Before I attended college, I had no idea that colleges and universities had so much to offer outside of the classroom. No matter what your interests, hobbies, and passions are, students should be able to find something to keep them busy when not attending classes. Whether it is clubs and organizations, sports, concerts, politicians, entertainment….so many different options. Each college is different as far as what might be available, so it is up to the student to be aware of and seek out what interests them.
For example, when I attended the University of Northern Iowa, I found out that the university offered some study abroad programs. The way I found this out was by seeing posters on campus advertising the Study Abroad Office.
I previously did not have an interest in studying abroad; however, I was curious to see if they might offer a program in the country that my grandfather emigrated from. My grandfather was born in 1891 and came to the United States from Denmark in the early 1900’s. I was very close to my grandfather up until the time he died when I was in my early 20’s. I knew I still had relatives living in Denmark and thought it would be interesting to explore the country of my heritage.
It turns out that UNI did have a program in Denmark, an exchange agreement with the University of Aalborg located in Aalborg, Denmark. I couldn’t believe it; this was the same area my grandfather came from! It was a program for business majors where you would participate in their International Business Program with students from different countries. The classes would be taught in English and you would receive 12 elective credits through UNI. Since I was not a business major (I was getting a minor in business) I had to get approval from the Business Department Head to be able to participate. I had to do a little leg work, getting a student visa, arranging air fare and housing, etc., but it was well worth it. The Study Abroad Office was very helpful in making the arrangements.
Obviously, the cost to study abroad varies from college to college and also depends on the country you would be going to. At the time I participated (a long time ago….) the agreement between the schools said that I could receive financial aid to help cover the costs and my tuition was at a reduced cost.
I was able to spend my last semester as a college undergraduate in Denmark. I met students from all around the world, some of which I am still friends with today (25 years later). I learned a lot from the business courses I took, however, I think I learned even more by living in and learning about a totally different culture. Even going to the grocery store was an experience when you do not know the language (I bought a lot of fresh foods and canned foods with pictures on them)! I shipped my bicycle over and I also used a lot of public transportation (buses and trains). I was able to visit castles, see an opera at the Royal Theatre in Copenhagen, and even visit the U.S. Embassy.
I was also able to meet my 4th cousin and his family, see the farm house my grandfather was born in 100 years earlier, and even saw my great-grandfather’s grave. During breaks, and for a month after the semester ended, I traveled to Norway, Sweden, Finland, Greece, Italy, Germany, Holland, France, and Austria.
Had I not been willing to explore my options and do a little risk taking, I would never have had this opportunity again in my life, to not only travel to other countries but to actually live there and be a part of the culture for 6 months, get college credit, and get financial assistance to help cover costs.
My suggestion to you is that if you are even remotely interested in outside activities, like study abroad, do some research both before and after you set foot on campus to see what is offered. My guess is that you won’t regret it!
ICAN Waterloo Center
ICAN Waterloo Center