Why NOT Study Abroad?

Studying abroad could easily be one of the most beneficial components of your college experience. Learning abroad allows you to gain independence, experience new cultures, impress employers, expand networking opportunities, and seize your opportunity to see the world. Why then, do 90% of undergraduate students complete their degrees without studying abroad? There are several misconceptions when it comes to studying and/or interning abroad.

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1. “Studying abroad is too expensive.”
A common reason that students think that they cannot study abroad is cost. Studying abroad does not have to be expensive! There are many resources available to students such as scholarships, financial aid, and grants. Planning ahead of time is key to not having to spend more money than necessary. Towson offers a variety of programs that vary in price based on program type, length, and destination.
Did you know?
Towson study abroad exchange programs cost the same as your tuition and fees at Towson University.

Take a look at our exchange programs here: https://towson-horizons.symplicity.com/?s=programs

Towson offers a variety of scholarships and we recommend that you apply: https://towson-horizons.symplicity.com/?s=scholarship

2. “I don’t speak the language.”
Many students worry about their inability to speak another language. You do NOT have to speak the language to study abroad. In most countries, you will not have to worry about a language barrier in the classroom because your classes will be taught in English! However, language learning can be a component of your study abroad program. Plus, you can always try to learn a new language in your free time.

3. “Classes aren’t offered abroad in my major.”
It is very common for students to assume that they cannot study abroad based on the courses they take. However, there are programs for everyone in every major! Towson University offers more than 800 programs in over 60 countries. Never feel limited because of what you are studying.
Find a program today!
https://towson-horizons.symplicity.com/

Faculty Feature: Professor Lynn Tomlinson

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Lynn Tomlinson is an assistant film professor at Towson University with expertise in the areas of animation, visual effects, film and media history and theory, production, and post-production. In Summer 2018, Professor Tomlinson led the “TU Crafting Fantastic Worlds: Film, Effects, and Animation in the New Zealand Landscape” faculty-led program.

Peer Advisor (PA): Why did you decide to lead a study abroad program with Towson?

Professor Tomlinson: I enjoy traveling myself. When I was a student, I spent a semester in London. So I know how exciting it can be to be in a new culture and how much you can learn just by being exposed to different ideas in different places and how exciting it is…and how you can pack a lot into a short amount of time. I think one of the best things is that kind of focused attention you get from it. You know, the two weeks of constant learning, constant excitement, constant engagement. Everything you’re doing is learning so I think that helps.

PA: What would you say are the benefits of teaching a course in this kind of international context? What kind of different perspective are your students getting on this trip rather than you know, just being back in the classroom in Towson?

Professor Tomlinson: Our subject was visual effects in the landscape of New Zealand. It was really exciting because New Zealand is a country that is building its film industry, especially with visual effects. I would have probably go to Hollywood in order to see that kind concentrated level of production. But to be able to do it in somewhere as exciting as beautiful as New Zealand…and it was much more accessible because they were very welcoming and everybody was excited to meet us, and we had some real incredible surprises while we were there. So I think that unexpected learning that happens when you don’t really know what’s gonna happen. And everybody’s learning; I’m learning they’re learning, you know, we’re learning together. I really like that.

PA: What did you find was the most challenging part about being a faculty leader like in terms of program development or recruitment or you know just managing students abroad?

Professor Tomlinson: I would say the most difficult thing is how expensive it is, and feeling responsible that if the students are going to be spending that kind of money for this 2 week experience that I wanted to make it really valuable for them. I felt responsible for that. It’s kind of a heavy weight on you to realize that a lot of the students might have three or four jobs or they’re borrowing money to do this and you know making sure its worth it for them.

PA: Was there a specific moment during your trip that you think was particularly rewarding for you?

Professor Tomlinson: So the thing that stood out the most for me was this specific adventure that we had. So in New Zealand they have these glowworm caves, which are these insects that have this glowing mucus, and when you get into the cave it looks like a constellation and you really feel like you’re under the stars. So I knew about that and I wanted to do it, even though it doesn’t really relate to visual effects I thought, “you know, it is in the landscape of New Zealand and we’re viewing this natural illusion”. So it really did kind of relate and that ended up being a really exciting adventure for everybody.New Zealand EMF 1183 Group

PA: Did you have any experience in New Zealand before and was this your first time leading a faculty led trip?

Professor Tomlinson: It was my first time leading a faculty-led trip and it was my first time in New Zealand.
My husband lead a faculty-led trip to the south of France to the Cannes Film Festival and I went along when were first engaged. I would go and sort of help and go up to young filmmakers who are now all very famous, because then they were just making their first films. I would say “Will you come talk to our student group?” and get involved in that way.

PA: Can you give an example of intercultural learning that you observed your students experiencing while you were there?

Professor Tomlinson: So I would say that’s something I would want to change a little bit the next time we go. For example we didn’t get to meet any Maori people while we were there. We learned a lot about it, but I would say probably because our focus was more on the film industry, we didn’t experience as much of that as we would have liked. That’s something I’d like to push more for in the future. For example, having a Maori filmmaker speak to our students. So probably I think the best example would be we saw the film Hunt for the Wilderpeople by Taika Waititi, who is half Maori. We saw it in this theater and we didn’t think it was going to be a big deal, we thought “okay, we’ll go see this film before going on our tour”. After the man who owned the theater came and met us and started chatting with us, and it turns out he was the editor of Lord of the Rings and he let us hold his Oscar! So that was a big surprise!

PA: Would be able to to discuss a particularly unique aspect of your program from other programs offered through Towson?

Professor Tomlinson: We got to go to production houses, including some small production companies and were able to meet producers and media-makers on a one-on-one level. The students were able to learn a lot about entrepreneurship and how you can engage in the film industry. And because it’s such a growing industry a lot of my students actually expressed interest in possibility of working in New Zealand in the future.

PA: What did you learn about TU students from your interactions with them on the program?

Professor Tomlinson: I think it was great that I really got to know the students, you know we’d sit down and have meals and really get to talk to them. I’ve always known what a diverse group of students we have. I think they all formed really tight friendships. It was cool to see how all of the students had very different tastes in food, different tastes in what they wanted to do in terms of activities. Just to see some of those friendships forming over the two weeks was really interesting. I’m not sure if I learned anything new about Towson students in general, but I learned something about these particular students.

Q&A: Summer in Merida, Mexico

Name: Amy Baldwin
Major: Speech Language Pathology/Audiology
Grad year: 2017
Hometown: Columbia, MD
Destination: Mérida, Yucatán, Mexico
Term: Summer 2015
Program: Language and Cultural Studies in the Yucatán – IFSA Butler

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Why Mexico? I wanted to study in a Spanish-speaking country in Latin America. Mexico was perfect because it is relatively close to home (cheaper plane tickets!) and has a great climate, culture, and history. The Yucatán peninsula is unique from the rest of Mexico because of influences from the Caribbean and the indigenous Maya population, which can be seen in food, dress, architecture, music and dance, and language of the area. Not to mention, there are a ton of Mayan ruins, beaches, and cenotes nearby! Mérida is the capital of the Yucatán state and is an incredible colonial city with outstanding cultural centers and medical facilities, which interested me because of my major (I took a class on medical Spanish that included observations at clinics in the area). The program also included a 5-day trip to Havana, Cuba, which was a great experience, especially since tourism from the USA to Cuba is not very popular.

Was Mexico what you expected? I honestly didn’t know what to expect from this study abroad trip. Since the program was not run by Towson, I didn’t know anybody until meeting them in Mexico. This summer the program was unusually small- only three participants! Once I got there, I was pleasantly surprised as to how nice the IFSA staff and host moms were, and how easily I got along with the other girls in the program. The program was very individualized and we got to know each other really well, and the staff/host moms really went out of their way to help us out, answer any questions, and make sure we had a great time! We went on a lot of excursions both within and outside of Mérida that helped us get to know the area. We befriended some students studying tourism at the university, and they took us around town to see the nightlife in addition to day trips to cenotes and caves! All in all, my experiences exceeded my expectations, even though I wish I had longer than 6 weeks to stay in Mérida so I could have even more experiences.

What was your favorite place? It is so hard to choose a favorite spot, because I went so many places that I loved. My favorite excursion that we went on was to the Mayan ruins of Uxmal. Even though it is not as well-known as other ruins like Chichen-Itza, I liked it the most because it is really big and we were able to climb some of the structures. Another fun trip was when we went to a pueblo and visited 5 cenotes, which were all very unique. One of them was in a cave and we had to crawl through some really small spaces to get to it! My favorite place in Mérida itself was “La Parque de las Américas,” a huge park with fountains, statues, playgrounds, theaters, and lots of food stands selling things like marquesitas (hard crepes with Nutella and cheese) and elotes/esquites (corn with mayo and chile). I also loved spending time in the Starbucks on the main street in Mérida, called Paseo de Montejo, because it was a lot more elegant and fancy than any other Starbucks I had been to. Basically every place I visited, I loved!

What surprised you? The conditions of the pueblos surrounding Mérida were very shocking because there was a lot of poverty. The people living in these villages are mostly from indigenous Maya heritage, and their main job is farming. They still live in small huts, sleep in hammocks, and cook over an open fire. There are also a lot of really skinny stray dogs that run around and beg for food. It is sad and shocking for someone like me to see these towns because it is so different from what I am used to. But in general, these people are pretty self-sufficient and accept their simpler, more traditional way of life.

What was challenging for you? The first few days in Mérida were tough for me because of the transition into speaking and listening to Spanish all day. We had orientation all day, at night we went downtown, and the next morning we went to classes for six hours. I was overwhelmed and scared of having any interactions with locals if I was alone, so taking public transportation to and from school was really stressful for me at first. After classes the first week, I didn’t want to go out and I just stayed in the house with my host mom. Even though I had class with the other girls in the program, we didn’t know each other too well yet and were still adjusting so we didn’t organize any outings together. I told her about my concerns, and the host moms decided to get us all together and take us to a shopping mall. After this, the other girls and I went places together in the afternoons which helped me become more accustomed to the local life. Making friends with the tourism students helped even more because I got to interact with Spanish-speaking people my age in normal social settings.

What is your advice for students considering study abroad? My number one advice is to just do it! Yes, it can be very scary, especially if you haven’t travelled much before. Studying abroad will help you adapt to new and different situations, become less inhibited and more outgoing, and have a broader understanding of the world. If you are like me and can’t study abroad for a whole semester because of your major, or just aren’t sure if you want to spend a whole semester away from home, I definitely recommend a summer program of at least 6 weeks, because it takes time to adjust and to really start living/feeling like a local. The experiences you will have abroad will be memorable for a lifetime, and the city that you study in will always have a special place in your heart. This trip has changed and inspired me in so many ways, and I already want to go back to Mérida!

Mil gracias to Amy for her awesome feedback on a lesser known destination! 

Q&A with Semester at Sea Scholarship Winner Harrison Hart

We are proud to announce that Harrison Hart, a TU senior majoring in Photography and minoring in EMF, was awarded a full program scholarship from The National Society of High School Scholars for this upcoming Fall 2015 voyage on Semester at Sea. He will spend 100 days visiting 13 cities in 11 different countries. 

Harrison Hart, recipient of SAS Scholarship

Q: How did you hear about the scholarship?

I heard about the scholarship through my email. I joined The National Society of High School Scholars (NSHSS) back in my Sophomore year of high school and haven’t really had to do anything for them since – it was a one-time fee for the induction and that was it. Other than he induction, the only way I’ve heard from the NSHSS is through their emails that they send out every so often. The emails are usually about updates of the society, but I came across an email from them regarding scholarships. I clicked on it and the first scholarship was a full scholarship to Semester At Sea. Ever since freshman year I had always wanted to do Semester At Sea, but just didn’t think it was realistic from a financial standpoint. Once I saw this I immediately applied! In my application essay I described how it has been something I’ve wanted to participate in since the beginning of my college career. I talked about how you learn so much traveling and that traveling makes you a better-rounded person since you get to experience different cultures, languages, and cities. I had a list of so many countries that I wanted to study abroad in and I felt like it was more reasonable to do Semester At Sea to get a little taste of many countries in one semester rather than just one.

Q: What are you looking forward to the most about the program?

I am excited for the entire trip! This is a once in a life time opportunity that not many people get to experience. I can’t wait to visit all of these different countries. Since I am a photography major, I can’t wait to take a lot of pictures and capture the experience through my own lens. I am also really excited to meet a ton of new people from different colleges all over the world. I’m just excited to be involved in something totally different than what would happen at a university back home. Since there is a huge financial boost from NSHSS, I can focus my budget more towards sightseeing and extra activities to learn more about the countries aside from being in the classroom. Not many students can say they were dormed on a cruise ship, traveling all around the world, earning college credit for an entire semester. Being taught by teachers all around the world, being able to take different classes than offered at my university, all while sailing across the world – is something couldn’t imagine doing if it weren’t for NSHSS and Semester At Sea.

Q: How did the scholarship that you received help to make your study abroad experience a reality?

I’ve always heard about Semester At Sea through the study abroad fair and thought of it as the ultimate study abroad experience. My good friend and fraternity brother, Will Weise, actually went on Semester At Sea last year and he would rave about it was the best experience he’s ever had in life and in college. After listening to him talk about how phenomenal his trip was, and seeing this scholarship for a fully funded SAS trip, there was no point in me not applying. What was the worst that would happen, they say no? A couple weeks after applying, I got an email saying that I was the recipient of the NSHSS Semester at Sea Fall 2015 voyage –  I was breathless! Since I’m a photographer that wants to travel the world for a living, what a perfect way to do so while still being in school getting college credit.

Q: What your plans for the future, and do they include any international aspirations?

My plans for the future are still up in the air. I know I want to be a professional photographer/videographer, but I don’t know what field of work I want to pursue – whether it be portraits, landscape, or event photography. I have my own non-profit organization that I co-founder with my brother in 2007, The South African Lacrosse Project, in which I go to South Africa every year to better the lives of kids affected/infected by HIV/AIDS through the sport of lacrosse. Through this project, I have been able to travel all over the world throughout grade school and college, giving me a more diverse outlook on the world. After college, I will continue going to South Africa along with traveling the world around me. Semester At Sea will give me a greater outlook on the world with experiencing 11 different countries and 13 cities.

Congratulations, Harrison! We look forward to seeing your amazing photos from around the world!

A Spring in Israel

Name: Maggy Kay

Year: Junior

Study Abroad Term: Spring 2015

Destination: Jerusalem, Israel

When deciding where to study abroad, what led you to choose your destination?

I have always wanted to study abroad in Israel. It wasn’t that I wanted to study abroad and then chose Israel. I knew that I wanted to study abroad here before I was even at Towson and made sure that all of the schools I applied to had study abroad programs to Israel.

Photo courtesy of Courtney N.

Photo courtesy of Courtney N.

Has your destination met your expectations so far? Why or why not?

Israel is amazing. I learn so much every day. I tried to approach study abroad without expectation because that way there is no limit on your enjoyment, but my experience so far has exceeded everything.

What has surprised you about the culture or lifestyle of your destination?

I do not think I will ever get used to not having a Sunday. In Israel the weekend is really just an early end to Friday through Saturday because that is when Shabbat, the Jewish Sabbath is. Thankfully, I do not have class on Sundays, so I am able to still get my full weekend. When it is the weekend here all public transportation, restaurants, stores, basically everything closes to observe the Sabbath. It is nice to have a day of rest and to hang out with friends.

Photo courtesy of Courtney N.

Photo courtesy of Courtney N.

What challenges have you faced since arriving in your destination?

Language is definitely a challenge for me. While many people here do speak English, I am trying very hard to learn Hebrew. I have 10 hours of Hebrew courses a week, but I live with all English speakers, so I sometimes can’t practice my Hebrew as much as I would like. However, I am very good at shopping in Hebrew in the open air market.

What made you decide to study in Jerusalem over other locations, including ever-popular Tel Aviv?

Before I studied abroad in Israel for the semester I went on a program called Birthright, which is a ten day trip to Israel. I enjoyed my time in Tel Aviv, but it is very much a big city, and the “New York” of Israel. I instantly felt at home in Jerusalem and still do. Some people say that Jerusalem is the center of the world, and it truly amazing to see so many people with so many different backgrounds come to the same place.

Over Jerusalem

Photo courtesy of Courtney N.

Did you or your family have any safety concerns about studying abroad in Israel?

Of course, but I wanted to study in Jerusalem and in Israel. If I were to not study where I wanted to, then the people that cause these security concerns will win. I try to live my life as I want to live it while I am here, though I definitely do think about where I go, how I dress and who I talk to wherever I am going. Last Friday, there was another terror attack at the light rail station, maybe a mile away from I live. I checked in with my parents and told them that I was fine and actually sleeping while it happened and went on with my plans for the day.

Did you select your program for the coursework? If so, are you taking an Israeli/Jewish studies courses, and what topics are they covering?

I am in a program at Hebrew University of Jerusalem in their Rothberg School for International Students called the “Spring in Jerusalem” program. “Spring in Jerusalem” is an honors program in conjunction with Harvard University that has monthly lectures and requires you to take classes outside of the international school. I am taking two graduate level courses through this program, one called “Religion in Israeli Society”, and “Jewish Orientalism: Jews in the Orient.” I am also taking “Becoming Modern: An Introduction to Jewish History in the Modern Era,” and “Philosophy and Torah, Harmony and Dissonance: The Writings of Maimonides” through the undergraduate program.

Q&A: Kelly and the Faculty-Led Program to Greece

Kelly Langford, a current senior, participated in last year’s faculty-led program in Greece with Dr. Ballengee. With the program going again this year, we thought it was a great time to speak with her about her experience.

Q: When choosing to study abroad, what led you to pick this program?

A: When I was a first year student I took a class with the program’s professor, Dr. Ballengee, and she would talk about the trip and encourage students to go. I knew then that this would be something I wanted to do in the future and remained in contact with Dr. Ballengee and maintained a fascination with Greece as a destination. As someone who is very busy during the semester the minimester faculty led program proved to be a good fit for my schedule and the stress of preparing for it was very minimal.

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Q: Did your time in Greece meet or exceed your expectations? How?

My time in Greece blended together the ancient and the modern, allowing me to appreciate the rich history of the place while enjoying what the current culture has to offer. This experience exceeded expectations because of this multifaceted dynamic, climbing through ruins of ancient temples and then eating traditional dishes created an environment so much more than just a trip or vacation, it became a way to celebrate a culture and be a part of it.

Q: What was the most rewarding part of your experience in Greece?

To me the most rewarding part was really immersing myself in the culture. I tried to speak in Modern Greek to the staff at restaurants and hotels, order only Greek foods, and to take any opportunity to go on adventures either hiking mountains or navigating cities. Because I made the conscious decision to consistently push myself out of my comfort zone.

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Q: Did this program suit you academically? How?

Academically, the program brings together literature, history, cultural studies, and rhetoric. As an English major with particular interest in politics and rhetoric, the program constantly challenged me to think about the underlying forces that create a nation, to question the way tourism acted as an agent and the role we played in this phenomenon. In addition to considering the business of tourism, the trip made me think about the rhetorical properties of history itself, the way a modern nation may use its history to achieve certain goals. Finally I was made to consider the way the myths of Ancient Greece had their own rhetorical functions and how they helped govern the people in ancient times and remain as an influential element today through literature. All of these concepts were so new to me and really changed the way I view the material I read, whether a poem or a history textbook, forcing me to put it into a larger context.

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Q: What would you say to encourage prospective students to choose this program?

I would tell prospective students that this program has even more to offer than being a beautiful and exciting destination. For me Greece was this exotic place that I never dreamed I would be able to go to, so this program was a way to go somewhere that was truly impressive in every form of the word but also drastically different than anything I had been exposed to before. My time in Greece was filled with delicious food, fascinating museums and archeological sites, and explorations through beautiful beaches and bustling cities. It also was a way for me to learn lessons and understand academic material that I would not have been able to had it been taught in the United States.

Q&A: Contemporary Art in Berlin with Carrie Fucile

We interviewed Professor Carrie Fucile from the Art department about her upcoming summer study abroad program to Berlin, Germany. Get to know more about her program here: http://wp.me/p2S0DC-mX

Carrie Fucile Towson

Q: Tell us a bit about your own background.

I was born in Baltimore and raised north of the city in Monkton. I left home to attend Dartmouth College where I earned a B.A. in Art History modified with Studio Art. After college, I lived in New York City for several years, working in the publishing industry until I decided to go to graduate school and pursue Fine Art as my career. I ultimately went to Brooklyn College and received an MFA in Digital Art.

I’ve traveled a fair amount in Europe and have spent a lot of time in Italy. I think I’ve been there four times. The second and third were in college: once on a tour through the country with my singing group and another as a study abroad student.  I studied Art History for a semester in Florence with my favorite professor, which was truly wonderful. I’ve also been to France, England, the Czech Republic, and, of course, Germany.

I studied French very intensely through my primary and secondary education and then when I got to college I started taking Italian classes. Recently I’ve attended German lessons at the Baltimore Kicker’s Club and the Goethe Institut.

I’ve been teaching Digital Art at the college level since 2006 at a variety of schools, including the University of Delaware, Rivier College, and UMBC. I’ve been at Towson since 2010.

Q: Why is Berlin unique for artists or individuals interested in art?

Berlin is the place to go in Europe if you are into art.

It is teeming with artists, musicians, filmmakers, museums, galleries, and alternative spaces. It’s a very international place as well—creative people come from all over the world to live there. The city has always been a center for alternative and artistic culture, but its recent rise to prominence in the art world happened after the fall of the Wall, when artists had access to cheap or free space that was vacated in the former Eastern sector. It’s been twenty-five years since that occurred, but the city still remains an extremely vibrant, inspiring, and affordable place to live and work.

Q: How will the individual projects benefit the students, what are some examples of projects they could choose?

For each project, students will be given a theme to respond to in any medium they choose. This allows students a lot of freedom to either continue developing a process they are already working with or explore new things. Each prompt connects to what we will be learning about and seeing at that particular time. The topics are: past/present, self/other, and local/global.

Q: What part of the itinerary are you most excited about?

I am thrilled to teach on site and not in the classroom. I can’t wait to introduce students to Berlin and the art it holds—much of which is very different from what they might have experienced in States. Some venues I’m most excited about are the Sammlung Boros Collection, the Me Collectors Room, and the Hamburger Bahnhof.

My favorite thing about teaching is the moment when students are completely amazed and excited by something they’ve never seen before or thought possible. There are going to be a lot of moments like that on this trip.

Q: What would you say to encourage prospective students to choose this program?

I think that this program will change your life and world perspective. I’m not kidding!

Q&A: Brian Spencer in Israel

Q: Let’s start with the basics. Where are you, how long have you been there, and when do you plan on leaving (if you decide to leave!)?

A: Tel Aviv, Israel. Arrived July 5. Been here almost 4 months. Scheduled to leave on January 5.

the kotel ירושלים

Brian at the Kotel, also known as The Western Wall in Jerusalem, Israel.

Q:What’s a typical weekend like in Tel Aviv?

A: During the weekends, I’m usually soaking up the sun on the gorgeous beaches of Tel Aviv. By night, I’m enjoying the night life with friends in bars and clubs, and seeing live music. That is, if we didn’t decide to pick up and travel the country that weekend. Frequent weekend destinations outside Tel Aviv are Jerusalem and the Dead Sea.

Q: Out of all the moments you’ve had studying abroad so far, what is the absolute BEST moment you’ve had? Elaborate! 

A: My absolute best study abroad moment so far was on the holiday of Simchat Torah. I went out with friends in Tel Aviv expecting a normal night out, but we came across a massive group of people dancing in the streets together, singing songs, and carrying and kissing a few Torah scrolls (as per holiday custom). We joined the masses which followed a van through a labyrinth of streets which led us to a concert hall with free admission. Here, a traditional band was playing Klezmer music (traditional Jewish music), hundreds, if not thousands, of people were celebrating together. We danced and sang all night.

Q: What was your “Aha!” moment? At what point did it kind of hit you that you are living in another country?

A: Once I started the intensive Hebrew courses I realized that I was not in America anymore. Everyone here can speak English, and had spoken English to me before I knew much Hebrew. But now that I try to talk to people in Hebrew and they answer back in Hebrew, there’s no question I’m in another country.

Yafo looking into Tel Aviv

Brian at the old city Yafo, Israel, which overlooks the Mediterranean Sea and the Tel Aviv skyline.

Q: If you were to leave tomorrow, what is it you would miss most about your host country?

A: The beauty of this country and the people that live in it. It is a country rich with culture, and everywhere you go you can see it and live it. Not to mention the weather and the beach, which I’m still enjoying here in late October.

Ramat Aviv

Brian and a friend at Tel Baruch Beach in Ramat Aviv, Israel.

Q: What’s the most shocking thing that’s happened so far? 

A: I entered Israel in a quite shocking time. It was the beginning of the war that occurred this summer in Israel. The war lasted 50 days, most of which I was here for. Three or four times a day I had to run to the bomb shelter because the sirens were going off, warning us that a rocket has been shot at Israel and it is projected to hit close to our vicinity. Three or four times a day for six weeks or so I had to race to the shelter. Each time I heard loud explosions, and about ten times I witnessed the actual rockets explode either in the air (thanks to Israel’s Iron Dome) or at sea.

Q: What’s the coolest place you’ve traveled to outside of the town or country you are studying in? What made it so amazing?

A: Outside of Tel Aviv, the coolest place I traveled to has got to be the Dead Sea. It is the lowest point on the earth and there is no other place like it. As many know, it’s called the Dead Sea (in English, Yam HaMelach in Hebrew which means Sea of Salt) because there is so much salt in it that neither plants nor animals can live there. When you go into the Dead Sea you are automatically sprung up by the salt water and you float. It’s truly amazing. Being in the Dead Sea is extremely relaxing and the legend is that the salt and mud from the sea is good for your cosmetics!

Q&A Spotlight: Ebonie Ravenell

Name: Ebonie Ravenell
Major: Animal Behavior and Biology major with a minor in Psychology
Grad Year: December 2015
Program Abroad: University of Tasmania in Hobart Tasmania via the TU Exchange program

Great Barrier Reef in Cairns, Queensland

Q: Food, your favorite subject & ours. Best dish? Worst dish? New recipe you picked up?
My favorite food from Australia were biscuits, what Americans called cookies. A brand called Tim Tams! I brought home 20 packs…I’m sort of like an addict. I have tried every flavor, some are better than others. My least favorite thing about Australia was Vegemite. It looks gross and tasted even worse.

Q: Did a local point you to a market, pub, or park you didn’t know about? Pass it on.
Some spots to definitely hit while in Hobart is Salamanca Market, Telegraph and Daci Daci. They have some of the best foods and drinks in the city!

Q: Weekends, full of travel. Where did you go? How did you choose? Was it difficult to plan?
I only had classes three days a week so a four day weekend was amazing. I went on a lot of hiking trips! It was awesome, seeing all the beautiful views never got old. I went to the mainland and visited Cairns, Melbourne and Sydney. I knew for a fact that I wanted to go to Cairns because that’s where the Great Barrier Reefs are located. It was something I have wanted to do since I was seven years old. It was definitely a dream. It wasn’t hard to book, it was more of trying to find the cheapest alternatives of getting there. You never want to spend  too much money if it’s not necessary. It’s really important to have a good budget for those sporadic trips with your friends.

Painted Cliffs meets the coast line at Maria Island

Q & A Spotlight: Jessa Coulter

Name: Jessa Coulter
Major: Psychology
Grad Year: 2012
Location: Peru
Program abroad: ISA

Volunteer Experience:

  • Students Helping Honduras – week long service trips: (January 2010, January 2011, January 2012, January 2013, January 2014)
  • Un Techo Para Mi Pais (Peru, October 2011)
  • Sonrisas en Peru Westfalia Orphanage (Peru, December 2011-January 2012)
  • Safe Passage (Guatemala, November 2013-Present)

Q: How is your study abroad experience different from your volunteer abroad experience?
Volunteering abroad has been quite different than studying abroad for me. In Peru, my study abroad program helped coordinate my classes, my homestay, and excursions to travel within Peru. In Guatemala, I am much more independent- I found my own housing, pay rent and monthly bills, and do my own shopping and cooking. I enjoyed living with a host family in Peru- it was actually one of the aspects of the program I was most excited about and I believe it deepened the cultural experience I had. However, now that I have graduated college, I do appreciate being more autonomous and living on my own in Guatemala.

I had more free time as a study abroad student- I was able to arrange my schedule so I take a full course load but only have classes three days a week. This allowed me the freedom to travel throughout Peru and explore Lima- where I was living.

Here in Guatemala, I lead week long service-learning trips for Safe Passage. When I am leading a team, I work seven days a week from 7am until 10pm. When I do not have a team, it is a more typical Monday through Friday job.

Q: How did you choose your location for study abroad and later for volunteer abroad?
To be perfectly honest,  I had no specific country in mind when I decided to study abroad. I knew I wanted to be in Latin America, but other than that, I did not have a strong preference. I spoke to different people, did research on various programs, and decided on the program in Peru.

For volunteering abroad, I again knew I wanted to be in Latin America, but rather than choosing by country, I focused on the various programs and volunteer positions available. I used the website idealist.org and searched for positions in Latin America. When I came across the posting for Safe Passage, it seemed like a perfect fit for me. I was impressed with the work that Safe Passage was doing- working to empower the poorest, at-risk families of the community of the Guatemala City Garbage Dump by creating opportunities and fostering dignity through the power of education. I definitely lucked out by finding Safe Passage, it is an incredible organization and I truly feel honored to be a part of the work that is being done in Guatemala.

Coulter

Q: Have your experiences abroad met your expectations? Exceeded them?
Exceeded all expectations, for sure.

Q: What would you say to students worried / concerned / afraid of going abroad?
Going abroad can be difficult- in terms of studying abroad, it is definitely easier to stay at Towson than go through all the logistics of coordinating a study abroad experience. But easier does not mean better.

The opportunity to live and study abroad is somewhat unique to college students. I actually never had planned to study abroad. It wasn’t until a conversation with a friend one day that changed my mind. We were chatting about her incredible year studying abroad. She asked if I would study abroad and I told her I was happy at Towson and extremely busy with different organizations on campus and I could just travel after graduating. She replied, “Sure you can. But will you?” It was then that something clicked and I realized that the opportunity for this type of experience would pass if I did not take it in college.

Utilize the study abroad office- it is a great resource to navigate the process. It is very unlikely that at any other time in your life you will have people dedicated to helping you travel, study abroad, and gain invaluable experiences.

My first trip to Honduras opened my eyes to extreme poverty and left me feeling empowered me make a difference- which is what motivated me to continue on this journey of volunteering in the world of international development. Going abroad in any capacity will hopefully get you out of your comfort zone, try new things, and allow you to gain a more global perspective of the world.