Why It's Worth It: Studying Abroad


My 38th birthday is this Sunday. And it took me 37 years to finally make it to Europe. Something doesn’t seem right about that.

But the younger me once had the opportunity. I didn’t take it, and it’s one of the biggest regrets of my life.

During the fall of my sophomore year at Ole Miss, I started investigating options on studying aboard. I honestly can’t remember how or why, but I was somehow led to a program at Florida State University to study in London that coming summer.

I applied, was accepted and started figuring out how I would do it, pay for it, the whole nine yards. Interject - a boy.

As luck would have it, I met a guy early that spring semester and “love” swept me off my feet. I quickly declined my acceptance and put London in the rear-view mirror.

Sure, the dude and I grew to be serious, and I spent too many years with him, letting the world pass me by.

When I became single at 24, I was busy building my career and learning a new dating world (because I thought EVERYONE was married by 24, ha!). I was more focused on the present, rather than pipe dreams of jumping the pond.

But then I met “the one”. The right one! And so, we got busy making memories, going to the beach, then eventually got married and had kids. You know the drill, don’t you!?

So here I am, inching toward 40 and hadn’t taken the time to venture to the other side of the Atlantic; until about a month ago. My sister-in-law and mother-in-law did it! Paris and London!

Reflecting on the 15,000 miles I have traveled in the past 28 days, I thought of the importance of conveying to you sweet parents about the treasured opportunity your student is presented with; to study abroad at this tender age, before “life” really happens.

We have provided you a series of articles from past students who have studied in different parts of the world. Keep reading to see how these different experiences and perspectives helped shape the student to who they are today!

Costa Rica:

I studied Spanish abroad in San Jose and Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica in the Summer of 2005. It was a spectacular experience, in so many ways.

First of all – academically. Learning a foreign language was TOUGH for me. I started trying to learn Spanish in high school, then had to take two classes minimum in college. I made it through the first one as a lecture class at Ole Miss, but when the opportunity was presented to do the second class abroad, I jumped on it!

It took some convincing when it came to my parents – the tuition was about the same, and I coerced them to make the cost of my flight and spending money as part of my upcoming Christmas gift.

They were initially worried about sending their oldest daughter to Central America, but there were plenty of materials available from the University to answer any questions they might have had.

Back to academics – this was hands down the BEST way for me to learn the language. Being immersed in the culture for more than 3 weeks, I was practically fluent by the time I came back to the states. My friends and family were having to remind me to speak English!

I knew two of the girls I was traveling with before we left Oxford – but I came home with dozens of new Ole Miss friends! We studied at the leading Spanish language immersion programs in Costa Rica, COSI (the Costa Rica Spanish Institute).

In addition to learning the language, our course included excursions to explore things like volcanos, hot springs, zip-lining through the rain forest, taking a boat tour to see the wildlife, hiking to waterfalls and much more!

We lived with host families – who spoke very little English. We ate meals with them, helped with chores around the house, and visited with their friends and family that came to check out “the American students.”

Here is a photo of the host family’s house I lived in, along with 2 other students, in Quepos, Costa Rica.

Quepos is a small village a few miles from the school in Manuel Antonio. We took a bus each day from the main street in Quepos to the bus stop in MA, then walked to COSI (the school). Class was three to four hours each morning, then we were released for an excursion or free time – which we spent on the beach near COSI.

Studying abroad was the experience of a lifetime. I highly recommend that your student take advantage of the opportunity while they are in school! As they say in Costa Rica, ¡Pura Vida! (pronounced poo-rah vee-dah. Simply translated, it means “simple life” or “pure life”).

Spain:

I was fortunate to be able to study abroad twice as an undergraduate student at Ole Miss. I spent a month in Costa Rica one summer, and it was a learning experience that I will never forget. I thought it would be my only study abroad experience, but as I was wrapping up my coursework in the fall of 2007, my advisor realized that I lacked a credit for my Spanish minor. Thankfully, I was able to squeeze into a wintersession course in January 2008. My last class at Ole Miss, Spanish 399, was taken in Madrid, Spain! I was a little worried because this course seemed a bit advanced for me, but the faculty leader, Professor Jason Klodt, was very reassuring and supportive.

There were only 5 students total in our group, and I didn’t know any of them before the trip, but we quickly became friends. I was paired with another student named Darby, and we stayed in a flat with our host mother, Paloma. She did not speak one bit of English, but she was very hospitable and cooked the most amazing meals.

Each day, we would go to class for three to four hours in the morning, then we would venture off to find something to eat for lunch.

We did a lot of sight-seeing in Madrid. The architecture is incredible! We visited several palaces, toured gardens and viewed statues and murals. I was actually an art major, so I especially enjoyed touring the Museo Nacional Del Prado and the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia.

We ended most days by eating dinner with our host mother. She cooked a lot of traditional Spanish dishes, but she also really enjoyed French cuisine, so we were always in for a treat!

Our group took a few day trips, including a train ride to Segovia, where we toured the cathedral and the castle. It is said that Walt Disney drew inspiration from the Alcazar de Segovia (pictured above) when dreaming up Cinderella’s iconic castle.

Taking the 300-level course while living with a Spanish-speaking host mother, in a very fast-paced city, definitely forced me out of my comfort zone. It was difficult at times, but the challenge was also very exciting. My understanding of the Spanish language changed immensely in those two weeks. The school and my teacher in Madrid were excellent, but we were also able to fit in a lot of learning, exploring and cultural moments (like the New Year’s Eve tradition of eating 12 grapes that symbolize 12 lucky months ahead). Plaza Mayor (below) was a favorite of mine, as well.

It was truly an amazing experience, and I wish every student could study abroad at least once!​​ Ole Miss offers a great plethora of opportunities to study abroad. Here’s a fun fact: Did you know that you can study abroad for the same cost of tuition at Ole Miss? You are already paying for tuition, why not pay the same and study where ever their heart is content?!

This might be the best gift you could ever give your student! Check out the Ole Miss Study Aboard Office here.


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