A Broadening TimeJuly 1, 2004
Overseas study gives students fresh insight
By Kaitlin Solimine
While studying abroad in South Korea, a USC College religion major on his way home from class stops to listen to monks chanting at a Buddhist temple. Thousands of miles away in Costa Rica, a classmate majoring in environmental studies, waits for a bus to take him to class and watches a hummingbird skittishly dart about a garden filled with native flowers.
These sorts of experiences abroad are allowing College students the opportunity to apply their studies in new locales. Whether a biology major in Brisbane or an English major in London, study abroad enhances a student’s overall academic know-how and is quickly becoming an experience that few choose to do without.
In the past five years, more than 1,200 USC College students have studied abroad and the number of students interested in studying abroad increases each year. Available to students are more than 40 programs on six continents, all of which integrate local culture and customs with academic coursework.
“The type of student USC is attracting is looking for diverse experiences. They want to get all they can out of their undergraduate experience and studying abroad is a great opportunity to do so,” says Jessica Patton, a study abroad advisor in the university’s office of overseas study.
Often, such students specifically come to USC because of the College’s location in the heart of Los Angeles.
“USC College, which is located in one of the most culturally diverse cities in the world, is especially attuned to the international concerns that shape life in the 21st century,” says College Dean Joseph Aoun. “Study abroad is a natural extension of the sort of academic and cultural curiosity that we encourage.”
Students gain in many ways from spending time away from the comforts of life at USC. Many attain a greater knowledge, if not fluency, of a foreign language, and most prosper from a deeper and more intimate understanding of a culture different from one’s own.
Studying abroad also gives students a fresh perspective on their curriculum. “An international relations major studying in South Africa will learn how South African academics and politicians approach international relations and that will allow the student to be able to draw connections or notice differences in how IR is practiced in the United States,” says Patton.
And international relations majors aren’t the only ones benefiting from studying abroad.
Sarah Lacour is a double major in Biology and French and spent a semester in France studying through the USC Paris program as well as the Sorbonne. “I feel it is very important for students to experience things on an international level,” says Lacour. “It is so easy to simply see things from the perspective you inherited from your parents or country, but to experience and truly understand events that affect other parts of the world, through the experiences of yourself and others, is truly awesome.”
Beyond the classroom, studying abroad often assists students in cutting the metaphorical umbilical cord that ties them to the comforts of home. It is during this time that most students first feel a real sense of independence and self-discovery.
“I had so many memorable experiences while I was in France,” says Lacour. “Everything from trying to explain US politics to an elderly French couple, to watching snow fall on the Siene River. Perhaps even more meaningful was merely adapting to the day-to-day culture of the country and the sense of belonging I developed. Paris is not so much a destination for me anymore, but a feeling.”
Rachel Mohr, an East Asian languages and cultures major, had similar experiences in Japan. “I played the wadaiko. I watched a Noh play. I planted rice,” says the recipient of the College’s research/study abroad (RSA) scholarship funded by the Freeman foundation. “I have changed. I have learned a lot from the physical and cultural distance that comes with studying abroad. I have seen America from the outside and there are things I like and dislike about my country and myself now that would have surprised me a year ago.”