From Familiar to Foreign: Students Prepare To Study Abroad for the Fall Semester
by Jill Comoletti | Syracuse University
This summer, Syracuse University sophomore Nicki Gorny has spent time in cultures very different from that of her hometown in Ohio. She has stayed with a host family in Ecuador, toured the cities of Buenos Aires and Montevideo and is now staying with a Chilean host family until mid-December. Gorny is just one of many students experiencing life in foreign countries this fall through a study abroad program.
According to the Open Doors Report on International Educational Exchange, 270,604 U.S. students studied abroad for credit during the 2009/10 academic year, an increase from the 260,327 students who studied abroad the previous year.
Gorny is part of the approximately 15 percent of U.S. students who study abroad in Latin America, according to the most recent statistics by NAFSA. She has been traveling around South America with the SU Abroad program since June, and has now arrived at her final destination of Santiago, Chile. Gorny said life in Santiago is very different from anything she has ever experienced.
According to Gorny, Chilean public transportation is overly crowded, and many houses have no heat even with the current low temperatures. The most noticeable cultural difference, she said, is that Chilean families do not eat dinner. Instead, they have “once”, which usually consists of tea with different types of bread.
“Usually ‘once’ is delicious, but it’s hard to go from having dinner as the major meal of the day in the U.S. to essentially not eating dinner in Chile,” Gorny said.
Gorny said she knew she wanted to study abroad in a Spanish-speaking country, and the cultural aspects of the Chilean program are what drew her in. Though she was very excited to study abroad, she said she didn’t do much to prepare for the trip.
“I had a dumb idea in my head that it would be more of an adventure if I didn’t look up any information on the countries beforehand, so I pretty much went in blind,” Gorny said. “I’m not sure I’d recommend that to anyone else, but it’s worked out all right for me. I’m learning a ton as I go.”
On the other hand, Syracuse University senior Julie Dellinger has spent a great deal of time and energy preparing to study abroad in Greece. Since SU Abroad does not offer a program in Greece, Dellinger had to apply to study in the country through the University of Indianapolis-Athens Campus. She is part of the small number of approximately 1.5 percent of American students studying abroad in Greece.
Dellinger had to procure transfer petitions in order to have her credits transfer to Syracuse, and also needed to have personal recommendations written and study abroad approval forms filled out. After being accepted to the study abroad program, Dellinger needed to take a leave of absence from SU for the fall, which meant she had to get outside funding from a third-party loan lender to help pay for her trip since she no longer has access to her Syracuse financial aid.
“Currently, I’m still trying to square away all the financial aspects of the program,” Dellinger said. “I need to purchase my plane ticket, pay the University of Indianapolis and defer my student loans.” She said she has also been paying close attention to Greek news in order to have a feel for what the culture will be like when she arrives.
Dellinger said she’s been interested in Greece ever since her sixth grade Literature teacher introduced her to the Greek gods and goddesses. She said she never really traveled as a child, so she’s excited to leave the country and see what Greece has to offer.
“Philosophy, democracy, the Olympics — so much of our history comes from Greece, and the ancient ruins, art, architecture and gorgeous location add to its appeal,” she said.
While Dellinger had her heart set on studying in Greece, Leah Kelly, a junior at the University of Vermont, said she was not always sure where she wanted to study abroad. Kelly said her first choice would have been either South Africa or New Zealand, but both programs began in June and wouldn’t have allowed time for a summer job. Kelly finally chose to study in Florence, Italy in the fall, and said she couldn’t be more excited.
“I finally chose Florence after getting advice from kids who have gone abroad and opinions from family,” Kelly said. “Ultimately, I was able to find a program that catered to my major and that sealed the deal.”
Kelly said she will be living in an apartment rather than with a host family because she doesn’t speak Italian and thought an apartment would be most similar to her living arrangements at UVM. She said she is very excited to have the opportunity to live in another country.
“Many people do not get this opportunity unless a job brings them there,” Kelly said.
Kelly said she is very excited about the five classes she will be taking in Florence at Lorenzo de’ Medici. She will be taking classes toward her business administration major and her sociology minor, and will also take a jewelry-making class because, in her words, “you need to have a little fun.”
Dellinger will be taking five classes through the University of Indianapolis’s Odyssey in Athens program, many of which are related to Greek language, art and culture. Gorny will be taking a Spanish and an anthropology class at Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile and a class about Chilean history through the Universidad de Chile.
Gorny, Kelly and Dellinger all hope to gain valuable experiences from their trips abroad. Gorny said she hopes to be fluent in Spanish by the time she returns home, and also hopes to make friends in Chile and become a more well-rounded, knowledgeable person. Kelly said she hopes her trip to Italy both humbles and strengthens her. Dellinger said she hopes to gain a new perspective and see for herself how America is viewed from the other side.
“America is a very ethnocentric country, and although I’m aware of this and make a conscious effort to remain empathetic to others, there is something so uniquely life-altering about learning a different culture by living it,” Dellinger said.Jill Comoletti is a sophomore magazine major at Syracuse University. She is the assistant short features editor for 360 Degrees Magazine and a contributing writer for various campus publications.