Students encourage others to explore study abroad options

By Alex Milstein [email protected] – Staff Writer
International Education Week offers college students a chance to learn about the cultural importance and benefits of studying abroad.
“International Education Week is a program sponsored by the Department of State and Education, and it’s a time that schools, colleges, universities and community organizations can highlight the importance of international education and global exchange,” said Bonnie Parker, director of study abroad/study away at UNC Asheville. “It’s a great time for us to celebrate all of the international opportunities at UNCA, too.”
UNCA’s International Education Week will be held Nov. 11-15 and includes multiple events, such as a study abroad student panel, an African drum ensemble and an Afro-Caribbean dance party. More information about the events can be found at UNCA’s study abroad website.
Parker said she suggests attending the international dining luncheon on Nov. 13, one of many events during International Education Week, because it offers students a good chance to explore options in the non-profit sector.
Parker also said she suggests seeing speaker Chris Bashinelli, the keynote event during International Education Week. Bashinelli, a global explorer, hosted and produced a film series titled “Inspiring Action: Bridging the Gap” about cultural learning.
Bashinelli speaks at 8 p.m. on Nov. 13 in Alumni Hall.
According to Parker, approximately 175-180 students study abroad in academic programs each year. Students travel to different parts of the world, with most students going to Europe. Asia recently became a popular destination due to the growth of the Asian studies program.
Parker said she encourages students to study abroad as an important learning experience, and said she wants people to be aware International Education Week and of other cultural events happening on campus all year.
“Really, throughout the year, there are a lot of events that are internationally related and so to kind of specify one week is a little bit difficult because we could really do something for every week,” Parker said. “Studying abroad is a great opportunity for an educational experience, personal growth and it’s also a good time to go abroad while they are students. They can have an intercultural experience as well as a different academic experience.”
Lindsay Holton, a junior chemistry student, said she studied abroad at Thammasat University in Bangkok, Thailand, and suggests studying abroad to all students.
“It was a really great experience that was mainly eye opening because of the immensely different culture that I experienced while living there,” Holton said. “I got to not only learn about the place, but about people in general. The first thing we do is highlight the differences we experience when traveling to a new culture, but I think it’s important to realize the similarities and how I was able to make friends and meet really awesome people who I didn’t share a language with, but could still find a common ground.”
Holton said meeting new people contributed greatly to her experience studying abroad, but studying abroad sometimes requires tough decisions.
“It’s an integral piece to the academic experience and can be truly eye opening. Not everything about studying abroad is amazing; for me there was a lot of culture shock and homesickness,” Holton said. “My roommate while staying in Thailand, was from Japan, and we got along phenomenally well, which was surprising considering our language and cultural barriers. What I basically took away from studying abroad is that everybody has the capability of getting to know each other, no matter your differences.”
Holton said she hasn’t been to any events during International Education Week in the past, but said she recommends it to anybody interested.
Corey McClintock, a chemistry and creative writing student, said International Education Week should be great because of the study abroad staff.
“We have such a strong, dedicated study abroad staff that I am sure it will be lovely,” McClintock said.
McClintock said he studied in Scotland last fall. After arriving a month before class started to become acquainted with his new surroundings, he said making friends and learning about new cultures offered a great experience.
“I lived in the city of Edinburgh for three months, where I took literature classes at Edinburgh Napier University. I would suggest to other international students to budget substantial time and money for travel, and to expect that while many things will not go as planned, it will all be part of a wonderful experience. Things that seem like trials at the time will not only make you more of an adult, they will also just be funny to look back upon.  I would also suggest that students be very active in meeting people, making friends and attending as many events as possible in their first few weeks abroad.  There will be plenty of time to settle down, and it’s important to make friends, explore and become acquainted with the customs in the first few weeks,” McClintock said.