I must begin with a disclaimer ? I got paid to write this piece. The nice people at the National Security Education Program gave me money to study in China, and they want me to tell you about it so they can give you money, too. They also want you to know that, when it comes to study abroad, you guys are basically a bunch of unmotivated slackers.
According to NSEP, “while well over a half-million students from around the world study at the best U.S. colleges and universities, only about 125,000 American students study overseas.” What’s worse, “less than one out of every 10 students enrolled in U.S. colleges and universities study another language.”
There you have it. Pure, unqualified, and very boring evidence that you people just don’t cut it. So, in the interest of improving your reputation and fulfilling my obligation to promote my erstwhile benefactors, I offer up some advice for those people who might need a little push toward that most noble of aspirations ?getting out of Rochester.
Why you should go away
During a normal Rochester February, this point would not merit mention. But since this winter is shaping up to be a bizarre meteorological anomaly, here are some other reasons to leave for more exotic locales.
Feeling under-appreciated? Go someplace non-western, and you’ll instantly be the center of attention, sticking out like a sore thumb as “the American.”
The drudgery of classes got you down? Study abroad and get credit for ancient pottery digs and trips to world-famous museums.
Like to eat? Why not have Italian in Italy or Chinese in China? Instead of trips to the neon wasteland of Henrietta every weekend, go see what real ethnic food is all about. Really, what other reasons do you need?
There are three major excuses not to study abroad ? degree requirements, the language barrier and money. To which I say, “Lame.”
It’s a lot easier to spend a term abroad than many people realize. Lots of majors in the humanities, social sciences and engineering offer credit for courses taken abroad and even sponsor special programs in other countries.
And if you’re determined to finish that popular physics-astronomy-math triple major, there’s still a great way to get away for awhile ? Take Five. Few people seem to know this, but with a little planning, it’s quite possible to spend a term or even a full year abroad as part of a Take-Five program. I know ? it’s how I went to China.
The language barrier can be a big obstacle to study in another country, especially if you’ve never taken any foreign language classes. Of course, one way around the problem is to study in another English-speaking country. But there’s a better way, too.
Many programs in less-traditional study abroad destinations are set up for students with no prior experience in the language ? Ghana, for example. And if you already have some foreign language under your belt, then you have absolutely no excuse. I mean, wouldn’t you actually like to use the thousand years of French you took in high school?
Money’s another issue. Isn’t it expensive to study abroad? Well, yes and no ?depending on where you go, it may not be cheap. But, as we all like to complain about loudly ? neither is a term at UR.
Get this ? you could actually end up saving money by studying abroad, because the cost of living may well be lower. Throw in the possibility of scholarships like those provided by NSEP (pick up on the theme yet?) and you could shave thousands off your tuition bill by spending a semester abroad. Not bad, eh?
Shameless patriotic appeal
If you’re not convinced by now, perhaps it’s a hopeless cause. But in the spirit of the times, let me end with a patriotic appeal ? your country needs you! This is where NSEP really comes in. Their self-stated goal, which I mindlessly repeat here, is to “increase the number of American, higher-education students acquiring knowledge about foreign cultures and achieving more advanced, professional-level language proficiency in languages that are not typically studied or taught.”
Which, liberally translated from bureaucrat-ese, means that they’ll pay you to go for a year to learn the language and culture of someplace with national security importance, such as Russia, China or the Middle East.
You’ll end up with valuable experience abroad, a head-start on careers in government or the foreign service and very likely a life-changing experience.
So, what are you waiting for? Do your part for America ? leave the country!
Templeman is a Take Five Scholar and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.