Traveling Abroad: Earn Credit Hours While Having Fun or Plan Your Own Trip?

By GABRIELA KOEPLIN

The Seven Wonders of the World; it is said you have to see them before you die.  Be it the Great Wall of China, the Great Pyramid of Giza, the Golden Gate Bridge, or Stonehenge, the sites will astound you.  Wanderlust is the strong desire for or impulse to wander or travel and explore the world, to discover one’s very existence.

There are many ways for people to travel in this day and age that will allow them to embrace their wanderlust. Many people find time in their lives to travel before settling down.  Some people chose to wait until they’ve graduated and others chose to do it before college; both without realizing the unique opportunity that college can provide.

Study abroad programs are made for students who have the desire to travel to other countries and learn about their culture. With this wonderful opportunity, students can choose which countries they want to visit, and actually receive college credit for traveling. If you know about this fantastic opportunity, would you chose to travel alone and create your own itinerary, or would you go the easy route and have everything set up?

Associate Professor of Communication and Interdisciplinary Studies May Gao recommends that students try the study abroad program at Kennesaw State University.

“Students can earn up to 9 credit hours for three courses abroad. It’s beneficial for students because faculty shows students around. They arrange meals, hotels, and business visits. All students have to do is learn and observe.”

According to Gao it is easier to move to a foreign country after visiting with the study abroad program from Kennesaw; 40 percent of students involved in the program eventually move to other countries.

In her Intercultural Communications class at KSU, Gao teaches her students about different cultures all over the world, and prepares them for traveling. One of the topics covered was “culture shock,” which is a mental state people experience when they are completely immersed in cultures unlike their own. Differences in food, language, work, and business etiquette are just a few of the main topics that people have problems with. Gao states that when traveling abroad with KSU, culture shock is experienced less because you travel with a group of students and faculty. You are able to speak your own language
and see people you know on a daily basis; this helps sidestep complications to traveling such as culture shock.

A Student’s Perspective

KSU graduate Kristen Carusos is one of the students who’ve taken part of the study abroad program. She graduated from KSU in the spring of 2012 with a degree in International Affairs and a minor in French.  While attending KSU, Carusos used the study abroad program to travel to China.  This introduced her to Chinese culture and language.

However, she stated that the dealing with the paperwork and trying to get credit for the hours spent abroad was an unnecessary hassle.  She would visit China once more through a more independent program that she found through a study abroad fair.

“My first trip to China through KSU made me want to go back to China. My second trip made me want to move to China,” Carusos said.

Each time she traveled abroad, Carusos mentioned that her friends who lived in China helped her the most.

Carusos moved to China shortly after her graduation from KSU.  Keeping in touch with her friends from America is easy with the ability to use Skype and WeChat.  Carusos also keeps a blog about her life and adventures in China.  Adjusting to the move has posed some challenges.

“Studying abroad prepared me in some ways, but when you are in a study abroad program the program director sets everything up for you. When you move there by yourself you have to do everything for yourself in Chinese – everything from renting an apartment to
setting up a bank account, to getting a cellphone,” Carusos said.

Carusos and Gao both agree on a few things.  The study abroad program is beneficial in introducing students, and new travelers, to new cultures and experiences.  Both women agree that people should travel and experience other cultures in their lifetime.

Which side of traveling is better? Is creating your own path through the difficulties of traveling worth being able to make your own itinerary and setting your own goals? Or is it better to have all the benefits of traveling with a group you know, and have everything
planned out for you?

Either way, traveling is an important experience that broadens your horizon and helps you see things in a different perspective. Wanderlust. Go ahead and give in to your own desire to wander and explore the world.

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