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Quoi de neuf?

(photo by: www.paris-art.com)

That’s French for “What’s new?” Well, I’ve been up to a few things lately. On May 21st, I did a guest post for The Study Abroad Guru about the W-effect or the 5 stages of transition you’ll go through for the study abroad experience. It was a lot of fun writing about this very important topic and a great way to show that studying abroad is serious business for which you can prepare.

Here’s the W-effect guest post on The Study Abroad Guru

 

guest post

 

What’s in the works…

I’m working on a guest post for GoAbroad.com. I hope to make it a monthly guest post so please check back there often or 12 times a year to be exact  :). It’s a really great study abroad website that also does program reviews.

goabroad

It’s also been a few months since I’ve written and I’m starting to get the writing book blues meaning I want to create something again but I’m not sure what to write about. Stay tuned for sneak peeks… Anyhoo, passez- une bonne fête!

  

Twenty in Paris is not a typical study abroad blog

spiral

How many study abroad blogs / books will tell you that? Not enough! – Quote from ebook Twenty in Paris: A Young American Perspective of Studying Abroad in Paris

I am in love with Melibee Global and its blog which are dedicated to elevating the discussion about education abroad, culture, and diversity and the lifelong path to global citizenship by offering trailblazing tools, speakers and professional development for the global education and travel communities.

What a perfect mission statement, right?

One of the first blogs on their website that caught my eye was about IIE’s (a study abroad program) new initiative called “generation study abroad” where the goal appears to just be about increasing the number of students going abroad. Check out that article here http://www.melibeeglobal.com/2014/05/generation-study-abroad-bold-or-harmful/

However, the article that really spoke to me was “Are study abroad blogs ruining the field?”. In the past few years since I studied abroad, study abroad blogs are popping up all over the place and in more mainstream places, too. The author of this exposé is spot on when she said “These [study abroad] posts are meant to be silly, fun reads that are geared towards 20-year-olds about travel. Some of these articles do include good information. But it is mostly information on travel, accommodation, shopping, or food; rarely anything about academics in another country, cultural immersion, or topics of re-entry, mental health, and other not-so-glamorous aspects of studying abroad. These mainstream articles often take creative approaches and do generally help promote and make study abroad seem more accessible to interested students. But could they be doing more harm than we can initially see? ”

The answer is yes! Blogs like these (no name calling out but they are out there) contribute to the romantic notion that studying abroad is this magical partying time where you travel and only have lots of fun. That studying and the immersion into another culture and language are merely things that you do once in a while between parties and jet-setting. It’s not that websites/people like Melibee and Twenty in Paris are trying to deter you from studying abroad; we’re trying to steer you clear of the hype and better prepare you by showing the whole study abroad picture: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.

As a student, I bought the study abroad hype so much so that I thought Paris was going to be magical and perfect from day one. I was not prepared for the cultural, linguistic and academic hurdles that awaited me in Paris. And looking at the popular study abroad blogs today, is it any wonder that a student would go abroad with these unrealistic expectations? So whose job is it to prepare you for studying abroad and to help you see through the smoke screen which are typical study abroad blogs? I believe that it is you, the student, and the study abroad program. Most students primarily get their information on studying abroad from their program before seeking outside sources like these unrealistically happy blogs. Study abroad programs are the first and constant source of information for students to find out the in and outs of studying abroad and how it will impact their college career. Students need the abroad office’s experience to tell them what to expect or useful resources (like blogs or books) that will provide information on the experience/ transition and immersion into life and college abroad. As college students and adults, it is your job to make sure that you are finding out this information or asking where you can find it. At the end of the day it is you going abroad, not your study abroad program director.

Studying abroad is gaining more exposure now than it ever has before but is more always better? Melibee and Twenty in Paris agree that more students going abroad isn’t necessarily better, especially when they haven’t been prepared for the actual academic and cultural experiences. More preparation and focus on these academic and cultural differences is what needs to increase for study abroad students. Studying abroad is a major change in a college student’s life which needs serious blogs/ books and programs to support them and show them the whole picture. Typical study abroad blogs are fun but they are not sufficient preparation for the study abroad experience.

  

Twenty in Paris Approved Blogs

Bonjour à tous,

I am so happy to bring you another round of Twenty in Paris Approved Blogs. Without further delay, let’s check ‘em out:

ma vie francaise

 

Blog name: Ma Vie Française®

url: http://www.myfrenchlife.org

Who: Judy MacMahon

What: Ma Vie Française is a great resource for living in France as an Anglophone expat. The articles are written by a great mix of French and mostly British writers. Not only is everything relevant (I once reposted an article on the shopping differences between French and American Women – link) but it is easy to read and super fun! This is a great go-to website on French culture and language as experienced by Anglophones. If you are going to study abroad or simply want to increase your French knowledge, this is a must read! My current favorite article “What’s going on in Paris this May.”

 

 

tieland

 

Blog name: Tieland to Thailand

url: http://tielandtothailand.com/

Who: American expats Chris and Angela

What: I came across this blog from a tweet about transitioning to life in Thailand. Transitioning to a new life abroad is my concentration so I had to check it out- and I was not disappointed. Chris and Angela are Americans who packed their bags, said au revoir to the 9-5 grind, and moved to Thailand. The dream was a lot harder than they imagined and they share their lessons learned from living in a new place and settling into a new life there. When I saw a graph depicting the W-effect, I got super excited. Chris and Angela show it without scaring you. They lay out the transition process on the line so that you can see every aspect of it- expensive, frustrating, boring and lonely as well as how they changed it to make it more positive and realistic. Article I recommend Overcoming Culture Shock

 

paris unraveled

Blog name: Paris Unraveled

url: http://www.parisunraveled.com/

Who: Alison Lounes

What: Alison Lounes is an American student turned expat living in Paris. She pursued her masters degree by directly enrolling in a French university. Her site really ‘unravels’ going to college in Paris with a heavy concentration on masters degree. Also covers housing and bureaucracy. Check out this article “Work contract for au pair”.

 

melibee

Blog name: Melibee Global

url: http://www.melibeeglobal.com

Who: founded by Melissa Gluckmann

What: Melibee Global is a company which helps study abroad programs better themselves through tools, speakers and professional development. They also happen to have the best blog that I am totally in love with right now (check back on Sunday for a response article to my favorite post). This blog gets it! Melissa and her team of honey bees sees that the focus on study abroad is getting away from the cultural immersion and academic aspects and more so on the travel possibility aspect instead. These bees certainly are busy helping to better educate and prepare study abroad programs to bring their focus back on track to better prepare students. My favorite article Are study abroad blogs ruining the field

 

  
study-abroad

Obama: Study Abroad in Europe No Longer Important

(photo by: sites.psu.edu)

I recently came across an article by Trina Y. Vargo on U.S. News called “The Wrong Pivot to Asia”. The article discusses how the Obamas were recently in China and have pledged to China that more American students will be studying abroad there than in Europe in the years to come. Here’s my thoughts:

First reaction: Great article- well written and very cohesive. It made me think of the topic of mandatory study abroad. Why do our college and government officials feel like they know what is best for students? Why does this administration continue to inflate numbers and statistics that are far from the truth? Why is the President and First Lady making this promise to China to increase the number of American study abroad students there? Is there some sort of deal going on behind the scenes between the US and China?

Europe(Europe is not a priority for American study abroad students per US officials. Photo by: www.coolestplacestovisit.com)

2nd look: This author clearly points out how her study abroad in Canada positively impacted her career in foreign affairs. She started off doing foreign policy advising on Canada but then expanded her role to the far corners of the globe; studying abroad in Canada/ a Western country was an asset not a setback. Although I have discussed how many American students are attracted to Europe/ Western countries because it can appear to be more culturally similar to USA than China or Africa, I also think it is a bad idea to force students to study abroad in a country to which they are not attracted just because it is not Western. I also couldn’t help but notice that the President and First Lady did not say how they would increase the number of American students going to study abroad in China (shocking – in sarcastic tone); just that they would. But all criticism aside, on the surface I understand this move from deprioritizing Europe/Western countries for study abroad.

panda

(Say goodbye to castles and hello to Pandas. Photo by: www.studyabroad101.com)

Last year, I advised an intern at my job to study abroad in China and to take Chinese as a foreign language, not pursue Spanish studies with a study abroad in Latin America. My rationale was probably very similar to the Obamas- China is where American business manufacturing is and if you want to succeed in business, you need to go to China. However, I now am having 2nd thoughts on the “wisdom” I bestowed on this unsuspecting intern. Can you imagine if someone told me I had to study abroad in China? I would have lost the opportunity to have discovered my French heritage and meet my family. But it’s not just that for many American students, studying abroad in Europe is a way to learn about their ancestry; it’s also about understanding our allies. All the European / Western nations are the United States’ allies. The author makes another great point that studying abroad in these countries is a great way to educate and prepare the diplomats of tomorrow. Wouldn’t it be odd if the American ambassador to France never studied abroad in France but in China? Now I’m sure their overall global experience would be useful but it would’ve been more useful if this person got to know French culture and language better by living amongst the French.

In conclusion: It feels wrong that our government is again stretching it’s dirty hands further into our private lives making it harder for American students to study abroad in Europe. Cutting scholarships / grants to study abroad in our Allies’ homes is not only a disadvantage to American students who are already given the short end of the stick for college with the ever growing cost of tuition, it’s also disrespectful to our Allies. By deprioritizing Europe for study abroad, the United States is giving the message that we don’t hold our relationship with them very high, that we’re moving on and possibly making new friends. I’m all for encouraging students to think outside of the Western box (especially since we are the not the majority of the world), but not at the expense of personal liberty, losing valuable allies in the long run, and further damaging the American reputation by making broken promises.

 

What do you think?