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Reflecting on the "Study" in Study Abroad

August 31, 2016

ISEP student Sarah G. from University of Tennessee Chattanooga spent a semester at Johannes Kepler Universität Linz. Here she discusses how her courses abroad challenged, changed and enhanced her learning experience.

I had always looked forward to studying abroad; the concept of living in a new country and traveling through a number of others had me eager to learn. I was curious to observe other cultures and become a public transportation guru. So with this goal in mind, I set off on what was sure to be a great adventure.

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I was so set on traveling that I initially forgot about one very important part of study abroad: STUDYING abroad. Classes started about two weeks after I arrived in Austria and they were a swift kick in the pants. I was quick to realize that school in Austria was going to be quite different from my courses in the Tennessee. Professor expectations were high and there was a great sense of cultural diversity present. In one of my courses (with an enrollment of approximately 30 students) we had 17 different nationalities; the most I have had in a course at my home university is probably three or four nationalities.

This wide array of individuals proved to be interesting to work with. I had thought group projects were difficult before I studied abroad; all of my group work in Austria seemed even more difficult as my classmates all had different styles of working. I often found this to be very frustrating as I can be somewhat of a “Type A” personality. However, this also ended up being a huge perk. Whereas individual contributions at my home university were generally homogeneous in nature, I was always presented with a wide array of opinions and solutions to the problems at hand when I worked in a multinational group. Working with all of these students helped me to expand my thinking skills. Because of my experience with my multinational classmates I have found that I think more creatively back at my home university.

By the end of the semester I had even achieved my goal of being pretty savvy when it came to reading tram, subway and train routes. I did travel around a large deal and many of my travel companions were individuals I had met through my courses and international program. I was only able to really succeed at my goal of traveling because of the friendships I made with other students in my courses and in my program.

 

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Some of my classmates - eight different nationalities, all brought together because we wanted to study abroad!

 

My learning outlook has been greatly enhanced by my semester abroad. I am able to think more critically about my assignments and I can apply more creative solutions to problems at hand. So often there are multiple paths that can lead you to a successful outcome; before I studied abroad I was set in a black and white type of mentality where there could only be one right answer. Nowadays I find that I am more open to thinking of and considering multiple courses of action for any number of life events be they homework, area of study or career path.


Thanks for sharing, Sarah! Want to read more about Sarah’s adventures? Check out her own blog, Globetrotting Gardner.

Are you ready to experience studying abroad? Find out more about your options on the ISEP website.

An earlier version of this post was originally shared July 17, 2013.

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