Learning Abroad Presents Students with Unique Opportunities

Eliza+Emerson+providing+fellow+student+Helena+Goei+with+info+on+the+many+programs+through+the+Learning+Abroad+Center+located+on+the+University+of+Utah+Campus+in+Salt+Lake+City%2C+Utah+on+Oct.+21%2C+2021.+%28Photo+by+Langley+Hayman+%7C+The+Daily+Utah+Chronicle%29

Langley Hayman

Eliza Emerson providing fellow student Helena Goei with info on the many programs through the Learning Abroad Center located on the University of Utah Campus in Salt Lake City, Utah on Oct. 21, 2021. (Photo by Langley Hayman | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Isaac Dunaway, News Writer

 

There can be challenges in making the decision to learn abroad, but the experiences and lessons students learn from going for it are often invaluable.

“Completely removing yourself from your familiar environment and immersing yourself in something unknown, regardless of what that culture is, I think is a really irreplaceable experience,” said Eliza Emerson, a program specialist in the learning abroad office at the University of Utah. “I think a lot of times while living in America, it’s kind of easy to think that you’re at the center of the world. I think it’s important to remove yourself from that.”

Only one in ten students learn abroad, according to the learning abroad website. This can be for a variety of reasons, such as finances, lack of confidence or fear of the unknown.

“I think it’s usually a financial factor … Students don’t realize the resources made available through scholarships and financial aid,” said Courtney Johnson, a peer advisor in the learning abroad office. “I think it’s such a scary concept to most people that they talk themselves out of it, before they even start down the path. They just don’t think they can.”

Another potential obstacle for traveling abroad is COVID-19. Some countries are still difficult to access because of travel restrictions, such as Japan or Australia. Some students may not want to work around these restrictions.

“All of our programs are requiring [the] COVID vaccination,” Johnson said. “That’s a big one, especially for students that disagree with getting vaccinated.”

Despite these obstacles, Emerson said a main reason for students to do it is to learn about a culture different from one they might be familiar with.

When Emerson studied abroad in the Philippines, she said her favorite part of the experience was the friendships and connections she was able to make.

“Filipino people in general are a very welcoming culture,” she said. “They invite you into their homes and want you to eat their food. They invite you to family dinner and invite you to take you places.”

According to Emerson, another benefit of learning abroad is it forces students to learn how to be independent, which helps them find success throughout the rest of their lives.

“It requires you to achieve your own goals and take care of yourself and navigate your situations,” Emerson said. “Learning how to do that puts you on all the better of a foot.”

The U’s learning abroad website says learning abroad helps students, “secure a job faster after graduation, earn a higher starting salary, and develop intercultural and interpersonal skills that prepare you for career progression and promotion.”

The website also has a variety of programs for students to look at and choose from. These programs include locations all around the globe, with programs in Latin America, Africa, Europe, Asia and more.

“I think self discovery is a huge part of studying abroad,” Johnson said. “You have to be relying on yourself and your own resources to be figuring things out … You have no other choice.”

For more information, the learning abroad office is located in room 159 of the Union building, just down the hall from the billiards room. 

“I don’t really try very hard to push anybody one way or the other,” Johnson said. “I do try and lay out the options for them, encourage them, and make them aware that they do have the ability to do it … Nothing is impossible.”

 

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@isaacdunawayUSM