NU’s international studies program

NU’s international studies program

By Brendan Reilly

Many students chose Northeastern for its location. The hustle and bustle of Boston, Fenway Park, the Museum of Fine Arts, Quincy Market, Punter’s Pub; these are just some of the things that make an NU student’s Boston experience complete.

But as far from home as Boston is, some students want to go even farther. That is where the study abroad option comes in. Students have the choice of more than 40 different programs in 25 countries and are eligible for full financial aid while abroad.

To study abroad at Northeastern, a student must see an academic and international studies advisor, complete an application specific to the program desired, have middler status or higher, and a 3.0 QPA.

“I chose to go to Australia because I’ve always wanted to go and it is really, really far away,” said Lauren Bard, a senior criminal justice major.

Bard had the option of graduating early, but instead, she packed her bags, hopped on a plane, and headed for the land down under. She says she would not trade that experience for anything.

“Once you graduate you have to work and pay back loans,”she said. “You can’t just pick up and go live in another country for five months. You might as well take advantage of the opportunity while your parents are still supporting you.”

Bard took classes with Australian students and says that the extremely active campus life in Australia was a refreshing experience. Some programs also house students with a local family, providing another avenue of learning about different cultures.

Beth Rascoe, associate director of the International Study Program, says the experience of spending five or six months in another country has a profound impact on the students.

“They come back and have a new understanding of cultures and where they fit in the world,” she said. “They realize that the United States is not the center of the universe.”

Bard agrees that the experience greatly impacts the students. After her Australian program ended, she spent a month backpacking through the country by herself, spending nights in hostel after hostel. She traveled to Tasmania and went deep into the Australian rain forests.

“This is a program where, while grades are important, they do not equal the education you actually receive while living in a foreign country,” Bard said.

Rascoe says that Australia is the most popular country for study abroad right now, with England, Spain, and Italy following close behind. Some of the more exotic, but highly underrated, programs in her view are New Zealand, Vietnam, and Costa Rica.

Elizabeth Beall, a middler international affairs major, chose one of the more “underrated” programs, as she recently returned from Costa Rica. She spent her time living in the home of a married couple. While Beall had studied French for 10 years, she did not speak any Spanish. When she arrived, the couple she lived with spoke no English.

“It was difficult at first because I only knew a few token words in Spanish, so I basically pointed and smiled,” Beall said.

There was an eight week gap between the end of Beall’s classes here and the beginning of her classes in Costa Rica, so Northeastern set her up with an internship for that time. During that time, she did environmental development and impact research for a company in Costa Rica. She had no contact with anyone who spoke English and had to learn Spanish “without a safety net.”

“The whole point of this program is to take the students out of their comfort zone and let them experience new things,” Rascoe said.

Beall used her time in a foreign country to learn the language, work on a banana farm, and explore caves. She also spent three nights at the resort where the reality show “Temptation Island” was filmed.

One of the things she enjoyed most about her experience was the family she lived with, whom she now refers to as her grandparents. Beall says that the majority of the Spanish she learned came not from classes, but from her hosts. She still keeps in touch with them today. In fact, before she left, Beall bought the couple cable television as a gift and pays the monthly bill from the U.S.

Rascoe says that the advantages to studying abroad are many and that several students return to Northeastern and pursue further study abroad experiences. Whether one lives in a residence hall at a foreign university or with a local family, one thing is for certain: new experiences are around every corner.

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