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Coming Home and Moving On from a Study Abroad Experience

September 15, 2011

Coming Home and Moving On from a Study Abroad Experience

by Mariah Proctor

I arrived back in the U.S. on a Friday and the following Monday was the first day of a whole new semester of classes. One second, I was walking around Paris and soaking up the romance of the city. The next? I’m back with the same pack of people as always, as though the summer never happened. I love my friends in college and I love the life I’ve created for myself, but studying abroad is a life apart and coming back to a reality that seems unchanged when you feel transformed can be taxing.

What’s worse than feeling ever single one of the 5,000 miles between the place you just fell in love with and the place you’ve come back to is that the general public (even good friends) tend to turn off when you start a sentence with “When I was in Europe...” As memories that now boast an additional silver lining spill from your lips, you will undoubtedly be met with rolled eyes and pantomimed hair flipping. It does sound pretty snooty to talk about your summer in [fill in the exotic blank] but conversation and connection with people is built up on sharing ideas and experiences. Just because your experiences involved gelato and fine art doesn’t mean their jealousy or discouraged expressions should get you down on yourself!

At points through the many months of studying abroad, you feel acutely homesick for all things familiar and for people who love you. But that old adage that you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone is true and the second you’re home, you’ll want to be back. My advice? Don’t let yourself live in a constant state of yearning for what you can’t have, don’t resent your friends for not understanding and be so grateful for all the experiences you’ve had and make that new, stronger, more cultured you the driving force for the exciting next step – whatever it may be.

Mariah Proctor is a senior at Brigham Young University studying theatre arts and German studies. She is a habitual globe-trotter and enjoys acoustic guitar, sunshine and elephant whispering. Once the undergraduate era of her life comes to an end, she plans to perhaps seek a graduate degree in film and television production or go straight to pounding the pavement as an actor and getting used to the sound of slammed doors. Writing has and always will be the constant in her whirlwind life story.

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Taking the Edge Off of Culture Shock

August 9, 2011

Taking the Edge Off of Culture Shock

by Mariah Proctor

When you’re preparing to study abroad, the images that illustrate your anticipation are the ones that you’d find on postcards. You have romantic images of sunsets and famous buildings but you often neglect the mundane – the Dumpsters, the traffic, the bathrooms. You fail to realize that your study abroad will see you taking on a new place in its entirety and those routine, everyday things are not only present but are done differently than back home. That moment of ‘that’s not how you’re supposed to do that’ or ‘the people here are so _____’ is called culture shock; take the edge off by anticipating its inevitable arrival.

There’s an emotional sequence that one experiences sojourning in a foreign land. You arrive, buzzing with the anticipation and gleefully jet lagged. Everything is still new and exciting at this point but after the novelty wears off, a sinking feeling that most don’t expect kicks in. You feel overwhelmed and overstimulated, you start to develop anxiety if you are not filling every moment with something new and valuable and, most of all, those little quirks of daily life that aren’t at all like your home life stop being charming and start being annoying. It’s obnoxious that the shower and the toilet are in two separate rooms and the people here seem determined not to smile or laugh and find it a nuisance when you do. Everyone is so quiet and punctual, not like your loud, late family back home.

Though you’ll try to stave off that sour phase for as long as possible, it will come. You will get homesick and things will not be as you’re used to. Then there will come a day when you suddenly realize that you’ve fallen in love with your new home; you didn’t even feel it getting under your skin but suddenly, you’re hooked. It’s also usually at that same time that you’re scheduled to leave.

Studying abroad is not an adventure every minute and it’s a lot harder than the recruitment people at your school will ever let on...but oh the delight in finding you love a place that at one time you’d only dreamt of visiting.

Mariah Proctor is a senior at Brigham Young University studying theatre arts and German studies. She is a habitual globe-trotter and enjoys acoustic guitar, sunshine and elephant whispering. Once the undergraduate era of her life comes to an end, she plans to perhaps seek a graduate degree in film and television production or go straight to pounding the pavement as an actor and getting used to the sound of slammed doors. Writing has and always will be the constant in her whirlwind life story.

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Study Abroad: Don’t Let Your Schooling Ruin Your Education

August 15, 2011

Study Abroad: Don’t Let Your Schooling Ruin Your Education

by Mariah Proctor

A good study abroad program is designed to seamlessly integrate the graded classes into the active, living experience so that the two aspects don’t find themselves in conflict. That is the hope but, as my roommate will tell you through frustrated tears, that is not always the way it goes down.

You’ve got to feel for the professors – they are often experts on the place you are visiting and they look into the blank, ignorant and often not properly appreciative eyes of their students and want to tell you everything there is to know to make you see what they see. Your average student, however, cannot synthesize all of that new information while simultaneously managing a new climate, new customs and money that, it turns out, is not Monopoly money and actually does deplete your savings as you spend it. All of this while trying to have a completely carefree, time-of-your-life, otherworldly good time? It can’t be done.

My advice is to forget the classes. Don’t misinterpret my meaning: Be the person who goes to class, is present in body and mind, takes in everything they can, inhales knowledge the way they inhale gelato and fancy pasta outside of class. It truly will add depth to the place. If you’re the person who is a perfect GPA, point-pinching, anxiety-ridden, stress cadet that thinks that excelling in the classroom will make you excellent as a person, studying abroad will break you.

Do as well as you can and keep up on your classwork but if you have to choose between an evening in studying or going to the opening event of the world’s largest international dance festival downtown, choose the dancing. If you can either finish some back reading for class or go to a procession celebrating Corpus Christi, don’t let a textbook literally rain on your parade. I know it will be hard but please when you prioritize, remember not to let your schooling get in the way of your education.

Mariah Proctor is a senior at Brigham Young University studying theatre arts and German studies. She is a habitual globe-trotter and enjoys acoustic guitar, sunshine and elephant whispering. Once the undergraduate era of her life comes to an end, she plans to perhaps seek a graduate degree in film and television production or go straight to pounding the pavement as an actor and getting used to the sound of slammed doors. Writing has and always will be the constant in her whirlwind life story.

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Prepping for a Summer Abroad: Logistics Edition

June 6, 2011

Prepping for a Summer Abroad: Logistics Edition

by Mariah Proctor

Experience has taught me things that the people whose excitement I share as our departure date rapidly approaches have yet to learn. Luckily, I can split my study abroad knowledge into three categories of preparation: what you’ve got ahead, what you’re leaving behind and what to bring along.

What you’ve got ahead: Being overwhelmed by the stuff you have to do before you leave can block your ability to be excited and grateful for the coming opportunity. Prevent this by finding out everything you can about your destination. Research the city where you’ll be staying and look up all the oddball entertainment in whatever genre entices you to get a real picture of what’s in store for you. If there’s a prep course, don’t miss a single moment of it.

What you’re leaving behind: Sit down a make a list of the things you need to do while you’re still weeks out and then carry it with you so you can add items like a new journal or travel-size deodorant as soon as you think of them. Studying abroad (particularly in summer) often means missing family reunions, weddings and road trips; don’t be an absent friend or relative and keep people updated on you so you don’t just fall off the map. You will get homesick – be prepared for it.

What to bring along: Give the clothes you’re bringing a trial run at home to be sure you really enjoy wearing them. Whatever you bring will be worn a lot; don’t let eight outfits become three because they’re not fun or functional to wear. Bring entertainment with you (books, movies etc.); you’d think that three months abroad would be constant exotic experience, but there will be downtime and you will want to unwind in a way that’s familiar.

Remember that no matter how well you prepare, there will be surprises. Just find joy in that journey and you will have a brilliant experience.

Mariah Proctor is a senior at Brigham Young University studying theatre arts and German studies. She is a habitual globe-trotter and enjoys acoustic guitar, sunshine and elephant whispering. Once the undergraduate era of her life comes to an end, she plans to perhaps seek a graduate degree in film and television production or go straight to pounding the pavement as an actor and getting used to the sound of slammed doors. Writing has and always will be the constant in her whirlwind life story.

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Prepping for a Study Abroad: Social Edition

June 13, 2011

Prepping for a Study Abroad: Social Edition

by Mariah Proctor

When I was preparing for my first study abroad to Jerusalem, I envisioned myself walking though the cobblestone streets and trying exotic foods and seeing wonderful sights. The one thing that my pre-departure vision never included was other people. I always imagined myself alone and having the time of my life. It wasn’t until we got together, all in one room, that I realized that girl who asked that silly question was going to be there and that guy who looked too cool for school was going to be there and that this trip was going to be full of people and not just places.

I ended up falling in love with my Jerusalem group. Those bad first impressions resolved themselves over time and we found ourselves attached to one another in a way that is much more than the “false intimacy of fellow travelers.” Study abroad rules often dictate that you travel everywhere in groups, meaning that these people are going to punctuate every experience you have in your destination of choice. Don’t let that punctuation be big ol' question marks or – worse – frustrated exclamation points.

As you start your journey looking into the faces of strangers that you will ultimately get to know better than you can currently imagine, remember what Ralph Waldo Emerson said: "Every man I meet is my superior in some way. In that, I learn of him." Everyone in your study abroad group will have something unique and wonderful to offer your experience, so be open to accepting that contribution. When you discover some great and respectable trait in a travel buddy, be confident enough to tell them so. Everyone will be feeling a little out of whack in a new place and that kind of lift will connect you and improve the adventure for you both.

Mariah Proctor is a senior at Brigham Young University studying theatre arts and German studies. She is a habitual globe-trotter and enjoys acoustic guitar, sunshine and elephant whispering. Once the undergraduate era of her life comes to an end, she plans to perhaps seek a graduate degree in film and television production or go straight to pounding the pavement as an actor and getting used to the sound of slammed doors. Writing has and always will be the constant in her whirlwind life story.

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Meet Scholarships.com’s Virtual Interns: Mariah Proctor

May 4, 2011

Meet Scholarships.com’s Virtual Interns: Mariah Proctor

by Mariah Proctor

In my senior year of high school with the decision of where to go to university pressing, I informed my musical theatre teacher that I had been accepted to Brigham Young University. He smirked at me and said “I hope you’re not going there just for religion.” My religious affiliation is certainly not the only reason that I choose BYU, but the element of the experience – being in an environment with people that share your values and standards – cannot be ignored.

Jibing with your university’s culture and atmosphere are underestimated parts of the choose-the-location-for-the-next-chapter-of-your-life process and though moving to Provo, Utah from Washington, D.C. came with no shortage of culture shock, I think I’ve found a place for myself here.

That place includes a study of theatre and German, both of which make me laugh every time I tell someone about them because neither will provide me with any guarantees after college. But life has no guarantees so why not embrace passion over practicality? The business of creation (and I believe that’s what theatre is) puts you constantly in a position of vulnerability, but the emotional growth and most of all the empathy you develop is unparalleled by any other area of study.

The high school me would laugh (or cry) if she knew that I was pursuing a degree in German. I hated my high school German classes, but I love that studying a new language helps you to appreciate and understand your own language better and see that there is more than one lens through which to perceive the world. I’m headed to Vienna this summer for my third study abroad and my first chance to put my language to practice.

I have expensive taste in experience and Scholarships.com has helped me to take my education around the world. Come with me!

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Prepping for a Summer Abroad: Financial Edition

May 26, 2011

Prepping for a Summer Abroad: Financial Edition

by Mariah Proctor

When people hear I’m getting ready to leave on my third study abroad, there are no questions asked – just resentful looks that say ‘Well, aren’t you the cultured little rich girl.’ Okay, maybe the looks aren’t that venomous but the idea holds true. If you are considering studying abroad but think you can’t afford it, listen up: You can.

My first study abroad was paid for in the way many people pay for a pilgrimage to the Holy Land: through money left by my grandparents. There was something tender about imagining my grandfather working hard as a schoolteacher and saving every penny – pennies that would one day take me to Jerusalem. But the inheritance-type funds had run dry when I was asked to go to Southeast Asia for a summer, so my second study abroad saw a more creative, financial-finagling me.

The first step in paying for a semester of international intrigue is finding funding from your home institution. Most international study programs have discount or program-specific scholarships. Also, make sure you fill out the FAFSA to get a Pell grant if you’re eligible. Not everyone knows those government pick-me-ups can be applied to international study...but now you do. Go after one!

There are study abroad-specific scholarships all over the Internet (Scholarships.com is rich with financial opportunities that can be applied). The Phi Kappa Phi Study Abroad Scholarship and the Benjamin A. Gilman Scholarship are two of the most well-known sources of study abroad funding, plus oodles of country-specific and area of study specific-grants.

If you are persistent about diversifying your sources of funding, studying abroad can be less expensive than staying on campus. The most important thing is not to let the cost of a plane ticket or the dollar-to-euro exchange rate scare you away from what will be a fulfilling experiences in your young life. There’s no rule that says only rich kids can travel; if you dream of pyramids or tropical breezes, stop dreaming and start doing. Bonus: Studying abroad provides rich material for grad school application essays.

Mariah Proctor is a senior at Brigham Young University studying theatre arts and German studies. She is a habitual globe-trotter and enjoys acoustic guitar, sunshine and elephant whispering. Once the undergraduate era of her life comes to an end, she plans to perhaps seek a graduate degree in film and television production or go straight to pounding the pavement as an actor and getting used to the sound of slammed doors. Writing has and always will be the constant in her whirlwind life story.

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Majoring in a Foreign Language Yields Lifelong Benefits

September 24, 2013

Majoring in a Foreign Language Yields Lifelong Benefits

by Mike Sheffey

As my bio states, I am a Spanish major...and I love it! If you’re considering majoring in a foreign language, here are some helpful tips:

  • It’s time intensive. Foreign languages are about memorizing and practice, practice, practice. If you aren’t willing to put in time – and a lot of it – this may not be the path for you. Also, professors like to assign many small tasks with intermittent bigger ones so if you’re one to only focus on the big pictures, you’ll be challenged with what you might think is ‘busy work’. (It’s not, though...it’s crazy useful.)
  • You should study abroad. I highly recommend a language-intensive study abroad for anyone majoring in a foreign language. (Side note: Wofford’s Foreign Language Department is now called Modern Languages because “Foreign” was too alienating and encouraged a cultural divide. Just some food for thought...) I loved studying in Chile for a semester and knowing Spanish definitely helped. Also, studying abroad is essentially required to major in another language at many colleges and universities: I know Wofford’s program helped me tremendously and it also wound up being cheaper than a semester on campus!
  • It’s incredibly helpful in life. I know that because I’m bilingual, I’ll be more desired in the job market (some jobs more than others), but it also helps with learning other languages. Similar to computer languages, once you know one, the others become easier to learn.
  • It’s a one-stop shop. Language courses cover history, humanities, public speaking, writing, team-based work as well as the actual language you are learning. Hate talking in front of crowds? Work on that but also present in another language. Not the best in research? Now work on writing a huge thesis in Spanish (at least I did when in Chile). Overall, the language aspect is the bare minimum of what you learn or accomplish. Being a foreign language major makes you into a well-rounded, practiced individual with skills that many graduates won’t get from other majors.
  • It broadens your world view. As a foreign language major, you learn very quickly that the United States isn’t everything and that the world needs its diversity and cultural mix to work and function. Foreign language majors have wider scopes than most people and a leg up on the competition in all aspects of life because they can view problems with more open minds and approach challenges from different angles.

So I urge you to consider a major (or even a minor) in another language. You won’t regret it: They’re easy to double major with and you’ll emerge a better person!

Mike Sheffey is a senior at Wofford College double majoring in computer science and Spanish. He loves all things music and photography. Mike works for an on-campus sports broadcasting company as well as the music news blog PropertyOfZack.com. He also works with several friends to promote concerts and shows in Greensboro, NC. He hopes to use this blogging position to inform and assist others who are seeking the right college or those currently enrolled in college by providing advice on college life, both in general and specific to Wofford.

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Practical Majors, Passion Projects and Getting the Best of Both Worlds

May 3, 2013

Practical Majors, Passion Projects and Getting the Best of Both Worlds

by Mike Sheffey

Today I’d like to discuss something that I’m positive is constantly on the minds of underclassmen: “What should I major in?” There’s pressure from all ends to do something that makes money but your heart wants to do something you are passionate about. What's a college student to do? Aim for something that has potential to do both. For example, I love music, I love promoting bands, I love going to shows and I love being a part of the music scene in any way that I can. My majors, however, are computer science and Spanish. Those majors paired with my interests may not make sense at first but here’s how I came to this decision:

  • I determined what skills are considered valuable across the board. Spanish is practical in this time period for many reasons. I had the opportunity to study abroad in Chile and got to use my Spanish skills to interview leading punk bands for a research project. In this case, I was able to combine what I was studying with what I was passionate about.
  • I thought outside the box. I am learning computer science so that I may one day combine it with my passion for music. After all, technology, music sharing, music streaming services and apps are the way of the future....so why not use my skills and love for tech towards my passion?

There is no right answer to choosing a major and the idea of a “practical” major (as discussed by Haverford College's dean of academic affairs Phillip Bean in his recent post for The Choice) is subjective, based on personal passion, skills and desires. You just need to be able to say, “Even though I love this, I could still study that,” and get the best of both worlds. This is also a good reason to do thorough research beforehand on what majors your college offers, though most people change their majors a few times or wait a bit to declare.

How have you decided what to major in and did you take your personal passions into consideration?

Mike Sheffey is a junior at Wofford College double majoring in computer science and Spanish. He loves all things music and has recently taken up photography. Mike works for an on-campus sports broadcasting company as well as the music news blog PropertyOfZack.com. He hopes to use this blogging position to inform and assist others who are seeking the right college or those currently enrolled in college by providing advice on college life, both in general and specific to Wofford.

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Meet Scholarships.com's Virtual Interns: Mike Sheffey

February 7, 2013

Meet Scholarships.com's Virtual Interns: Mike Sheffey

by Mike Sheffey

Hey readers! My name is Mike Sheffey and for this first post I figured I’d let you guys get to know me! I’m a junior at Wofford College in Spartanburg, South Carolina but grew up in Greensboro, North Carolina. Music and technology interest me more than anything else so it shouldn’t surprise you that I’m a computer science major...but I’m also a Spanish major and recently spent a semester abroad in Chile – an experience I’ll never forget. I love writing music, skating, photography and all things computer.

At Wofford, I’m involved mainly in Spanish-related events and volunteering in the community at Arcadia Elementary’s afterschool program. I’ve considered teaching but right, now my focus is music and tech. And speaking of tech, I work at Terrier Vision at WoCo (a name for Wofford I’ll be throwing around a lot) filming sports events and streaming them online. I’m also involved in the alternative/punk/DIY music scene of Greensboro and I also work for the music news blog PropertyOfZack.com. Music makes you feel like you are a part of something bigger than yourself and I love being able to be a voice in the punk community...and now the college community!

I chose to virtually intern for Scholarships.com because I know college can be a great experience but people occasionally need a reference point. It can be challenging yet super fun and the best years of your life. I plan to blog about common issues that come up throughout your college career: roommate problems, extracurricular activities, drama, sports, working/study habits, major choices and other key concerns – believe me, we’ve all been there! I’ll also be talking about some Wofford-specific events to give you all a glimpse onto this campus and into college life. In short, I promise to keep this blog fun yet informative and I cannot wait to get started!

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