Office of Admissions
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October 3, 2022
What better way to get an idea of what studying abroad is like than talking to those who've taken the journey themselves?
In this episode of College Admissions Insider, we're welcoming a few Bucknell students on the podcast to share their study abroad experiences with you — including how they chose their destinations, their preparation processes and the biggest lessons they learned while abroad.
The students joining us are chemistry major and Spanish double-major Jake Kozora '23; accounting major Sarah Hanlon '24; and Arabic and Arab world studies major, Allure Cooper '23. They represent majors from all three of Bucknell’s colleges (Engineering, Arts & Sciences and the Freeman College of Management) and have participated in study abroad programs on three different continents.
If you have a question, comment or idea for a future episode, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
[00:00:06] BHA: In our most recent episode of College Admissions Insider, we were treated to tons of insight, advice and wisdom from university staff members who make studying abroad opportunities possible.
[00:00:17] BT: Now, it's time to hear from the travelers themselves. After all, what better way to get an idea of what studying abroad is like than talking to those who've taken the journey? I'm Brooke Thames from Bucknell University and, today, we're welcoming a few Bucknell students on the podcast to share their study abroad experiences with you.
[00:00:34] BHA: I'm Becca Haupt Aldredge, also from Bucknell. The students joining us are chemistry major and Spanish double-major, Jake Kozora, Class of 2023; accounting major Sarah Hanlon, Class of 2024; and Arabic and Arab world studies major, Allure Cooper, Class of 2023. They represent majors from all three of Bucknell’s colleges and have participated in study abroad programs on three different continents. Welcome to the podcast.
[00:01:01] JK: Thanks for having me.
[00:01:02] SH: Thank you for having me.
[00:01:03] BHA: To start us off, can you each share where you studied abroad as a Bucknell student and what kind of program you were a part of?
[00:01:09] AC: Yes. I took a semester-long program in Amman, Jordan through CIEE, and it was mostly courses. But there was the opportunity to take on an internship as a course.
[00:01:24] BHA: Allure, can I ask what CIEE is?
[00:01:26] AC: Oh, it’s a study abroad program that has a bunch of stations throughout the world like Latin America or the SWANA region, Europe, Asia. It's an independent organization, but Bucknell has recognized them as a study abroad program that students can go on, and like the courses mostly are recognized.
[00:01:49] BHA: Very cool. I hadn't heard of that before. Thank you.
[00:01:51] JK: For me, I studied abroad in San Jose, the capital city of Costa Rica. It was a three-month program where I took classes at a local university, called La Universidad de Veritas. I took four classes, just like a normal semester at Bucknell, and they were focused on Spanish and the environment.
[00:02:08] SH: I did an eight-week Bucknell in Dublin summer internship program.
[00:02:12] BT: Yeah, that's a really great roundup of diverse places and programs. So when it came to knowing you wanted to study abroad, when was that something that you decided? Was it something you knew you wanted to do coming into college? Or was it something that you discovered once you got to Bucknell?
[00:02:26] AC: Yeah. So for me, it was definitely something that I knew I wanted to do going into college. It definitely played a role when I was choosing Bucknell, just because so many of the students here do end up going abroad. It felt comfortable, and I felt like they would have a bunch of different options and the support that I needed to choose the right program for me.
[00:02:46] JK: For me, it didn't influence my decision to come to Bucknell. But I knew very early on that I wanted to study abroad, just because one of my majors is Spanish, and I knew that I wanted that language immersion to become fully fluent.
So I just went to Bucknell’s global education page, and they allow you to search by region. It shows you all the programs from providers that Bucknell has partnered with. We kind of mentioned providers earlier with Allure. My provider was called ISA. So it was a program that no Bucknell student had done before, but it was still listed because it was partnered with Bucknell.
[00:03:16] SH: Yeah. I'm like Jake in that studying abroad didn't necessarily influence my decision to come here, but it was something that I thought about. I think on Admitted Student Day, everyone was talking about how many people go abroad. I think there was a global education table, and that seemed like a benefit of going to a school where it's highly encouraged to explore the rest of the world.
[00:03:41] BHA: It sounds like for all of you, when the time came and you were here at Bucknell, the website is the first place you turn to begin to find resources and information.
[00:03:49] SH: Yes, definitely.
[00:03:51] BT: Yeah, the website is a really great resource for seeing all the different options that a school has to offer in terms of study abroad.
Last episode, we spoke with Trace Coates and Jen Fritz, who are two staff members in Bucknell’s Global and Off-Campus Education Office, who helps students like yourselves navigate study abroad, once they looked at the website, kind of gotten some ideas about where they might want to go. What kind of support did you get from Global Ed throughout the process of finding and signing up for a study abroad program? Allure, what did it look like for you?
[00:04:34] AC: For me, first, I met with my advisor to get like a pre-assessment of programs that were available for Arabic specifically, and then I met up with a study abroad advisor. I had Marguerite Santorine, and she helped me navigate the process of applying to the program and finding courses that fit with my major requirements in general. She helped me figure out logistics of all the different steps in the application. When I first started, I was considering doing the internship option that was offered by my program. So she helped me figure that out because it wasn't something that was available to students that had taken the program before. So that was very helpful.
[00:05:29] BHA: And it's great that we have three students here with such varied studied abroad experiences. I'd love to hear a little bit more from each of you about what it was like living and learning abroad in your respective programs.
[00:05:40] JK: I would definitely have to say that it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me. There just won't be another time, I don't think, in my life where I’ll have the luxury of being able to live abroad for such a long period of time, living in such a different culture.
I lived with a Costa Rican couple and one other abroad roommate. He was from Washington State. A couple that I lived with was in their 70s, and so they were very traditional Catholics, and they did not speak any English. So we ate breakfast and dinner with them every single day, and they did our laundry every week.
For my classes, they ran on a Monday/Wednesday and a Tuesday/Thursday schedule. So with no Friday classes, we had a three-day weekend every single week. This really allowed us to get out there and travel. Each weekend, my friends and I picked a different volcano, waterfall, beach or rainforest to visit, and we saw exotic animals all across the way. While I did not pursue my other major of chemistry abroad, I also had the opportunity to join a local biomolecular lab and was able to help them out in a variety of ways with my chemical knowledge.
[00:06:38] SH: So for me, I think the coolest part about my study abroad experience was my internship. I worked at a law firm in Dublin, and that was just so great because it truly kind of forced me to immerse myself with the local culture. I was working with all local people, and it was just great to form those relationships. They would give me recommendations for places to go, places to eat, things to see around Dublin. That was definitely very valuable being in a new place.
I would say the other component of my abroad program that was really great was that it was a “Bucknell In” program, which means that it was me and about 30 other Bucknell students, as well as some Bucknell faculty over there. That was just wonderful being in a new place, but knowing I kind of had that safety net of people who were familiar and who I could go do things with. So it was definitely a lot of fun.
[00:07:28] AC: For me, I would say one of the most valuable parts of my study abroad experience was staying with a host family as well. I was in Jordan. It was just me, one other student from Milwaukee, and an older woman. It was a very sweet thing where we would eat breakfast every morning. At night, we would eat dinner together. After dinner, we would sit in the living room and watch Bollywood TV shows for about three hours, and drink tea, and eat sweets. It was just such a nice time to bond with my host mom and my other peer.
We also got to meet the extended family. We got to meet her sisters, and nieces, and cousins, and take part in different occasions. They had an Easter dinner, and we got to attend that and really be welcomed as part of the family. And that sort of immersion into the culture, as well as the language because we did a bit…We call it Arabizi, like Arabic and English, because my roommate actually came in without speaking any Arabic. So it was a great learning opportunity for both of us. Yeah, I just loved the experience a lot.
[00:09:03] BT: Yeah, it sounds like that relationship piece was really big for all three of you in that immersion process of really getting to know people in this new place and culture, whether that was sharing meals or watching Bollywood movies or getting recommendations from folks that you were working with or bonding with other students.
Immersing yourself in another culture, language and landscape can be really exciting. But I imagine it's also equally parts nerve-wracking, especially if you've never left the country or maybe don't have tons of travel experience. I know all three of you had some prior experience traveling abroad before coming to Bucknell. But what advice would you give to a student who hasn't traveled that extensively before?
[00:09:43] SH: I would say balance. Finding balance is really important from the beginning. Studying abroad is so exciting. It can kind of feel like vacation at first, but that's not necessarily the reality of it. You are taking classes. For me, I was doing an internship. On top of that, it can just be really draining being in a new, unfamiliar place where you're meeting new people.
Sometimes, there's just a lot of pressure to make the most of it by going out and exploring constantly. But really, it is okay to kind of take a step back. You can have a lazy Sunday every once in a while. No one's going to say you didn't make the most of your abroad experience. So just don't feel guilty about that, and really be careful about avoiding burnout and still being kind to yourself and giving yourself some downtime, even though you are having this great experience.
[00:10:34] BHA: That’s such great advice, Sarah, and I can imagine how it'd be really tempting to pack all of your days and then easily become exhausted. So that's a really great reminder for anybody who has an upcoming study abroad experience or hopes to have one in college.
We talked a bit about getting assistance from Global Ed earlier and the staff members who supported you along the way. So let's talk more specifically about how you prepared for your study abroad experience, beginning with safety. There's a lot of health and geopolitical considerations when traveling abroad. So what helped you feel safe and secure before heading to your destination?
[00:11:07] JK: Oh, yeah. Safety was definitely kept in mind by both Bucknell and my program provider. From Bucknell, I was required to get a physical before going, and they recommended different vaccines that I could get. As well, they made sure to check my itineraries for all my flights, and they also made every abroad student download an AlertTraveler app, which would just alert you to any changing geopolitical types of things in your country. On the provider side, they prepped us before going on how to pack. You have to keep in mind different things about like clothing and modesty. For example, I needed to wear a lot more jeans than shorts, just because shorts aren't really as big of a part of the culture down there.
So they were also very frank with explaining the reality of the situation. We are there as students, but we're also tourists, and there are a lot of people in the country that target tourists, just knowing that they have money. So we had to keep in mind that. Safety considerations for women were a little bit different for men. But all of this, they made sure to be very clear. They always provided shuttle services if someone did not have a man to walk with. Yeah, we had some different safety considerations than maybe you would here at Bucknell.
[00:12:17] BHA: Yeah. Thanks for sharing that, Jake. Allure, was your experience similar or maybe a little bit different?
[00:12:22] AC: My experience was similar in that I have the same support from Bucknell —downloading the safety app and getting a physical, even talking to my advisor who's been to Jordan. He helped me to set an expectation for the different safety precautions to look out for. My program also gave us some tips during the first week that we got there about traveling in groups and, before getting there, about packing so that everything's fairly modest.
In Jordan, it's pretty conservative in terms of dress. So you want to make sure to have enough long sleeves, jackets, longer pants, which will make you feel more comfortable and not standing out as much. As a visitor to a relatively homogenous country, you already stand out, so that's helpful both ways for making like you feel more at ease and conforming a bit more to the society’s standards.
There were also some considerations to take because, in the Middle East, there's a lot of like geopolitical concerns. There's a reason why most places you aren't allowed to travel to according to Bucknell’s policy, just due to safety risks in terms of conflicts that may or may not be going on. It was something that I definitely had to talk with my parents about. They wanted to make sure I was safe.
But in general, it was easy enough to stay safe, and you just have to be a little bit more cautious studying abroad as a woman and knowing that some things might happen. But having a support system — like all my friends, being able to call my family back home — all that really played a role in making me feel safer.
[00:14:24] BT: Thank you both for sharing those experiences. Staying safe is an important consideration when traveling really anywhere, and it sounds like having that support system at Bucknell not only prepared you to navigate a new culture safely but also with confidence as well.
Speaking of navigating a new culture, I'd love to hear more about how you ensured that you had the knowledge and skills you needed to engage with new places and people while abroad. Allure, what did that look like for you?
[00:14:58] AC: Yeah. I made sure I had at least a good amount of knowledge and skills to go into my study abroad experience with the goal of cultural competency, recognizing that I am a foreigner coming into a place that has norms and values that are somewhat different from my own, and somewhat similar in ways that I would never be able to know before getting there.
So what I did to prepare was, again, talk to my advisor. I went on YouTube to look at videos of other people who studied abroad, with the intent of seeing how they adapted to the culture coming from the States. I also have a background in taking a lot of workshops centering diversity, and being aware of cultural differences and how to adapt to them — not necessarily to assimilate, but also being conscious of like not staying in a bubble. Because I think it's very common for students who travel abroad to want to stay within their bubble of people that they know, who all speak English, who are from a similar background, as opposed to being more outgoing.
I'm very grateful that I've gone through trainings with Multicultural Student Services here at Bucknell. With residential education, they require it to become an RA. I think that education I have received, in addition to like different classes and Critical Black Studies, had prepared me somewhat to go into this experience with a bit more self-awareness.
[00:16:54] BHA: Along with faculty and staff support systems, Allure, you mentioned conversations with your parents, seeking both support and guidance as you got ready to head to Jordan. When it came to your desire to study abroad in college, what did those conversations with parents look like, and what's your advice for others that might be navigating those conversations with their own families around their interest in studying abroad? Sarah, I'd love to hear from you.
[00:17:17] SH: Sure. So for context, my parents both went to kind of local schools where study abroad wasn't really a big thing. So this was definitely something new and exciting, and I would say that our conversations kind of started with that sort of framework, where they were just really happy that I got to have this kind of opportunity that they maybe didn't get to have during college.
But I would also say another really important part of our conversations was just about transparency. While I was over there, what were the programs that I was doing looking like? Where was I living? Who was I with? Just kind of building that trust even before I left so that when I was in a different time zone, maybe they would text or call me, [but] they weren't freaking out because I wasn't responding right away. So it really just looked like building that trust beforehand and also just focusing on the benefits. I guess that would be my advice for other people entering those conversations.
A lot of times, I feel like my parents didn't want to hear, “Well, I want to go abroad because everyone's doing it. It's like the thing to do now.” But there's a reason everyone's doing it, and that's because it has just a ton of benefits in terms of building cultural humility and really immersing yourself in somewhere new. You really do come back with a new perspective and a new level of independence. So I would say focusing on that with your parents, for me, was really helpful.
[00:18:36] BT: Yeah. It's that aspect of not only being a tourist while studying abroad, right? But really immersing yourself in a cultural exchange in order to learn and even contribute to the place that you're experiencing.
Well, we're quickly approaching the end of our time together. But before we close, let's expand a little bit more on some of the things that Sarah was talking about when it comes to why students should consider studying abroad. I'd love to hear each of you share why having that experience in college is so valuable.
[00:19:10] SH: Sure. So I know I talked a lot about immersing yourself in the culture. But I guess, theoretically, that's something you could do traveling at any point. I would say the best part for me about doing it in college is that it's the perfect balance of being supported, yet independent. For me, I was on a “Bucknell In” program, so if I wanted to go out and do something on my own, experience something on my own, I totally could. But at the same time, I had so many resources. If I just needed someone to ask a question to, or if I just felt like it was overwhelming and it was too much, I really did still have that support there, and I really think that support is something you can only find in college, because once you graduate, they don't really have programs like this to travel.
Then, of course, like I said, my internship was just such a great experience, and I feel like the workforce is only getting more global more and more. You're going to graduate and go into jobs, where you interact with people from all over. So having the chance to kind of start building those soft skills now was a really valuable experience for me.
[00:20:14] JK: Yeah. I think that we'll probably all touch on similar things here. But I think a lot of me and my friends agree that one of the most valuable things in college is just exposure to new perspectives and figuring out and expanding your own personal thoughts and perspectives on a lot of aspects in life.
I think when you're not exposed to like other perspectives, it's very easy to just fall into line with similar thinking as others. But I do think that this stagnancy can be kind of dangerous. So exposing yourself to like new and different perspectives is one of the most valuable things in our increasingly global world. Conformity and thinking does not lead to change,so taking that extra step and getting out there is really important to growth in society.
[00:20:52] AC: I would echo what Jake and Sarah have already said, while emphasizing the part about why study abroad in college, as opposed to another time. I would say that college is a great time for learning, and making mistakes, and for letting yourself take risks in a way that you can't do maybe later in life.
If you study abroad after college, you've got a job already. You're taking out time off work and spending a whole lot of money, and you may be very concerned about keeping everything to this ideal or like taking control of the experience as much as possible because you don't feel like you can take as many risks. You're already risking enough to go on this adventure. But while you're in college, you can be in this learning zone, where you can really go out of your way to experience new things, and make mistakes, and apply it to your life going forward in a way that's a little bit more freeing than I can imagine you would otherwise after entering the workforce.
It’s truly an amazing experience, and I would recommend it to anyone because you're going to come back with a nuanced perspective on so many different aspects of life.
[00:22:21] BHA: You all touched upon so many big topics, and they all, I think, could kind of be wrapped up in what's really a student-development theory of an environment that provides both challenge and support, where you have the structures in place and the people in place that you feel supported and safe and capable to go out and do this big, brave thing. But at the same time, you're also encouraged to go take that challenge, or take that calculated risk, or try something that's a little bit out of your comfort zone. I'm really glad that each of you got to have that experience.
So if you were to leave our listeners with maybe just a bite-sized version of that, what do you think the biggest lesson you learned is during your time abroad? Sarah, let's start with you.
[00:23:04] SH: Sure. So we've touched on it quite a few times now, but it really is all about the people you meet while you're abroad. For me, the biggest lesson I learned was just to keep myself open because you never know who's going to be around the next corner and what you might open yourself up to.
[00:23:19] JK: Yeah, I definitely agree. Keeping open is a great lesson. I definitely met some people that I did not think that I would become friends with. But for me, I think my biggest lesson was to just use my time better and to seek more new experiences. There was just so much to do and see in Costa Rica, and we had a limited number of weekends. So we were just constantly moving and jam-packing in our schedules. I feel like in my normal life, it's very easy for me to just use my free time to relax and to push ideas off. But now, I'm much more likely to be spontaneous and maybe seek discomfort and take that first step to do something.
[00:23:51] AC: I would agree. I would say my biggest lesson or biggest takeaway from study abroad is focusing on learning, as opposed to achievement. At Bucknell, we can be very achievement-driven. You want to get all the As, and be a president in all the clubs and show off all the things that you've done and accomplished. But being abroad really gave me the opportunity to step back and focus on personal development, making connections and prioritizing what's the process, as opposed to the reward.
[00:24:29] BHA: I think that leaves some listeners with some great insights and maybe inspiration to fuel their own study abroad experience when the time comes. Thanks, again, to a Allure, Jake, and Sarah for sharing your advice and perspectives today.
[00:24:42] SH: Thank you for having me.
[00:24:43] AC: Yeah. Thanks for having me.
[00:24:43] JK: Thanks for having me.
[00:24:44] BT: And thanks to everyone out there for listening. If you're a fan of the podcast, please take a moment to rate, subscribe and share this episode with the students in your life.
[00:24:52] BHA: We'll be back with another new episode in two weeks. In the meantime, send your questions, comments, and episode ideas to email@example.com. We read every note you send.
[00:25:03] BT: And you're invited to follow Bucknell on your favorite social media apps. Just look for @bucknellu on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and TikTok. You can also follow our student-run Instagram account, which is @iamraybucknell. You'll definitely catch some students posting about their study abroad experiences on there.
[00:25:21] BHA: Until next time, keep reaching for your dreams and your dream school.
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