Studying and Working Abroad: Q&A with Candace Ricks

Candace Ricks is a Towson University alumna who graduated in 2013 with her Bachelor of Science in Psychology. During the fall semester of 2012, she studied abroad with International Studies Abroad (ISA) in Meknes, Morocco, earning a certificate in language, politics, and culture. She is currently living and teaching abroad in Guangzhou, China.

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Q: What (or who) got you started and how did you choose your program? What would you consider to be the benefits of study abroad?

“One of the main questions I’m asked as an expat is ‘How did you get started with international travel?’ I’m always excited to reveal that my initial experiences were with Study Abroad. Travel had always been a life goal of mine, so when a friend revealed her plans to study in Africa with her school, being the curious Kitty that I am, I looked into opportunities at Towson’s Study Abroad office.

In search of real culture shock and growth, I finally chose Morocco, an ensemble of vibrant colors, music, and beautiful language. Navigating the database of programs was simple, so it wasn’t long before I stumbled upon International Studies Abroad. This Texas-based Study Abroad Company had been around since 1987 and offered a variety of programs in over 30 countries; I chose the Language, Culture, and Politics track.

Participating in Study Abroad was one of the best decisions I could have ever made during my undergraduate career. That semester I was the only Towson student to travel to Morocco, but I returned with many lifelong friends and new professional skills. For example, while there, I had the opportunity to lead a panel on Intercultural Communication Strategies, participate in a language exchange, and to visit historical sites throughout the country. This experience nurtured a new confidence in communication, offered perspective on real world issues, and gave me a true cross-cultural experience.”

Q: How did study abroad prepare you to work abroad? What is your daily life like working in China?

“Often I muse over how studying in Morocco exposed me to an alternative way of life in regards to scheduling, planning, and communicating. Where I’m from, we are direct, move quick and with a purpose. I learned fast that every country has its own personality and stride; tasting life abroad as a student first undoubtedly prepared me for being a professional in the real world.

I’m an educator so I’m constantly tasked with discovering new ways of being innovative and sensitive to the needs of those around me. The third largest city in China, Guangzhou is a hot, commercial center, with menus to die for. Home of Cantonese food, the Canton Tower, and the infamous Canton Fair, this is a city for the ambitious. Working in China is quite the experience for me, as I am employed by one of the largest language schools in China, and have my own personal pursuits on the side as a designer and mentor. Since I have an evening schedule, during the morning I usually attend mandarin classes, scour the markets, or discover the city in some other way. In the evening I head to work where I manage 16 classes of varied level students, and am tasked with planning creative lessons to keep them excited about learning. This isn’t always as easy as it seems, especially when you consider the differences in school culture across the world.”

Q: Have your experiences abroad met your expectations? Exceeded them?

“As I prepared to embark on this journey, I made sure to have no real expectations of those around me, only of myself. There were three things I promised I would do:

1)    Say yes more often

2)    Really pay attention to the people around me

3)    Take heed to the signs and opportunities for personal and professional growth

The friendships, family, and professional connections that I’ve created since stepping outside my comfort zone have empowered me to peel back the layers of humanity, revealing the world, revealing me. Of course there have been frustrating moments, scary moments, and plain disappointment, but with each of those comes an opportunity to learn, teach, and grow.”

Q: Your study abroad experiences were a large part of your time at TU and beyond. How have they affected your career path?

“Study abroad was an expansive experience that allowed me to see the true value of international education. Learning in the classroom is wonderful, but there are many things that a person can only gain through real world experience. Being exposed during undergrad equipped me with the idea that there were more non-conventional paths to the life that I desired. Teaching, public speaking, and organizing travel on my own, were only a few activities that led me to think outside the box.”

Q: Many study abroad alumni speak about an “ah ha” moment or a particularly powerful memory. What’s yours?

“The Western Sahara is extremely cold at night, especially just before dawn. Our group traveled out to the middle of the desert to camp for a few nights, and it was there I felt the sky, and tasted reality. This night I ended up alone, watching my group go off in front of me, scaling up and down the tall, soft sand dunes. I was tired, so once I reached the top of a particular dune, I planted my body right there. The shadows dwindled in the distance and it was just I, stretched out at the top of this mound, being flattened by the sky, and covered in the silence. I began to meditate, then to cry as I wondered how I got to be in such a beautiful place, with such beautiful people. I’d come so far and I didn’t want to go home, I felt at home right there on that dune, laid back watching nature go wild above me. On that dune, my love of a good view was born, and I was reminded that no matter what, whether alone or in a group, I would always honor my dreams and keep home inside me.”

Q: What would you say to students worried / concerned / afraid of studying abroad?

“Honor those feelings, and then immediately challenge them, along with the narrative that is leaving you afraid of going after what you want. You really only have two options, do it now or do it later, because it will not go away, the desire.

One of my favorite books of all time is The Alchemist by Brazilian author Paulo Coelho. This story is probably one of the most favorited amongst travelers because of the emphasis placed on the importance of ‘the journey’ for the protagonist. I suggest they read this book and make their own assumptions; I can guarantee they won’t regret it.”

“I, Too, Am Study Abroad” Discussion Series

The Study Abroad Office and the Center for Student Diversity have partnered to provide programming specifically suited to students that are not traditionally represented in study abroad. Please join us at the following events so we can show you how truly accessible study abroad is for everyone!

Discussion Series Schedule of Events:

September 14th, 12-2pm*
Center for Student Diversity, UU 313

Representing the Underrepresented: Why Everyone Can Study Abroad
Think study abroad isn’t for you? Think again! Join your peers in a discussion about how study abroad can be a part of your TU experience! Lunch will be provided.

September 21st, 12-2pm*
Center for Student Diversity, UU 313

Funding Your Experience Abroad
Want to go abroad, but unsure about finances? Hear directly from a Gilman Scholarship recipient and get scholarship writing tips from the Writing Center. Using Financial Aid? A representative from the Financial Aid Office will be there too! Lunch will be provided.

October 27th, 3-4:30pm*
Study Abroad Office, PYSC 407

Critical Language Scholarship Information Session
Looking for a FULLY funded experience abroad? Interested in speaking another language? Learn more about this FREE opportunity abroad.

*Attend one of the above events, and be entered to win a raffle prize!

November 14-18th
Location and times vary

International Education Week
Do you LOVE everything international? Join us for a week-long celebration of all things international! Schedule to be announced soon.

Questions? Email studyabroad@towson.edu

 

Intern Abroad with TU!

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Do you want to study abroad, but don’t think you have time to squeeze it into your schedule? Does your major require an internship for graduation? Do you want your resume to stand out to future employers?

If you answered yes to the above questions, an internship abroad might be just what you’re looking for! And if you weren’t looking, it just might be the best thing you never knew you needed!

There are dozens of internship opportunities possible through Towson, in locations such as the UK, Spain, Italy, Israel, Argentina, Chile, Ghana, and many more!

You can choose from one of eight locations with a TU Global Internship, offered through Global Experiences. These are offered during the summer, so they can easily be worked into even the tightest academic schedule! Or you can utilize one of our many other affiliate programs!

Not convinced yet? Well, take it from TU Global Internship alumna, Elena Kalodner-Martin. Elena is a Towson senior and Maryland native, who spent all of summer ’16 interning in Dublin, Ireland. Check out her blog to see her top 10 reasons to intern abroad!

If we’ve piqued your interest and you have questions, come see us at the Study Abroad Office in Psychology 408 or email us at studyabroad@towson.edu.

*Featured image courtesy of Faras Aamir who studied abroad in the UK over Minimester 2016.

 

The Study Abroad Office is Hiring!

Will you be the next Study Abroad Peer Advisor?

Your international experience doesn’t have to end just because you’re home! Become a TU Study Abroad Peer Advisor and gain valuable work experience while helping other students navigate their way through the study abroad process. Peer Advisors are paid student employees in the TU Study Abroad Office.  You must be a TU study abroad returnee to be eligible to apply. We are currently looking for THREE Peer Advisors to join the Study Abroad team beginning fall 2016!

What does a peer advisor do?        

  • Greet and assist visitors in the Study Abroad Office. These can be students, faculty, parents, staff, you name it
  • Answer the phone and schedule appointments for the full time staff
  • Assist with data entry in our online application system and maintain files
  • Coordinate our social media efforts (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Blog)
  • Conduct Study Abroad 101 information sessions
  • Conduct Study Abroad 201 group advising meetings
  • Attend and staff office events such as orientations and the Study Abroad Fair
  • Present in classes across campus to promote Study Abroad
  • Work with staff on projects such as the quarterly newsletter, photo contest, scholarship process and many more
  • Initiate new projects that help promote study abroad and improve services to our students

Am I qualified?

  • If you are currently abroad or have recently returned from an approved study abroad program, you are eligible to apply
  • Candidates must be able to work 10-15 hours per week for at least two consecutive semesters (students graduating at the end of the fall 2016 semester should not apply)
  • Applicants should have previous work experience in an office setting, good organizational skills, and attention to detail
  • Communication is key! Written and verbal representation of our office is important
  • Experience with Adobe products, Microsoft Office and social media platforms is extremely useful
  • Applicants should demonstrate a clear enthusiasm for study abroad!

What else?

  • We’re pretty cool people. We love to travel and work with the Towson community to increase study abroad knowledge and opportunities around campus. If that sounds like fun to you, get that application in!

Application Instructions

For full consideration please complete the Study Abroad Peer Advisor Application by Monday, April 4, 2016, AND email a current resume and a copy of your anticipated fall 2016 class schedule (if available at time of application) to studyabroad@towson.edu.

Questions?

Please contact the TU Study Abroad Office with any questions or concerns at studyabroad@towson.edu or at 410-704-2451.

#GoStudyAbroad!

CALLING ALL STUDY ABROAD ALUMNI! 

What would your life be like if you had never studied abroad?

Now, think of how different a friend’s life would be if you could just convince them to go abroad, too.

We share your passion for international education. That’s why the Institute of International Education (IIE) has joined forces with Go Overseas and other partner organizations to mobilize at least 10,000 study abroad alumni to nominate students to #GoStudyAbroad.

Some of the biggest barriers to study abroad are cost, curriculum, and culture; we are taking aim at these barriers through #GoStudyAbroad by offering scholarships and sharing resources to help more people go overseas.

The Institute of International Education needs your help.

They need people like you – mentors, campus leaders, faculty and friends – to help spread the word by nominating your friends, family, and classmates to study abroad. Nominees can win a $10,000 scholarship for study abroad!

As a way to say thanks, we will be awarding five $500 travel prizes and one $1,500 grand prize for a round trip flight back to your study abroad country to the person who nominates the most friends to study abroad.

Start nominating friends to study abroad here: gooverseas.com/generationstudyabroad/alumni The deadline to nominate your friends is March 31, 2016!

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Alumni spotlight: Chelsea Herskovitz

We’re always happy to hear from Towson Abroad alumni and Chelsea is no different. As you’ll see Chelsea is now working in the field of international education in nearby D.C. and we are excited to share her story!

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My name is Chelsea Herskovitz. I graduated from Towson in 2012 with a BS in Mass Communication with a Marketing Certificate. I’m originally from a small town in Pennsylvania that few people have heard of. During my junior year, I studied abroad in London over the winter mini-mester.

Q: What (or who) got you started on study abroad and how did you choose your program?

I always knew I wanted to study abroad but was skeptical because none of my friends were doing it. While my parents were supportive, they felt more comfortable if I somewhere where they spoke English. England was the obvious choice. I also knew I wanted to go over the mini-mester because I always found myself bored during the long winter breaks and this was a productive way to fill my time while also earning credits towards my degree.

Q: Did your experiences abroad met your expectations? Exceeded them?

My experience abroad, as cheesy as it sounds, was life altering. Prior to studying abroad, while I had some travel experience, I was always intimidated by being so far away, missing experiences here in the US and whatnot. But the adventure was eye opening. I was able to experience freedom and a new culture without the pressures of home. It gave me the opportunity to interact with other students at Towson I had never met and felt I could truly be myself. I was pushed to try things outside of my comfort zone and ended up loving (most of them).

Q: Your study abroad experiences were a large part of your time at TU. How have they affected your career path?

Once I graduated from college, I immediately was offered an internship that eventually turned in to a job offer. However, I hated the job so much and it had me living at home with my parents. I would go to work every day and be bored out of my mind. Eventually, I thanked them for the job offer and was happy to accept if they would allow me to take a month off to travel. With their permission, I booked my trip to Thailand, Cambodia, and Laos. On my 3rd day in Cambodia, I wrote to my boss requesting an additional 2 months off. Oddly enough, he gave me his blessing. I eventually ended up quitting the job and spending 6 months in Southeast Asia. While in Thailand, I interviewed and was offered a job a non-profit working with high school students interested in studying abroad. Without the experience with Towson in London, I never would have been motivated to go to SE Asia and eventually work for this company.

Q: Of all the places you’ve been, both study abroad and in your life after TU, do you have a favorite? Where and why?

Choosing a favorite travel destination is like choosing a favorite child. But I certainly have destinations I prefer but for different reasons. Vietnam makes it to the top of the list because of the history. I don’t remember ever learning about the Vietnam War in school, so it was very eye opening. Spain and Peru by far had some of the best and most creative foods I’ve ever eaten. But London always has a special place in my heart since I lived in a flat there and had the opportunity to live like a local.

Q: Many returned study abroad alumni speak about an “ah ha” moment or a particularly powerful memory. What’s yours?

I wouldn’t say there was one specific moment. During one of our free weekends, me and a couple friends booked a trip to Barcelona. I think the entire experience of going from one place where I didn’t know anyone to another, staying in a hostel, trying to use my absolutely terrible Spanish, and trying to maneuver the city was very eye opening to all the things I am capable of.

Q: What would you say to students about studying abroad?

I’m not going to lie, it’s an intimidating experience. To think about being so far away from your friends and family, the finances, the planning, lots of  new words and processes you’re not familiar with etc. etc. But you would have to search far and wide to find someone who either regrets their time abroad or wishes they didn’t do it. It is worth all of the preparation and work. In my job, I hear from students all the time about the cost of studying abroad and surely, it can be costly. However, you cannot measure the financial benefits you will receive from an experience abroad. Students gain confidence, intercultural experience, and knowledge some of their peers do not have; all items which potential future employers are looking for.

Q&A with one of our previous study abroad superstars!

Dr. Alexandra M. Towns, graduated from Towson University in 2005 with a bachelor’s degree in International Studies.  Her study abroad experiences at Towson consisted of the German Language Immersion program in Summer of 2002 at Carl Von Ossietsky University in Oldenburg, Germany, the Spanish Language Immersion program in Cuernavaca, Mexico over Minimester in 2003, and finally the Butler University Study Abroad at Chilean Universities Program in Santiago, Chile over the Spring semester in 2004.  In 2015 she was also selected to be the Towson Honors College Alumnus of the year.  Dr. Alexandra M. Towns is now a medical ethnobotanist working at Naturalis and Leiden University.

Alexandra Towns

Q: You had the opportunity to study abroad multiple times while at Towson. What (or who) got you started and how did you choose your program?

As an international studies major, I was very motivated to learn about other parts of the world. Studying strictly in a classroom setting, however, was not enough- I realized that I needed to have my feet on the ground to really understand other countries. I was a Spanish language minor, so I wanted to not only improve my language skills in a Spanish-speaking country (Mexico 2003), but also to challenge myself to take university-level coursework in Spanish (Chile 2004). The desire to learn German (Oldenburg 2002) was motivated by my heritage; my mother immigrated to the US as a teenager from Germany, and although I had visited with our German relatives many times as a child, it wasn’t until college that I had a chance to really learn the language.

Q: Have your experiences abroad met your expectations? Exceeded them?

My experiences abroad, both as a Towson student and in my professional life, have continuously exceeded my expectations. Traveling, studying, and working abroad have had a major influence on the person that I am today.

Q: Your study abroad experiences were a large part of your time at TU. How have they affected your career path?

Before even applying to Towson University, it was my intention to work internationally. However, the opportunity to study abroad in different contexts provided the initial occasions to test out my ideas of living abroad and helped to build my skills and confidence. It also helped friends and family adjust to the type of lifestyle I would be living.

Q: Of all the places you’ve been, both study abroad and in your life after TU, do you have a favorite? Where and why?

I’ve been extremely lucky to have traveled and lived in many places across North America, South America, Europe, Africa, and Asia. I’ve backpacked across South America, worked as a Peace Corps volunteer in Niger, completed a doctoral degree in the Netherlands, researched herbal medicine in Benin and Gabon, attended an academic conference in Hong Kong, and traveled and visited friends all over the world. Each place has inspired, challenged, and surprised me in so many ways that I couldn’t possibly choose a favorite. But I can say that one place in particular has a very special place in my heart: Niger. It’s an incredibly humble location- very hot, dry, and dusty with some of the lowest human development indicators in the world- but also with some of the kindest, funniest, and most generous people I’ve ever met.

Q: Many returned study abroad alumni speak about an “ah ha” moment or a particularly powerful memory. What’s yours?

I can’t say that I have one particularly strong memory, but sense of smell is a really powerful source of remembering for me- be it a tea that I was introduced to in a country, a spice that was used in a specific cuisine, the odor of certain leathers used in artisan handicrafts, or just something in the breeze on a random Tuesday- I am immediately transported back.

Q: What would you say to students worried / concerned / afraid of studying abroad?

I would say to take those fears of studying abroad seriously- realize that there are real risks to your health, security, and well-being. Inform yourself how to avoid/prevent them by doing your research, talking with others, and taking all precautions, but then hop on a plane and go!

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!

TU Study Abroad Office is Hiring!

Hey current and former study abroad students! Have you ever thought, “How can I combine my love for study abroad with my love for making money?” If you have, this post was written just for you. The Study Abroad Office is hiring Peer Advisors!

Interested? We know you are. Now I’m sure you wondering, what is this Peer Advisor job and how do I get it? Read on.

Job Description

Our Study Abroad Peer Advisors greet, assist, and provide preliminary advising to students, faculty, parents, and visitors to the Study Abroad Office; answer the phone and schedule appointments for the office staff; perform data entry and maintain files; assist with organization and staffing of events; and conduct study abroad information sessions and in-class presentations for prospective students. Peer Advisors are also assigned specific projects such as developing and presenting country-specific orientations, coordinating our social media efforts (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and YouTube), producing the International Eyes newsletter, facilitating the scholarship application process, hosting on-campus events, and assisting with the Photo Contest. In addition our Peer Advisors are encouraged to initiate new projects that help promote study abroad and improve services to our students.

Qualifications

Only TU students who have returned from or are currently participating on a TU Study Abroad program or exchange, affiliate program (e.g. ISA, CEA, AIFS, Globalinks, etc.), or program approved by petition are eligible to apply. Candidates must be able to work 10-15 hours per week for at least two consecutive semesters.

Applicants should have some previous experience working in an office, good organizational skills, and an excellent telephone manner. They must have the ability to communicate in a professional manner with students, faculty, parents, and organizational representatives and be able to recognize and respond to confidential situations and student issues in an appropriate manner. They should be comfortable making presentations to large groups of people and be dependable, responsible, creative and proactive. Most importantly they should exhibit a clear enthusiasm for study abroad! Knowledge of Microsoft Publisher, Adobe Photoshop, and/or Adobe Illustrator a plus. Our multimedia outreach is increasing and we are looking for creative students to contribute to our marketing and programming.

What does this all mean? It means being a Peer Advisor allows you to get paid to work in one of Towson’s most exciting offices – check our Instagram if you have any doubts – with people who love traveling and study abroad as much as you do!

We’re sure your next question is how do I apply? Well:

Application Instructions

For full consideration please submit the following to the TU Study Abroad Office via email, hard copy, fax or hand-delivered by: Friday, November 21, 2014

  • Study Abroad Peer Advisor Application (attached)
  • a current resume
  • a copy of your anticipated Spring 2015 class schedule (if available at time of application)

Look forward to working with you!

ISA Alumni Reunion in NYC!

w.beta.header.NYC-AlumniReunion-AR-Final (1)Hey ISA Alum!

Are you itching to get back together with the people you spent your study abroad trip with? Want to network with ISA alumni from across the U.S.? Interested in sharing stories from your time abroad?
Well now is your chance!

ISA will be hosting their inaugural alumni reunion this month in NYC!

Date: June 26th from 8:00 p.m. – 11:00 p.m.
Location: BFB Highline, in the West Village
Register and RSVP: Register for the event using their Host Committee page, but be sure to do it by June 19th!

*You must be 21 years or older to attend this reunion
*ISA is not responsible for any transportation expenses incurred if this event is canceled; however, ticket will be refunded in full
*ISA alumni are allowed to bring guests to this event