Students share summer study abroad experiences

By Maria Carter

Assistant Focus Editor

Studying abroad can be one of the most personally and academically rewarding experiences of a college student’s undergraduate career.

Tech offers over 80 programs there’s something for every major and plenty of opportunities to explore the world. Last year, Tech was recognized in Internationalizing the Campus (ItC), a publication by NAFSA: Association of International Educators. In ItC, former Tech President Wayne Clough stressed the importance of an international education. “Even if [Tech graduates] stay in this country—which is unlikely—during their careers, they are going to be impacted by this global economy,” Clough said. “They have to be able to speak to people with different accents. They have to be comfortable in that world and to appreciate it.”

International experience can provide a competitive advantage for recent college graduates as they enter their prospective careers. With an increasingly global economy, more American industries are working with international companies or collaborating with foreign organizations as part of a multi-national team. The acquisition or improvement of foreign language skills will more than likely benefit you in the workforce.

The atmosphere of a travel abroad setting is unlike any found inside a traditional classroom on campus. Smaller sized groups allow for more frequent communication with professors and friendships form naturally as students bond over their travel adventures and common status as foreigners. The memories alone are surely one of the greatest perks of international travel. Megan McPherson, a third-year STaC major and 2008 graduate of the Italian Film Studies program, enjoyed experiencing the culture, traveling on weekends, and making a film during her stay in Italy. “I will never forget the fun times we had walking around town, sight-seeing and getting gelato at all times of the day!” McPherson said.

Oddly enough, self-discovery is another nice side effect of studying abroad. A person who lives in a foreign country for a significant amount of time learns about themselves and, through the eyes of others, about their country. If familiarity breeds contempt, international travel is the antidote. (Not to mention it’s a hell of an adventure to be less than fluent in your host country’s native tongue and still adjusting to culture shock.)

It’s never too early to start planning; a variety of factors could affect a semester abroad. One’s language skills, financial situation, and degree curriculum should all be taken into consideration when deciding to study abroad. Below, you’ll find a brief synopsis of some of Tech’s programs, plus highlights from students who participated in them.

Italian Film Studies (IFS)

6 weeks

Just two hours outside Venice, this summer program offers an authentic Italian experience; you won’t find any other Americans in the picturesque town of Gorizia. The small size of IFS – normally between 20 to 25 students each summer – fosters a close knit bond among students and offers plenty of interaction with professors. Venice native Dr. Dalle Vacche teaches history of Italian cinema and offers entertaining advice you will not get from any tour guide.

Allison Gooch, a second-year Computational Media major and 2008 IFS graduate, cites the friends, professors, traveling, and food as her favorite memories of IFS. “Everyone in the program was really fun, and we took trips and ate great food while earning class credit!” Gooch said. “We created our own films and experienced Italian culture firsthand.” Courses are taught on Italian cinema and documentary filmmaking. Perfect for students pursuing a film minor through LCC, or those just looking to earn humanities credit in sunny Italy. Three-day weekends allow participants to travel at their leisure; past destinations include Rome, Florence, France, Spain, Germany, Austria, Switzerland and the Czech Republic. Visit film.gatech.edu/ifs.html for more information.

Oxford Summer Program

10 weeks, 12 hours credit

Not for the faint of heart, the Oxford Summer Program takes participants on a whirlwind four weeks, traveling to five or six countries before settling down in Oxford, England for the last six weeks. Travel destinations include Belgium (Brussels and Brugge), the Czech Republic, France, Germany (Berlin and Munich), Hungary, Italy (Florence, Rome, and Venice), and Spain (Barcelona and Madrid).

Courses are taught on subjects ranging from Art History to Aerospace Engineering. Rebecca Bullard, a third year INTA major and 2008 graduate of the program, says her time at Oxford was the most gratifying experience she has had as a Tech student. “I was exposed to the cultures of nine different countries in two months, while earning a full semester’s credit and getting to know my professors and fellow students better than I ever have on campus,” Bullard said. In fact, Bullard had such a positive experience she will spend the next two semesters in England as an exchange student.

Visit www.oxford.gatech.edu/index.html for more details.

East Asia Summer Program

8 weeks

Earn nine credit hours while exploring the Far East. Excursions to South

Korea, Japan, Taiwan, and China are on the itinerary as students investigate the economic and political development histories of each country. Destination cities include Seoul, Tokyo, Taipei, Hong Kong, and Canton. One of Tech’s few programs that involves travel by ship, participants attend classes at sea as they journey between Osaka, Japan, and Kaoshiung, Taiwan. Noteworthy highlights of the trip include visits to the producing enterprises of “Made in China” goods that

Americans buy on a regular basis and the world-renowned Zen gardens in Kyoto. In the past, participants journeyed to the top of the world’s tallest building – Taipei 101- and the Yokohama tower. Visit www.eastasiaprogram.gatech.edu for details.

GT Lorraine

Fall/Spring semester, Summer: 11 weeks

Established in 1990, Tech’s European campus in Metz, France is home to the GT Lorraine program. Metz, capital of the picturesque Lorraine region, boasts riverside parks, canals, well-proportioned squares and a thriving high-tech commercial center. Courses are available in all engineering areas offered at Tech, plus economics, history, public policy, management, and of course, French. Earn 12 hours of credit during the Fall or Spring semester.

Sydney Summer Program

6 weeks

Based out of the University of New South Wales (UNSW), participants enjoy the benefit of living in Australia’s largest city and are within walking distance of Coogee Beach. As one of Australia’s leading research universities, UNSW may be of particular interest to electrical and mechanical engineering majors. UNSW also offers humanities courses in Australian History, Film, Literature, and Media. For those seeking a more extended stay in Australia, semester-long programs are available at UNSW and may be taken in conjunction with the GT Exchange Program.

For more information on all of Tech’s opportunities for travel abroad, including work abroad and exchange programs, visit the Office of International Education at www.oie.gatech.edu.