Photo courtesy of Gregor Crisler

Among the many paths that a student can follow, studying or working abroad is one that offers particularly strong potential for both excitement and fear. Two students made the decision to spend time in a foreign country and shared their experiences and insights from abroad.

Gregory Crisler is a fourth-year ME who spent a whole year studying in Russia, first in Moscow for the LBAT in the summer of 2013 then in St. Petersburg for the fall of 2013 and the spring of 2014.

He expresses the most enthusiasm for the sense of connection to other countries studying abroad gave him, saying, “You no longer think of the world as these ideas, but you start to associate them with people, which I think is a really healthy way to look at the world. As opposed to an idea, you have an emotional connection, because you know people there; you’ve seen it, you’ve experienced the culture.”

He notes a number of differences in the behavior of Russians that caused him to see American behavior in a different light.

“Russians value smiles differently than we do. For them, a smile is something valuable,”
he says.

According to Crisler, too, Russians often only smile when among friends or when they are truly happy; a quality he appreciates as lending them a more genuine
feeling.

In addition to the moments of discovery, there were moments of fear, as when he began studying in St. Petersburg and was the only non-native Russian speaker in
his class.

He explains, however, that “You have to step out of your comfort zone, but I think once you’ve stepped out of your comfort zone, you realize how much better life can be. Because comfortable is nice, but comfortable is not the best you can be, comfortable is not the best your life can be.”

Matthew Schauer, a fourth-year CS spent six months total in Japan: two in the Japanese LBAT and four interning for Nippon Telegraph and Telephone. As someone who describes himself as “passionate about Japanese culture,” it is natural that one of Matthew’s keenest pleasures was becoming accustomed to his neighborhood in Japan and getting a feel for the rhythm of everyday life.

“I enjoyed very much just hanging in Tokyo and seeing what people do there,” he says.

As for adjusting to this lifestyle, he says that while he is not sure if he ever got used to living in Japan, he was accustomed to the daily swing of things after a week.

He wholeheartedly enjoyed the LBAT, describing it as “unquestionably the best part of my college experience… It was really incredible,” thanks to the exploration and friendships he
experienced.

Though he says that he would recommend the internship experience, he did find it more difficult to reach out to people than he did during the LBAT.

“[In the LBAT,] there were a lot of Japanese people who were interested in making international friends,” he says. “Whereas I feel most of the people I met during my internship were quite satisfied with their existing friends, thank you very much.”

Still, he feels the internship was a powerful learning experience that helped him gain an eminent amount of independence in his life.

“It was a good way to take a break from schooling, because it was stressful by a lot, and a great way to get out and branch out and see what’s there,” he says. “There are not many experiences where you get to really know part of a foreign country unless you move there or because if your parents work there or something. But I know my way around that neighborhood now, and that’s
really neat.”

Overall, he describes himself as satisfied with having familiarized himself with another corner of the world and is pleased that he now can speak with Japanese people in their native language.

Both Crisler and Schauer greatly enjoyed their experiences abroad and encourage other students at Tech to break out of the self-perceived  “Tech Bubble.” By interacting with others of various cultures, they feel students can learn more about themselves.

By “[providing] students the opportunity to gain experience in their field, develop the skills employers need in a global economy and get exposure to cross-cultural communication and learning,” the Global Internship Program is a popular program for students
at Tech.