Studying abroad is about to be easier than ever

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By: McKenna Graham, Associate Arts & Life Editor
Photo by: McKenna Graham

Ah, Towson University, home of Doc the Tiger, Smith Hall, a club dedicated to grilled cheese and many other awesome amenities.

Campus is glowing after summer break. Newly-planted flowers bring fresh color; sidewalks and walkways are pure of any chalk; crisp green grass begs you to set down a blanket and get some work done in the sun; and the almost-complete bridge in front of the new Burdick Hall building face is almost finished. Everyone in West Village is restlessly anticipating that path’s triumphant return after an unexpectedly long construction period.

Towson University is called “home” by thousands of students, whether incoming freshmen, RAs or upperclassmen lucky enough to get placed in on-campus apartments. But even a beloved home can get a little stifling sometimes. Sometimes, you just need a taste of something new and different to give you a new appreciation of home, and of the world surrounding it. You’ve started daydreaming of gorgeous and totally different places – from Scotland and Ireland to Chile and Ecuador, from China and Japan to Morocco and South Africa – places you’ve never been, and don’t know if you’ll ever get around to actually visiting.

Enter Towson University’s Study Abroad programs.

My mom always says college is the best time to travel, because you don’t have kids, or a mortgage, or a full-time job, or an aging parent, or probably even a pet to worry about, and because you can still get things done that you need to do – course requirements, credits towards a degree – in a different country. Towson University seems to agree, because it has a whole office dedicated to this very idea — the Study Abroad office, located on the fourth floor of the Psychology Building in room 408, has the solution for anyone desperate for – or just interested in – a change of scenery.

Ask anyone who’s studied abroad about their experience and they’ll proceed to launch into a full-blown explanation of everything they did, everywhere they went, everyone they met and everything they saw, and then they’ll beg you to study abroad, too. There’s a reason for that – every experience abroad is life-changing. Especially if you’ve lived in the same area, been surrounded by the same kinds of people, and had the same kinds of ideas being circulated around you your whole life, studying abroad isn’t just a breath of fresh air – it’s like getting CPR. It can totally restart your life, and give you a new appreciation for the world around you.

I studied abroad last winter, opting for a minimester program in London, England. I’m an English Literature major and I thought I wanted to go into the editing and publishing business, but after three weeks in a city studying British Fantasy Literature (I’m talking “Alice in Wonderland,” “Lord of the Rings,” “Harry Potter,” and even “Doctor Who” – I got credit for this!) and talking to a professor who’s spent his career thus far interpreting Old and Middle English texts, I found that I don’t just want to be an editor, I want to study the history and structure of languages.

I also met people from all over the US – Kentucky, California, Massachusetts, Texas and even Alaska – who couldn’t be more different from me but who I couldn’t have gotten along with better if I tried. We spent our days walking around the city and exploring the best markets, pubs and historical sights, and determining which places made the best hot chocolate, and then spent so many nights just sitting around playing cards and talking about anything – career aspirations, past relationships, and even politics. I learned so much about being with people whose views differ from my own. I started out so defensive, but I really became so much more tolerant, and found that I should still respect people’s opinions even if I don’t agree with them.

Seeing the rest of the world is so important because it not only teaches you about different cultures and people; it allows you to see your own culture and community differently. We’re so lucky to go to a school that encourages us to take every opportunity to see the world before we set off trying to change it, and I’ve never met anyone who isn’t curious or interested in the countries we hear about in the news and the countries whose cultures we study and even adopt into our own.

That’s why I decided to write this column – this semester, I’m taking it upon myself to walk you through the process of studying abroad, from going to an introductory advising meeting and talking to Towson’s experts about what you’re looking for in a study abroad experience, to navigating the online portal that will guide you through the process and choosing your program and location, to filling out your application and getting ready to go!

If you’re too impatient to wait for this column to come out and update you on my progress every week, mark your calendar for the Thursday Sept. 7, Study Abroad Fair! From 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the Potomac Lounge in University Union, you can meet office staff, peer advisors and returning students to talk to somebody in person about the process of applying, the experience of studying abroad, and any advice they might have.

This year, they’re offering 20 different faculty-led programs, and many of the program directors will be at the fair to give information on their upcoming programs, be they in the Minimester, Spring Break, or Summer of 2018. Other study abroad providers such as the American Institute for Foreign Study, the Council on International Educational Exchange, the Cultural Experiences Abroad company, and the International Studies Abroad organization will be present to share their programs as well.

Strap in and hold on tight, Tigers – it’s going to be one wild ride.

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