Weglinski: Go Study Abroad


(Courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

By Sonia Weglinski, Opinion Writer


My first study abroad experience was in high school, when I went with a group of 15 students to Beijing, China during the summer. I had studied Mandarin for three years prior to this trip, but I learned more in just those few weeks than I ever did in class back home. Being fully immersed in a culture so different from my own opened my eyes in many ways. This experience not only taught me to be critical of propaganda back in the states, but it allowed me to formulate my own thoughts about the world around me.

I’ve noticed that many Americans are shut off from the rest of the world; we blindly accept what we are taught in our school textbooks and in the media as the complete and most important truths about our own country and others. I was fortunate to be raised with some cultural awareness since both of my parents are immigrants to the United States — many of my peers aren’t as lucky. In fact, I wrote my very first opinion piece with the Chronicle about the “Utah bubble.” College is about new experiences and expanding what you know. During these years of studying and self-development, take advantage of once-in-a-lifetime opportunities and see the world for yourself.

Study abroad programs come with many benefits along with broadening your perspective. During my stay in China, I was fascinated by their different education style. Learning Mandarin there was challenging, but I eventually grew to love this new way of teaching. On top of that, learning a language is much easier when you’re actually there in the country, talking to locals casually and putting yourself out there. And of course, you make many friends and memories along the way.

University of Utah senior Lucas Lilly was undecided about his major going into college. To fulfill his humanities credit, he ended up going on a study abroad trip to Spain, where he stayed for six weeks with a host family. This experience ultimately led him to change his major to Spanish Teaching. “The most rewarding part about studying abroad is that it reveals new passions. It helped me explore things I was interested in and helped me grow as a person,” Lilly said in an interview. Additionally, a little time abroad helps students expand their connections and stand out on resumes. “Your employer [will see you] as someone who seeks diversity, seeks challenges and seeks opportunities to supplement your education,” Lilly added.

At the U, we have our very own learning abroad department. If you’re interested, the first step is to complete an information session called “Learning Abroad 101.” Then, you can decide whether you want to travel for an internship, to fulfill a course or elective credit and so on. If you’re not sure you could afford to do a semester abroad, be aware that the U awards one in four applicants scholarships to help with their study abroad trip. “[The U] has a scholarship team completely dedicated to helping students secure funding to support their trip,” Lilly said. He also noted that, oftentimes, “study abroad is actually comparable in expenses to taking classes at the University of Utah campus.”

I started college during the pandemic, so I haven’t been able to go on a study abroad yet. But as we transition back to normalcy ahead of the next school year, I have high hopes that I’ll be able to go — and you should too. The learning experience and memories that come from it are priceless.


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