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OIP Debunks Myths

For The Heights

Published: Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 18:01

On Monday, the Office of International Programs (OIP) sponsored panel of International Study Advisors (ISA) to clarify the experience of studying abroad to an audience composed largely of second- and first-year students, in a discussion titled “Study Abroad: Myths and Realities.”
Presenting the myths under categories ranging from affordability to identity, the experts provided a convincing and comprehensive presentation to dispel many common misconceptions about studying abroad.

Initially, their efforts appeared to have the effect of preaching to the choir. Although each myth was undoubtedly included due to prevalence, the students in attendance at the discussion rarely raised their hands to indicate that they believed a particular myth.

Of course, their behavior can be explained by the human tendency to avoid admitting belief in notions clearly indicated to be incorrect. When the moderator began to address the audience with “Does anyone know someone who thinks this?” the number of hands raised increased.

 As a whole, the atmosphere of the discussion was friendly and personal, as the advisors worked to make study abroad seem as appealing and convenient as possible. Although students have reported spending exorbitant sums abroad, the experts explained that the experience abroad need not be any more expensive than staying in Chestnut Hill, though costs varied based upon factors such as travel and duration.

“If you attend a BC program, all of your financial aid carries over,” said ISA Sarah Lynes, who is responsible for programs in France, Italy, and Switzerland.

For the academic segment of the presentation, the consensus was that planning ahead is crucial. “Start dreaming now,” said Elizabeth Goizueta, who advises for Spain and Latin America and serves as assistant director for Curriculum Integration, “and put together a plan for both your personal and academic needs.”
The OIP works closely with professors from each department and from affiliated schools abroad to satisfy students’ academic needs. Their detailed website makes much of this work available to interested students.

The panel members said that anyone can go abroad, regardless of major, family background, or foreign language proficiency. Larry Pickener, the ISA responsible for Britain, the Netherlands, and Scandinavia, said all of the countries he advises for use English in their classrooms.

“There will be things at BC that you’ll miss, but studying abroad is always a plus, and not a hindrance,” said Janet Kalunian, seeking to dispel the idea that leaving the country may detract from students’ college experience or their success in the job market.

“Sometimes opportunities for internships are available in the host country,” she said. “But in most cases you just need to plan ahead and work with us to choose the right program.” She emphasized that the enrichment and independence associated with studying abroad can make students more attractive to potential employers.

The key for success was that students must first have a clear conception of what they want from the experience. “You get out of it what you put into it,” Kalunian said.

Kalunian, assistant director for Academic Operations, outlined the astonishing variety of options available, ranging from the full immersion of homestays and direct-enrollment programs to more U.S.-style arrangements. “Studying in a foreign country won’t be easier,” she said, “just different.”

In fact, according to Pickener, “You should not expect the experience to be just like BC— otherwise, you should reconsider why you want to go abroad in the first place.”

Each ISA came to BC with an extensive background in studying abroad. They shared their personal stories as well as insights about the countries they advise for, noting that support would be provided as needed, should tensions arise surrounding race, gender, or other sensitive issues.

At the end of the night, the panel made a persuasive case against nearly every conceivable obstacle against going abroad. “Of all the students I’ve spoken to, even the ones who did not get the experience they expected, not one regretted going abroad,” Lynes said.

However, not all attendees were convinced. “I’m already studying abroad,” explained an international student from China. Still, even she left with her hands full: assorted refreshments were served at the event.

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