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Sophomores Discuss Study Abroad Experiences

Assoc. News Editor

Published: Monday, December 3, 2012

Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 19:01

“Getting Chilean child services called on me, that was no bueno,” said Sam Kent, A&S ’13. Kent, along with six other Boston College students and an advising assistant from the Office of International Programs (OIP), composed a panel that discussed the undergraduate study abroad experience as part of the UGBC Student Formation’s ‘Sophomore Self Check: Where in the World Do You Want to Go?’ event, which was hosted Tuesday night in Higgins 225.

After the students in attendance had a chance to enjoy refreshments provided by the UGBC, the event kicked off with Mary Posman, an advising assistant in OIP and GA&S ’17, discussing her undergraduate study abroad experience in Vietnam and Cambodia and welcoming students to ask her any questions they thought of throughout the night. The rest of the panelists then each took a turn describing their study abroad experience.

The students that composed the panel represented the diversity of study abroad options that BC offers, having studied in London, Chile, Argentina, Jordan, Italy, China, and Morocco. Despite the vast differences in the locations in which the students studied, they found many aspects of their experiences to be relatable. Language acquisition was considered a major part of the study abroad experience for a number of students.

“Nothing compares to being fully immersed in a language,” said Robert Balint, A&S ’13, a student who studied in Buenos Aires, Argentina. “If you are getting on a bus, or if you need to find food, you’re going to need your foreign language. I think the language experience is one of the most important things you learn while abroad.”
Sam Shriver, A&S ’14, a student who studied in Beijing, China during high school and then went back for a summer in a BC program, also reflected on his language acquisition experience.

“I just wanted to become fluent in Chinese,” he said. “I would learn new vocabulary words at class during the morning and then speak to my host parents with the new vocabulary I had just learned during the afternoon. That is a great way to memorize a new language.”
Host families were another major topic of conversation for the panel. “Living with a host family had its pluses and minuses,” Kent said. “You get the cultural experience when you live with a family, and it helped me to learn Chilean Spanish. Conflicts came up. The family was very dramatic, they would tell me their problems and try to pull me to their side. I was very much part of the family.”
Embracing the unexpected was another theme of the discussion. “The Chilean Student Movement cancelled half of my classes,” Kent said. “I got hosed down by water cannons just because I looked like a student and I was trying to see what was going on. I am very interested in social movements so the Student Movement fit my interests perfectly.”
Lizzie Jekanowski, A&S ’13, a student who studied in Morocco, believed that some of the best parts of her experience came from embracing the unexpected. “A couple of my friends ended up delivering fruit with a couple of guys who owned a fruit delivery truck that they had just met at a restaurant,” she said. “In return, they offered us a ride, and we were able to get where we wanted to go with the six of us fitting into the back of a fruit delivery truck.”  
Jekanowski also believed that these unexpected study abroad experiences taught lessons were applicable to all cultures. “A cab driver who picked us up ended up hanging out with us all day,” she said. “When we asked him why he did that, he responded, ‘The car was empty and I had nothing to do.’ I think that is just a beautiful statement about life.”

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