Study Abroad: A Different Perspective

Design by Brighton Kamen

Studying abroad can be a turning point in many students lives, and at Tech, students have the opportunity to explore a plethora of various programs abroad.

While some might stop at one semester studying abroad, others have been eager to burst through the Tech bubble on the Atlanta campus and go back for more.

Georgia Tech Lorraine (GTL) is one of Tech’s popular study abroad programs, welcoming hundreds of students to the Tech campus in Metz, France every year. At GTL, students can take courses that, for the most part,  follow the Tech curriculum and are taught by Tech professors.

Adam Forstall, a 2016 B.S. ME graduate attended GTL twice, in Spring 2015 and Spring 2016.

While some students who have studied abroad twice may feel that the first semester was more enjoyable than the second, Forstall feels differently.

“[The] first time, I wish I had ventured out more on my own and tried assimilating more,” said Forstall. “The second time around, I made some local friends that made the time considerably more enjoyable, though it was already great. … In fact, I’m going back to Metz next week, and plan on visiting several of them.”

Aimee Gerold, third-year BME and alumni of the French LBAT program in Summer 2015 and GTL in Fall 2015 feels similarly.

“I preferred GTL over LBAT because I made friends with some Master’s students at GTL, which gave me increased exposure to the French language and its culture,” Gerold said.

The second time around seems to encourage students to not just explore the physical terrain, but also assimilate with the culture and befriend the locals.

“The first time is a culture shock; the second time, you learn to really appreciate another culture,” Forstall said.

With the many opportunities to study abroad offered at Tech, there is a program for anyone.

“I have done research, a co-op, and a study abroad,” Forstall said. “And hands down, the study abroad was the greatest thing I have done in college, and in my life. Not to mention, it has come up in every job interview. Every single one. You cannot survive over there without time-management skills, people skills or common sense. If for whatever reason you lack these traits heading over, you won’t when you return.”

Others decided to get a feel for entirely different continents.

Radhika Duvvuri, third-year BME chose to study abroad in completely different environments, the China Summer Program in 2015, and the Oxford Program in the summer of 2016, which included traveling across Europe for the first half of the trip, studying art and music history, then settling down in Oxford for the second half to take curriculum courses.

On choosing where to study abroad if you’re considering going  for more than one semester, Duvvuri advises to “go to two completely different places unless you’re super passionate about exploring one particular place. I think the point of studying abroad is to gain an understanding of different parts of the world, and the easiest way to do that is to go to two different continents!”

Unlike Forstall and Gerold, Duvvuri preferred her first semester over the second, at the China Summer Program, as it was an entirely different environment than what she had ever experienced. She also advises students to study abroad now that they have
the chance.

“You’ll probably never get that kind of a chance to travel when you’re busy with your career and family. … The best piece of advice I can give with regards to this is to try to plan out what classes you’re going to take during your four years, and try not to use up all your humanities in one or two semesters at Tech when you can easily do those abroad. But don’t go overboard with this, because you may want some buffer classes for particularly tough future semesters on campus.”

Similarly, James Kane, fourth-year ISYE studied abroad through the Oxford Summer Program in 2014 is currently studying at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology exchange

“I loved both the programs I participated in,” Kane said. “While it was amazing to travel all through Europe on the Oxford program with other Tech students, I really am enjoying meeting local students from Hong Kong and other exchange students from all over the world.”

He believes that a variety of new experiences is important for self improvement.

“It gives them new perspectives on life, a sense of humility and an appreciation for where they are from,” Kane noted.

The only regret he had from his time abroad was that he didn’t learn Cantonese before the trip.

“I would have had a much better connection with the local people if I knew the language,” Kane said. “And I would not have accidentally ordered a meal with an eyeball in it.”

But why stop at two programs?

Kristin Gao, third-year BME studied abroad three times —GTL in Fall 2015, the BME Galway Summer in 2016, and the National University of Singapore Exchange in Fall 2016.

Out of these three, her time in Singapore was her favorite.

“There were approximately one thousand exchange students, so I met people from all around the world and gained lifetime friendships. Additionally, Singapore is on the other side of the world, so I experienced a completely different culture and gained a new perspective. While I got the opportunity to travel around Southeast Asia and Australia, the classwork in Singapore challenged me like no other. It was interesting learning about the different education system in Asia.”

Whether you choose to study for two consecutive semesters at the same program, at different programs, more than twice, or on two different continents, there isn’t a doubt that immersing yourself for more than one semester in a foreign culture is an eye-opening experience that pushes you out of your comfort zone, allows you to interact with people with varying perspectives and creates long-lasting memories.