By Wil Story
Every semester students return excited to see their friends and ready to be back at school. However, school can sometimes become a place too familiar, even humdrum.
The walk to class, the classrooms and even regular hang-out locations begin to lose their charm as students become accustomed to their surroundings.
However, there is one thing students can still do that could radically change their semester. If they are wanting some out-of-this-school excitement, an external study program might be in order. These programs allow students to get off campus and study either domestically or internationally.
Union sends students all over the world throughout the year. Usually about 100 students study outside of Union’s campus. Add in nursing and pharmacy students who practice off campus, and about 200 students participate in external studies each semester.
The first step to external study is to talk with one’s specific academic department. That way the department knows what a student is interested in and what classes for which he or she can get credit.
Next, talk with Victoria Malone, instructor of language and advisor for external study. Malone leads interest meetings for students and coordinates with academic departments to discuss how the external study trip applies to one’s major.
“There are programs that cover all departments and meet the academic standards here at Union,” Malone said.
Many students study abroad for extended periods of time. Josiah Hubin, sophomore applied linguistics major, is currently studying abroad in Tokyo, Japan. Hubin found the external program himself and Malone helped him figure out how it would apply at Union.
“The best part has been the cross-cultural experiences of living and studying in another country,” Hubin said. “Everything is a new experience.”
Hubin is immersing himself in the Japanese language and using his knowledge of applied linguistics to help him. Hubin will receive 14 hours of credit for his time spent in Japan.
“Probably the one disadvantage is cost,” Hubin said. “However, the benefits far outweigh the negatives. Studying abroad can change your worldview, and you will never come back the same as when you left.”
If students do not want to study externally by themselves, group studies provide a short-term experiece. They allow students to take classes at Union and then apply the material abroad. Nicole Haynes, sophomore psychology major, recently returned from studying in Italy with about 35 other students. They visited Rome, Florence and Venice to experience world literature and arts and western civilization.
“(Traveling abroad) makes the information I learned more relevant,” Haynes said. “Instead of learning about Michelangelo’s work in a textbook, I got to see the vivid colors and extravagant details of his work myself.”
Even though studying outside of the country can be fun, some students choose domestic external studies program. Josh Garcia, junior English major, traveled to Los Angeles for the fall semester.
“My entire experience was advantageous,” Garcia said. “I think removing myself from my element and kind of jumping into my semester in LA was an incredibly eye-opening experience. I think I have a new-found confidence.”
Garcia’s advice for people thinking about external study is to do it.
“If you’re even the slightest bit interested in studying abroad, I recommend going for it,” he said.
The Institute for International and Intercultural Studies will hold an External Study Fair in the language lab, Feb. 18. Students who wish to travel in either the summer or fall of 2011 are required to attend the interest meeting.