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Alexa’s Study Abroad Journal: The Dean Visit

By: Alexa Wybraniec

I can’t believe it’s 70 degrees and Christmas in two days! Anyway, I kept another study abroad prep appointment- go me! I go to Rutgers at the New Brunswick campus in NJ, where everything is made up and credits don’t matter (because if you aren’t fulfilling your core requirements, you’re truly wasting your time). I don’t have an academic adviser because I’m in the School of Arts and Sciences (SAS) and I suppose there are just too many of us. At freshman orientation, the happy-go-lucky orientation leaders comforted us into thinking that “you’re never far away from friendly, knowledgeable advice from an academic dean or staff member!”

That’s partly true but what I’ve learned in my first year and a half of college is that life is about networking. You need to make real, human connections with your peers and professors. Rutgers encourages SAS students to make an appointment with a dean every semester to ensure that you’re not going to get screwed with a graduation setback or something. I actually scheduled my dean advising appointment for the same day as my French final exam. My head was filled with the differences between le passé composé, l’imparfait, et le plus-que-parfait when I met with Dean Anderson. It was nothing like my meeting with Lauren from last week, to say the least.

The deans are helpful but are straight-to-the-point, no-nonsense types of people. They are mostly there to tell you if you’re finishing your core requirements in a timely manner – they’re not experts on your individual areas of study. I was seated in the opposite corner of the room, so I couldn’t see what was on her computer screen. I spent about thirty seconds describing my plans to study abroad in Paris when she immediately informed me of something I completely overlooked. I never officially declared French as my minor!

To study abroad in Paris, students are not required to major or minor in French. In fact, it’s not even a requirement to take classes in French for SciencesPo, the school at which I’ll be studying. For my first semester at SciencesPo, I’ve decided to take my course-load in English with a mandatory French grammar course to keep up on learning the language. I don’t feel ready to take on culture shock AND language shock just yet. Hopefully by the spring semester, I’ll be better acclimated to France and ready to challenge myself in French.

Even though a French minor isn’t a requirement to study in Paris and the classes I’ll be taking may not help me toward graduating as a Journalism student, studying abroad has always been at the top of my to-do list. I knew I’d get an amazing opportunity to live in Europe at a price I’ll never see again in my life. Plus, there’s no better way to learn a language than immersion. I felt it when I stayed in Morocco for a week, and I felt it again in Montreal. There’s an inexplicable desire to speak French, to somehow communicate smoothly and slyly with natives, when you’re surrounded by what you so desperately want to understand. No classroom has ever made me feel the buzz that I had in my head when I was walking through Rabat’s medina. No language professor has ever prepared me to haggle for a Moroccan teapot.

For the rest of the visit, Dean Anderson spoke in a rush. In one breath, she informed me that I could easily declare my minor on one of the computers in the first-floor office. After calculating my courses and credits, she told me that I’d been “expeditious” in my choices and only had three more requirements to fulfill in the SAS Core. She informed me, as Lauren had, that she could not help me discern whether my SciencesPo credits would count toward my major/minor or not.

She did, however, tell me about the “Study Abroad Proposal Form” which I will need to take to each individual department for review. In my case, that means making appointments with the Journalism and French departments. Thankfully, I have a contact for the French department, courtesy of Lauren. Basically, I’ll need to create a theoretical schedule based on the SciencesPo courses offered per semester, and then ask the departments to count those credits toward my major/minor.

She concluded by telling me, to all of my joy and excitement, that yes, I will be able to graduate on time in 2016 as long as I continue to take winter and summer courses that count toward the rest of my core requirements. I also still need to make appointments with those departments which I’ll totally do. Oh, and now I’m officially minoring in French. Bam.

About the author:

Alexa Wybraniec is a journalism major at Rutgers University. She is going to be studying abroad in Paris at Sciences- Po for a year starting in the fall semester of 2014. Check back every Monday for a new post from Alexa. You can connect with her via her Facebook Page.

 

 

  
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A Story About A Boy

By Andrea Bouchaud

When I’m not conquering and changing the study abroad world for the better with the Twenty in Paris book, I work for a French company. For the past few months, a French student interned at our company. His name was ***Alain.  As one of the few native Anglophones who has Francophone capabilities in the office, I was asked to assist him on some American legal matters.

I was so excited at the prospect to learn about the process and legal hoops that foreign students go through to come to the United States because this is something I normally don’t have privy to as an American. Unfortunately, what I ended up discovering was not more information on things that foreign students experience when working/studying in the United States but rather how unprepared this particular foreign student was for working and living abroad.

Alain did not research the entire process for obtaining a work visa in the USA before his arrival. To work in the USA on a work visa requires the leg work back in the home country of obtaining the request to work letter from the foreign company, taking that to the American Embassy in your home country, getting the visa in your passport, come to the USA, get another document from the Department of Homeland Security at airport customs and then go to the local American Social Security Office. Doesn’t sound too hard to me, albeit detailed, but this student intern just didn’t know these steps in advance for some unknown reason and got things done really last minute. When I took him to the Social Security Office, he didn’t have the main document! We had to come back a second time and for a moment he thought he didn’t have another required document. Thankfully, he had it in his unorganized and hidden packet of papers stuffed in his backpack. Alain successfully obtained an American social security number which is needed to work and receive compensation in the USA. I still don’t understand why he didn’t have all the papers the first time, especially since I asked him if he had everything- he had said yes!

When I wasn’t helping him sort out American legal issues, I would try to tell him about Dallas and American life. I would always ask him if he visited downtown, saw the museums, did anything fun and the answer was always no. Dallas has an extremely small downtown. You could definitely visit it in 1 day or a weekend if you stretched it out. To help him know what there is to do in Dallas, I would send him emails with links to the Dallas sites. This boy did not research the main things to see before he left. Sight seeing and getting to know the host city is a very important part of living abroad. Don’t be a hermit and not explore! I understand it can be lonely but that is when you invite a friend from work/school or accept a native’s offer to go sight seeing which he always refused.

In addition to legal issues and Dallas life, I helped Alain with work issues. In one of these interactions, I asked him if the company provided him private, American health insurance. He didn’t know. I asked him what his plans were if he were injured and had to go to the hospital- who did he think would be paying that bill? Alain said he did not plan on going to the hospital. Now, no one goes abroad with the intent to get injured enough to have to go to the hospital but accidents do happen and it’s always good to be prepared. It was evident to me that he did not research American culture in advance by following the news as he would’ve known that we are a private health insurance based country where each citizen pays for his/her own health insurance and not the state. After dealing with all of this boy’s lack of preparedness, this comment truly was the top of the line. I was so offended that he came to this country unprepared for an accident when I did not do the same discourteousness to France.

The sole thing I learned was that Alain was unprepared for this experience. Preparation and research is critical anytime you go abroad be it for vacation or work/study. Learn from our friend and be prepared!

***Name changed to protect the innocent

  
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Thanksgiving: A Day That Never Existed

By: Andrea Bouchaud

Well… in France, I mean. The French are always fascinated by le thanksgiving (pronounced le ‘tanks’giving in a French accent). It is a day that has such a huge historical and cultural significance in the United States but they don’t know why. In speaking with French friends of similar age, I found out that early American history is not taught to French students. A recent conversation with a young French person confirmed the mystery surrounding this day when he said he thought Thanksgiving was the word Americans used for Christmas Eve!

As born and bred Americans, we can be unaccustomed to someone not knowing the history and current traditions of Thanksgiving because we know it so well. It’s important to remember that it is unique to us and our history. When I studied abroad in Paris, my program director tried to make the American students feel at home by having a potluck Thanksgiving dinner at her house. It was a very nice thought but all the details weren’t exactly right. The American students brought things like cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, and stuffing. Don’t get me wrong the turkey and food was good… but it wasn’t the same.

Maybe it tasted different because there was no significance to the meal. It was a normal Thursday in late November in France and not a day  when 2 different peoples came to together in peace to share a bountiful feast, if only temporarily. There were no turkey and pilgrim decorations in every store; no commercials on TV to announce up coming sales; no big parades; no palpable holiday cheer in the air. Thanksgiving is a day that never existed in France. It’s a weird feeling to be somewhere in the world on day that has held cultural meaning to you all your life and now means nothing to those around you. Fascinate your French classmates and friends by explaining to them the history of Thanksgiving up to current traditions of eating, sleeping, watching football games and then getting ready to shop at midnight for Black Friday. They will be amazed and will help you recognize your cultural tradition in the process.

If you’re studying abroad today, I hope that a little Thanksgiving finds its way towards you.

  
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5 Things to Avoid When Choosing a Study Abroad Program

By: Andrea Bouchaud

Studying abroad is more than an experience. It’s another investment in your future. You have to think about your major and career needs and goals; not just the adventure. It’s important to choose the right study abroad program or it could cost you more in the long run. Let’s take a look at 5 Things to Avoid When Choosing a Study Abroad Program

  • Thinking only about the experience. According to a 2013 study from the British Council Education Intelligence, American students tend to choose study abroad programs/locations based on fun and cultural experience and not how the program’s courses and experience will impact their major and their future career goals. When looking at study abroad programs, be sure to think about how studying abroad will meet your major and career needs and goals, not the experience you’ll have abroad, to get the best return possible from this investment in your future.
  • Choosing a program based only on your financial situation. Studying abroad can be expensive. However, there are ways to fund it and offset costs such as fundraising websites like kickstarter.com or gofundme.com, using student loans and possibly working abroad. Don’t choose a program that’s not right for your career goals and major needs because it costs less. If the cheaper program does not help your career/major, you will pay more in the long run by staying in school longer and not getting that good paying job.
  • Selecting a country only because it speaks your language. Everyone is more comfortable speaking their native language. Not having to adjust to a foreign language while transitioning to life abroad can save a lot of headaches. However, don’t choose a program simply because it’s in a country that speaks your same language. If the program that will benefit you most is in a non-English speaking land, you can linguistically prepare by taking classes and you’ll impress future employers with being bilingual.
  • Picking the right country and program. Some students have a preferred country that they want to study abroad in. Sometimes the best choice is not the preferred one. For example, China study abroad programs might be best for business but not fashion design. If your major is fashion design, you need to realize that having studied abroad in Hong Kong is not going to impress future employers in your industry. A program in Paris or Milan would be better as these are fashion capitols known for their fashion/art programs.
  • Signing up for the same study abroad program as your friends. Transitioning to a new culture, language and college system can be tough so it’s natural to want to study abroad with friends. If your friends are not the same major and don’t have the same career goals, their program may not be best for you. You can overcome homesickness and loneliness by keeping in contact with friends via Skype, email, text and visits if they are studying abroad in a nearby country.

 Choosing the right study abroad program is equivalent to choosing the right college and major  for you. Make sure to thoroughly investigate the program to ensure that it will benefit you, your major requirements and your future career. Most importantly, be sure to avoid the 5 things below when choosing your study abroad program to help you succeed in this experience.