Saturday, January 12, 2013

Junior Year Abroad

If you are a university student or know one, consider the value of a junior (or other) year abroad. Many American colleges and universities offer these programs, and if yours doesn't, you may be able to join the program of a different college. Sometimes studying abroad is actually less expensive than staying in the U.S.
When I was an undergraduate my college (Saint Mary's at Notre Dame IN, had one or two overseas programs in Europe, but now they offer options in 11 countries around the world. Many private and public institutions of higher learning provide chances for students to broaden their experience of the world while earning credits toward a degree.
Studying abroad when you are young can change your life. Spending a 'year in Bologna, Italy as a grad student certainly changed mine. I had grown up in a sheltered Midwestern environment, and had ventured (with my parents,) only as far as Mexico and Canada. Although I was in international studies at Johns Hopkins (,) I did not have a huge desire to go abroad. But winning a fellowship that covered the cost of my year in Bologna changed my mind.
During my year overseas I learned enough Italian to get around, travelled widely through Europe and developed an addiction to travel that I still have. My overseas experience was of interest to employers when I was looking for jobs, and certainly helped me land some travel writing gigs. And it broke me out of my American cocoon.
If you want to give a gift to a child or other young relative, I can't think of a better one than sponsoring a year or semester abroad. It's a gift that keeps on giving.


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