama, more than 40 students listened closely as two women described how the next several months abroad will change their lives.

These students and others will set a record for USA this summer as more than 100 students travel abroad – the most in the University’s history -- to study subjects ranging from biology to writing in England, France, Russia, Japan and Costa Rica, among others. Additionally, nine faculty members will either lead student groups or continue their own research focus in a foreign country. The increased interest in studying overseas has grown by leaps and bounds, fueled by the University’s initiative to increase global engagement for students and financed by a growing number of scholarships.

Friends Anna Pool and Kaylin Goodwin sat together, copiously taking notes. They will travel together to study in Spain.

“I’m so excited, but there are still things I want to know before I leave,” said Pool, a Spanish major.

“I’m looking forward to it, but I have so much to do before I leave I can’t get too excited,” added Goodwin, a pre-physical therapy major.

The required meeting was the students’ eighth and last one as an entire group, and their final opportunity to ask Holly Hudson, director of International Education and Study Abroad, and her assistant director, Bri Altier, for their expert advice. For many of the students, this will be the first time they, or any member of their family, have gone abroad. For others, this will be their second, third or even fourth trip overseas. Both Hudson and Altier have traveled world-wide, and their final instructions range from packing only essential items to dressing for other cultures.

“Shorts aren’t forbidden, but people in many countries aren’t accustomed to seeing short shorts like we see here in America,” Hudson told the female students. “I’d recommend you wear longer shorts, or a sundress, or a skirt and top. It’s all about being culturally appropriate in the country you’re visiting.”

There’s a review of the latest Transportation Security Administration rules, and a PowerPoint behind the women shares the security organization’s website so the students can check for more detailed instructions.

In the front row are several of the program’s ambassador’s, students who have studied abroad one or more times and who donate their time to help novice travelers. Their role at this meeting was to answer any number of written questions from students in the audience, and to encourage  the students to get the most from their travels.

“Write a journal of what happens to you this summer,” advised Ashley Charlton, a foreign languages major who studied in Russia last year. “When you are back home, there may be important things you learned, but that you won’t remember, and a journal will help you to see how much you will grow with this experience.”

Altier talked about the challenge of solving problems abroad, everything from currency exchanges to asking for help in non-English speaking countries.

“Believe me, you’ll learn how to problem-solve while abroad, and that’s part of the growth experience of being a student abroad,” Altier said.

Hudson reinforced the journal idea, suggesting it could be helpful in preparing for future job interviews.

Charlton reminded the students their first job abroad is to earn their credits in class before enjoying themselves.

“Make a bucket list before you leave because you’ll never get to do everything you want to do, but don’t worry. In today’s world, chances are good you’ll go back to that country in the future,” she said.

Finally, Hudson encouraged the students to blog, if possible, about their experiences and to email her, Altier, or their staff, as well as family while traveling. They’ve also been urged to post to social media, particularly the Study Abroad Instagram page.

“We need to hear from you because we like to know how you’re doing and if you need our advice for any reason,” Hudson said. “Remember, we’re here when you need us.”

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