Resource Series 2: Resources for Students of Color Abroad

Whatever the specifics are for your case when preparing to study abroad, we want to be able to help you! The following list is by no means exhaustive, but we hope you find the resources useful.

  • Diversity Abroad has great resources for diverse students. Check out their tips for students of color abroad.
  • Transitions Abroad is a website that students submit their own stories and experiences to. The link will take you to an article specifically for African American students studying abroad, but the website may have helpful tips for other students of color, as well.
  • The PLATO Project says their list of resources is “useful in promoting study abroad participation among underrepresented students, addressing some of the issues and challenges ethnicity may play in their study abroad experience, and linking them to additional information, resources, and scholarships.”
    • They also work with this organization that supports all students that want to study abroad.
  • Diversity Issues in Study Abroad” by Brown University – This booklet is comprised of quotes from diverse students from Brown University after studying abroad. It may give students of all backgrounds some insight into what it is like being a diverse American student abroad.
  • Apply for the TU Institutional Diversity Study Abroad Scholarship.
  • This blog post written by one of our former Peer Advisors, Brianna James!

If you are a student that has studied abroad and has any advice for us to include, don’t hesitate to contact us at (410) 704-2451, or by email at studyabroad@towson.edu. We are always looking for guest bloggers to feature on our site.

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Simple Steps to Learn a Language Before You Leave

One of the most frequent questions we get asked is, “Do I need to speak a foreign language to study abroad?” Students are typically very relieved to find that the answer is no!

While knowing the native language of the country you’re studying in is helpful, it is not required. Many of our program options in non-English speaking countries have a variety of courses offered in English. Having said that, the best way to learn a language is to be immersed in it!

If you are studying in a country where you don’t speak the language, you may want to brush up on local phrases before leaving the United States, so you don’t feel completely out of place when you arrive in your host country.  Some suggestions to get you started learning are:

  • Duolingo. I have so many friends who swear by this fun, interactive app when learning new languages!
  • Focus on the most important phrases. Chances are, you will have to ask where the bathroom is, and you will have to say thank you. Starting with the basics is less intimidating than trying to grasp full conversation pieces. Plus, it’s the polite thing to do!
  • Take a class. If you have time in your schedule and plan in advance, you can try to take a class in the language at Towson before you leave!
    • Find a tutor. Similarly, if the language you’re learning is taught at Towson, there may even be a tutor just for that language on campus.
  • Talk with a native speaker. Ask if any of your friends know someone who speaks the language, and connect with them.
  • Immerse yourself in popular culture and media in the language you want to learn. Listen to music, watch movies, and (if you can) read short articles in the language to get acquainted with it! Even if you don’t know what you’re hearing or seeing at first, you will eventually pick up on words and themes, and become familiarized with the culture.
  • Make flashcards. I know—as students, we dread making more flashcards than necessary, but they’re a great way to memorize different words and phrases!
  • Practice every day! The most important part of language-learning is memory. If you practice the phrases you want to learn and expand on it often, the phrases will become drilled in your memory before you go!

It is also important to note that studying abroad in an English-speaking country is still studying abroad. You will get a valuable cultural experience no matter where you go, because foreign English-speakers still have many different views and cultures that we don’t in our little corner of the world.

Other English-speaking countries also have different slang words and phrases for things, so it’ll feel like you’re learning a new language either way. In England, it took me weeks to figure out what the common words “ta,” “quid,” or “hob” were, or that when someone said they were “pissed,” they did not mean they were mad about something (in fact, they meant something very different!).

No matter where you go abroad, you will experience a different culture, and that’s what’s important! Don’t worry too much about the language barrier, but prepare before you go so you don’t feel totally lost.

As always, if you have any questions, you can visit our office in the Psychology Building, rm. 408. We are also available by phone at (410) 704-2451, and email at studyabroad@towson.edu.

2018 Faculty-Led Program Announcement!

And now, the moment you’ve all been waiting for…

We have finalized the line-up for the 2018 faculty-led programs!

If you are unfamiliar with our faculty-led programs, they are essentially study abroad opportunities during the winter, spring, and summer breaks led by Towson faculty, ranging from 2-6 weeks.

Without further ado…

Fac-Led 2017-2018

Color Key: light green represents Minimester programs, dark green represents spring break programs, dark blue represents summer programs, and light blue represents countries with a Minimester and a summer program.

MINIMESTER

SPRING BREAK

SUMMER

Applications are now open!

Not sure if a program is right for you? Email us at studyabroad@towson.edu or peeradvisor@towson.edu.

Where Will You Go This Summer?

Now’s the time to start planning ahead. Take a look at what we have on tap for Summer 2017 faculty-led programs!

Application deadline: March 15th

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*Countries shaded in cobalt blue and teal are locations of summer programs

Not sure which program is right for you? Contact an advisor at studyabroad@towson.edu!

Life in Color: INDIA!

This post was originally shared on the personal blog of Towson junior Alie Waller who studied in India in Spring 2015 with the American Institute of Foreign Study (AIFS). We’re happy to share this post as part of our Student Stories and the Fall 2015 edition of our newsletter. Thanks, Alie!

Over the past two and a half months I have truly fallen in love with India.

Old Delhi's famous spice market with my fellow AIFS travellers.

Old Delhi’s famous spice market with my fellow AIFS travellers.

After stepping off the plane and into a bustling city of unknowns, I knew I was meant to be here at some point in my life. The crisp sandalwood aroma that drifts through the crowded streets; the rows of vendors aggressively selling fragrant flowers, colorful spices, and shiny bangles; the hectic traffic full of cars, buses, auto-rickshaws (small taxi-like vehicles), and bikes swerving past each other with just enough time to avoid a collision; the many people dressed in vibrantly colored saris, kurtas, as well as Western clothes. All of these components envelop you immediately upon arrival. Although I was incredibly overwhelmed at first, these dynamic surroundings have become a second home for me, as well as my travel companions.

The view of the city from on top of Charminar, one of Hyderabad's most famous attractions.

The view of the city from on top of Charminar, one of Hyderabad’s most famous attractions.

Now, I’m not going to lie to you, India has its quirks. More than half of the time, the iconic fragrance of sandalwood is heavily masked by the stench of manure or urine, although this is something you definitely get accustomed to as time goes on. The vendors can often be too aggressive when they see a foreigner walk by, and you really have to do your best to ignore them and keep walking in order for them to understand that you genuinely aren’t interested in the knock-off Ray Bans they’re offering you. Then there’s the issue of staring. While India is a travel destination for people across the globe, there is still nowhere near as much tourism here as in other countries such as China or Mexico. Couple this with an obsession with fair skin and you get constant stares and requests for pictures or autographs as if you were an A-list celebrity. Oh and not to mention the heat. While some of these things initially detract from the overall beauty that is India, they easily become part of everyday life and move into the background of your mind and attention.

Now that I’m done with my intro to life in India, let me get to the real matter at hand: Holi!

When I decided to study abroad in India, I knew immediately that I wanted to come for the spring semester. Prior to this decision, I had participated in an event held on my campus by the South Asian Student Association called the Holi Run, which was a combination of Holi Festival and the Color Run. It included a 5k where colors were thrown at you as you passed certain checkpoints, which was followed by a small version of Holi complete with dance performances and a DJ blasting Indian hits while the sky was painted with a rainbow of colored powder. I had a blast! I knew that I had to experience firsthand the festival that served as inspiration for the event on my campus.

So the morning of Holi my friends and I excitedly dressed in unimportant clothing and armed ourselves with the pouches of colored powder we had purchased the night before for a measly 10 rupees (roughly 6 cents) each. We also slathered on coconut oil over our bodies and hair to avoid getting stained (SPOILER ALERT: this didn’t help).

The before picture. Can you feel the anticipation?

The before picture. Can you feel the anticipation?

We left the safe haven of our residence with a group of about ten international students and were immediately the victims of a color war. Being a foreigner on Holi means that you might as well have a bull’s eye spray painted on your back, because the Indian students love making sure you get the full experience. People literally run up to you from all directions yelling a cheerful “Happy Holi!” as they throw color on your clothes, hair, and face. This action is then reciprocated which leads to much smiling and laughter as you play with the friendliest strangers you’ve ever met. We walked across campus playing Holi with anyone we encountered. People riding by on their motorbikes would hop off just to color you and be colored in return, always with the widest grins on their faces. It’s safe to say that after about five minutes, we were quite the colorful group!

After only a few minutes of walking!

After only a few minutes of walking!

After a full two hours of walking around our main campus, we headed back to the south campus where there was a huge party going on. Half of the school was there dancing and laughing while they continued to color each other. There was a hose dangling from the balcony which led to a giant mud puddle in the middle of all of the festivities. All of my Indian friends failed to mention that there was a tradition of dragging people into the giant mud puddle and forcing them to roll around. I learned about this tradition a little too late as I was picked up and carried to the puddle, where my friends proceeded to roll me around. It seemed like a rite of passage, because afterwards everyone cheered. I had the time of my life dancing to Bollywood hits and simply enjoying my extraordinary life in India. Holi has got to be the happiest holiday in the world! What touched me the most was that although the majority of the people I celebrated Holi with were strangers, their kindness and determination to include me made me feel so at home and a part of my university’s community. I felt like I was with friends that I’d known for years.

I firmly believe that everyone should add “experience Holi festival in India” to their bucket list ASAP!

So much happiness!

So much happiness!

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So much color!

My Heart and Seoul: South Korea

Did you know that we recently had a Towson student in South Korea? Check out her awesome blog page and enjoy reading about her adventure!

http://seoul-searching.weebly.com/

Here’s a preview:

“Hyunwoo and I left for the airport around 8am (my flight was set to depart from Incheon at 10:30am), but perhaps we should have left a bit earlier… Although the transport from the hotel only took 10 minutes, the airport itself was packed — so many people everywhere!

Even with checking myself in via my e-ticket, I still had to wait in such a long line to check in my luggage… After the luggage was checked in, Hyunwoo and I grabbed some food (we hadn’t eaten breakfast yet). We had a few more minutes together before it was 9am and I had to start heading towards the security checkpoint. Although it was hard to leave him, I knew that he would be back in the U.S. only a week from then and we would see each other then.”

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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!

5 Things to Know Before You Go Abroad

  1. Start the process early. Studying abroad isn’t something you want to just rush into. Plan ahead to make sure you’re making the right decision on everything from where to study to where you want to live. You’ll feel much more prepared if you take time to sort through all your options.
  2. Start being more open minded. Being open to trying everything abroad is one of the best things you can do. Start preparing to be that open minded now. Try new things at home to get you used to leaving your comfort zone. Once you are abroad having an open attitude towards things will also assimilate you more into the culture of your host country. You can also impress your friends back home with stories of all the cool new things you tried!

    Sky diving

    Sky diving in New Zealand.

  3. Attend the pre-departure events. Before you go abroad there are going to be tons of exciting ways you can meet people that are also going abroad either to the same place as you or the other side of the world. Whether it’s at an orientation or a pre-departure social you’ll be able to learn about the cultures, maybe try some new foods, and most of all just get excited to go!
  4. Follow your school’s Study Abroad Office on social media. They’re just as excited that you’re going abroad as you are. Send them pictures, tag them in posts – they love to hear about the students they send abroad, and they love to post tips and tricks to make your study abroad experience the best it can be. (This is your cue to go follow our social media @TowsonAbroad)
  5. Figure out the phone and money situation ahead of time. In most cases it’s easiest to get a pay-as-you-go phone in the country you’re studying in but if you just can’t let go of your iPhone make sure you get it unlocked for international use by your service provider. Also make sure you call your credit card company to let them know you’ll be using your card internationally so they don’t cut you off when you’re trying to buy gelato. Lastly, never EVER (unless it’s an emergency) exchange currencies at the airport. You’ll get charged an absurd service fee! Keep an eye out for currency exchanges with free student rates when you’re abroad.Untitled-1

The French Way of Life

This post is the second installment in a semester-long series of posts from Towson senior Allie Woodfin. Allie is studying this Fall 2014 semester at the University of Avignon.

You can also follow along on her tumblr at: http://provisoirementprovencale.tumblr.com/

tumblr_nbj1r8KiB01tkiq0jo1_1280My favorite thing about life here is that the French love pleasure. Let me define pleasure: not blind hedonism, and not reckless indulgence punctuated with regret—but civilized appreciation for things that make life taste sweet. Things that tend to be quietly looked down upon in the U.S.: relishing delicious food, taking long vacations, kissing for more than a few seconds—are parts of life here. In America, we scuttle through enjoyment as if we don’t deserve it. As if we should always be cutting carbs, checking emails on vacation, yo-yo dieting, and waiting until no one’s around to kiss our loved ones. There is a reason why foreigners fall in love with the French lifestyle—because the French love the French lifestyle.

As much as Americans love the leisure, wine, and cheese that France takes so much pride in, we have a hard time understanding how that can be a lifestyle instead of a vacation diet (to be halfheartedly sweated off in guilty elliptical workouts later). Here’s the difference, according to Mireille Guiliano, author of French Women Don’t Get Fat: ‘French women think about good things to eat; American women typically worry about bad things to eat.'” The mindset here seems to be that if you’re going to do something at all, do it right, and enjoy it.

I’m living with a host family that owns a local restaurant, and have had no choice but to embrace that mindset wholeheartedly. We eat whatever’s in season and whatever is unbearably tasty: quiches with walnuts and blue cheese, tomatoes stuffed with spicy pork sausage, galettes baked with ham, tomatoes, and eggs. And unless the sky is falling or we’re especially tired that evening, we finish the meal with fresh bread, flavorful cheese wrapped in paper, and creamy yogurts flavored with lemon, chocolate, or Madagascar vanilla.

Even my salad at the airport on my first day in France was delicious: a salad of crisp and frilly lettuce, salty prosciutto, soft mozzarella, and a slick and tangy blend of olive oil & balsamic poured from its very own doll-sized bottle. In the U.S., this would be $17, considered gourmet, and on the “skinny” menu. In France, this came from a cardboard box and cost about 6€. No healthy humblebrag label, just good food. Food that makes you smile when you’re finished.

But to smile at the end of your rich and delicious meal, you can’t be miserably full. Moderation is the key to guiltless enjoyment. It’s also a matter of health and well-being. I learned this from a YouTube ad for Roquefort Société, touting slices of salty, creamy cheese flecked with steel-green veins. Just as the commercial was about to end, it gently warned potential customers: “Pour votre santé, évitez de grignoter entre les repas.” That basically means ,“for your health, avoid snacking between meals.” There’s a website to prove it (mangerbouger.fr)

If you’re snacking or overeating, you’re either dissatisfied with your food or dissatisfied with something in your life (which is why emotional eating is a problem for so many people). You can’t hurry through the pleasurable parts of your life and expect to be satisfied. And, you certainly can’t mistake your guilt afterwards as guilt for indulging—instead, recognize that as guilt for cheating yourself out of the full enjoyment of something wonderful. Next time you’re tempted to binge-eat fat-free, sugar-free ice cream in the privacy of your home, go buy a single scoop of rich, sweet goodness, eat it on a sunny stroll, and remember the difference. Moderation is the key to pleasure—and you deserve it.

– Alexandra Woodfin –