● By Wendy Sipple
When Folsom native, James Crader, first heard about an opportunity through Sacramento State to study architecture and interior design in Venice, he knew he had to jump at the chance.
“You’d be hard-pressed to find another opportunity in your life where your sole commitments are to wake up, learn and explore. It was an amazingly freeing experience,” says Crader.
Whether students seize the opportunity during their college years, as Crader did, or venture out through an exchange program during their high school years, studying abroad is undoubtedly among the best ways for young adults to learn about other cultures and grow into well-rounded citizens of the world.
Angela Covil of Plumas Lake explains her growth during her semester at the University of Malta. “Immersing yourself into another culture shows you people around the world aren’t so different fundamentally,” says Covil. “Everyone has hopes for the future, a need for friends and relationships, and a desire to be respected and recognized as individuals.”
Becoming more tolerant is one of the many life lessons learned abroad. Echoing this sentiment is Melissa Schmidt, a Garden Valley native who studied for a year in Lund, Sweden, “Having grown up in a small town in the Foothills, I was very much used to being established and known...and while it was very hard at first to be somewhere where I looked, sounded and acted different than the average person – it ended up being a huge growing experience.”
Jill Parish of Folsom, who traveled to Denmark the summer before her junior year of high school, agrees. “As a high school student, it is easy to get caught up in all the day-to-day high school stuff, but traveling abroad helped me to see that the world was so much bigger than just me.”
Not only does traveling abroad provide academic and cultural experience, it can also broaden the student’s horizons for the future. Take, for example, Charles Lee, a former Loomis, Del Oro student, who after his sophomore year, decided to transfer to Taunton School in England (tauntonschool.co.uk) as a boarder from 2006 through 2008. As one of the first American International students to study at the private academy for an extended period, Lee became an unofficial spokesperson for the international program at the school – and, subsequently, for America. Tauton Registrar Declan Rogers describes Lee as having “pioneering American spirit.” He says, “Since Charles studied at Taunton, there has been an 85 percent increase of hits to our Web site from California. He was a fantastic ambassador for America and showed everyone here how tremendously successful American students can be.”
If your student is in high school, check with their school’s counseling office or foreign language department to see if they recommend particular exchange programs. University students can check with their school’s study abroad office. If the school doesn’t offer a program that suits you, check out affiliate programs of the school, like Council for International Education Exchange (ciee.org), which offers credit programs in a plethora of locales