Archives for August 2012

How Study Abroad Will Help You Get Into Harvard

Living with a host family in a different country during a summer study abroad program has many benefits to your higher education

Study abroad strengthens your college application

In the ultra competitive realm of applying and getting accepted into a top tier university, your application needs to make you stand out among the other hundreds, if not thousands, of applicants. Spending 3-4 weeks studying abroad in France or Spain as a high school student will give you many unique experiences you can write about in your college application essays. It might be the factor that helps you get accepted into your first choice school.
[Read more…]

5 Questions to Ask Before Choosing a Study Abroad Program

Looking for a teen study abroad program in France or Spain that offers an immersion experience?

The term ‘immersion’ doesn’t always describe the reality – so make sure to ask the right questions!

Immersion is a word that has been subject to over-use and as such has become somewhat diluted. Parents and students looking for a truly authentic language-learning experience must ask how accurately ‘immersion’ lives up to its promise:

  1. Are the US chaperones instructed to speak only in the target language?
  2. Will the program have at least one local leader, native to France or Spain?
  3. Is there an opportunity to mix with local young people, even if just for a few activities?
  4. Is there a component that offers the chance to live with a non-paid volunteer family?
  5. Is there a time during the ‘Homestay’ when there are no organized daily activities, providing the ideal opportunity to speak only French or Spanish with the family?

[Read more…]

How Study Abroad Changed My Life

Hear about the positive impact of study abroad from three students who traveled to Toulouse, France in 2007

Martina M.

Study abroad is the best way to gain insight on foreign cultures, form long-lasting relationships with people halfway around the globe, quickly learn a language, and establish a sense of understanding of other nations very different from our own. The time I spent away from home proved a valuable, challenging, and unforgettable experience that could never be matched in any other way. Interacting with people my age in a foreign country allowed me to gain valuable insight on French culture.

These friendships have lasted almost three years so far and I have learned much more about French culture, language and attitude than I ever could from any textbook our travel guide. I was amazed that within a week in Toulouse, my understanding of spoken French had improved tremendously. By the end of the month, my host family could say almost anything to me and I would immediately and naturally understand.

The time I spent in France has encouraged me to return. I will be studying in France again this spring quarter in Lyon as a Dartmouth College sophomore. While abroad, I learned how to break down language barriers and communicate cross culturally. Overcoming this cultural obstacle convinced me that understanding other cultures and ways of life can help people get along with each other. From an international perspective, this open-minded effort to understand and communicate beyond linguistic differences holds the beautiful potential to create a healthier and more peaceful global community. Studying abroad enforced my belief that this remains the responsibility of our generation.

Nic B.

I learned an incredible amount about myself while on the trip. I think that the homestay interactions were the most insightful experiences. They place you in the midst of an everyday French home and it’s your job to communicate with them as if you are a part of it. This really worked to open the door to the language and get me over the fear of speaking and interacting.

It wasn’t always easy, and I often made a fool of myself as I pantomimed things I didn’t have the words for, but it has helped tremendously to ease my anxiety of travel and communication. Once I let go of trying to dissect every word and simply took in the words as French, I could understand entire conversations. My own French became more fluent as the rules became second-nature.

I think of studying abroad less in a classroom skills sense and more in an overall culture immersion. Yes, language will improve, but I think this is secondary to the daily interactions and experiences with a new place that has a different history and customs.

Marc W.

My expectations of my study abroad experience were more than fulfilled. In France, the only thing more amazing than how much French I spoke were the doors speaking French opened. When my Californian friends and I went out at night, we hung out with French people and spoke French. I met so many fascinating people while I was in France and a commitment to speaking French was definitely the gift that allowed me to have the experience I did.

My strongest advice to anyone thinking of studying abroad (for however long) is to use the language as much as possible every day. Every sentence spoken in English is one that could have been used to make you more fluent in French. Besides, the most fun experiences (and the most educational) are all the times you spend with the friends you make abroad!

After France, I definitely felt a lot more responsible for myself. Not only do I keep in contact with everyone I’ve met in both countries, but I feel like ever since that summer in France, I have this travel bug that will impel me to discover and possibly live in more places. An added bonus is the “Fluent in:” section on my resume, which gets an 18-year-old a lot of attention!

ECI compiled an exciting and educational agenda while we were in France, and both the French and American chaperones we had were fun, inspiring, and (responsible) cool! I will remember all the exciting days and nights I spent in France and take these memories with me wherever I go.

The Bullfight

ECI's stance on this controversial topic

Is it a senseless and cruel relic from the past? Or an exciting art, integral to Spanish culture and tradition? Some anticipate the colorful costumes and ritualized ceremony with glee; others are repulsed by what they see as an inhumane and pointless sport.

Of course, I have an opinion. And so does just about everyone who asks if we take our groups to see a bullfight.

In fact, bullfighting was banned in a ruling by the regional parliament this past July in Barcelona, and in the rest of Catalonia (the northeastern part of Spain). No bullfights are supposed to take place there after January 2012.

While animal rights activists are pleased, the reality is that:

  • The ban has less to do with animal cruelty and more to do with the politics of separating Catalonia from everything having to do with the rest of Spain.
  • There are still lots of bull-related festivals firmly rooted in Catalonian culture, which are not affected by the proposed ban.

I know that becoming a matador is difficult. They train long and hard. And I am well aware of the dangers of judging cultural practices in other countries.

But, there’s just no way I can justify the torturing of animals. Neither can my co-director, Marie.

So you won't find bullfighting listed on an ECI itinerary

Students who want to go can do so in small groups, accompanied by a chaperone, just not as an ECI sponsored activity. This may not be the most democratic approach, but it is pretty much non-negotiable for us.

Finding Myself Abroad

A personal account of studying abroad in Moosburg, Germay

When I was a high school student, I was lucky enough to be able to study abroad in Germany when I was 16 and 18. We had an arrangement with a German high school in the town of Moosburg where students in the 10th grade would travel to America for a month to live with host families, and then the Americans could live with the students they hosted. I was able to host three times, and it was wonderful becoming friends with Michael, Christian, Dominik, and everyone I got to meet.

An unexpected opportunity

The opportunity to study abroad didn’t initially strike me as something I expected to be life-changing, at least not at 16. I was excited to see a new country and culture, but I fully expected to return to my hometown in Ohio the same person I was when I left. It seemed cliché to expect myself to grow or change much in a few weeks. I underestimated what a profound affect a study abroad experience could have.

Pre-travel apprehension

Like many 16 year olds, I worried a lot about what my peers thought of me. Or even worse, what I thought they thought about me. Especially when you’ve been in classes with the same people for a number of years, you can start to feel like you’re stuck being the person everyone expects you to be. I would try too hard to be accepted, which would often backfire. My concern about what other students thought about me would lead me to be more timid in my decisions, because I would second-guess myself based on how others might react.

Changes I noticed abroad

I didn’t notice it right away, but something began to change in me while I was living in Germany. Part of it definitely could be attributed to spending a lot of time with the other students from my school that I didn’t normally hang out with. While we might have been parts of different social circles back home, here we were all friends on the same adventure. We bonded almost instantly, and the imaginary boundaries that seemed to separate us dissolved quickly.

The most profound impact came from interacting with the other German students. While I was still carrying around my sense of where I fit in to the social hierarchy back home, I began to realize that this wasn’t how anyone else saw me. To the people I was meeting I was just William, the new American exchange student they were excited to meet. Their impression of me wasn’t based on any preconceived notions, and they were interested in knowing about who I really was. I soon understood that the people I met in Germany didn’t care at all about what the popular kids back home thought about me.

Looking back with appreciation

When I look back, I can see how big of an impact this had on my self-confidence. I returned from my time abroad far less concerned about how other people perceived me or what misconceptions they might have. By stepping out of my comfort zone into the wider world, I gained a new appreciation for my ability to make friends and connect with people wherever my life might take me. I’m thankful for the memories of my time abroad, but the lessons I learned were truly invaluable. For opening your eyes to a wider perspective about yourself and the world around you, I don’t think there’s anything more transformative than studying abroad.

– William Wardlaw, Moosburg Study Abroad ’98 & ’00