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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

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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Escape from In-State Through the National Student Exchange Program

by Shari Williams

When applying to colleges, I had an “out-of-state” mentality: I wanted to go anywhere besides the very state I lived in. After applying and being accepted to several schools, the cost of out-of-state tuition caused my plans of leaving Maryland to come to a screeching halt. It wasn't until my second year of college that I found my escape when a friend of mine told me about a program called the National Student Exchange (NSE).

The NSE is a program that allows college students to go to another four-year university within North America for a semester up to an entire academic year. My friend went to Florida but I chose to go to California State University – Northridge and had one of the best years of my college life. It was a great opportunity for me to experience another part of the country (I’ve lived on the East Coast all my life) and it was also a very beneficial area for both of my majors, deaf studies and broadcast journalism. To top it all off, I could still pay my in-state tuition to attend the school!

If you are a college student who would like to explore, see more of the world or know what it would be like to live in another state, the NSE is for you. For me, it wasn't only a learning experience but also a life changing one. I would highly encourage anyone who attends a college involved with the NSE to participate in it. If you are interested in the program and would like more information about it, go to www.nse.org and see if your school is one of the nearly 200 member universities.

Shari Williams is a junior at Towson University with a double major in deaf studies and broadcast journalism and a minor in entertainment, media and film. With experience in public relations, a love for music and a passion for acting, she longs to be a jack of all trades. A Baltimore native, Shari is an avid traveler and opportunity seeker. She hopes to become the next face seen on the morning news or the voice heard over the radio.


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Immigration Law Passed in Alabama

by Kara Coleman

On June 9th, Alabama governor Robert Bentley signed what supporters and opponents alike consider to be the toughest law on immigration in the nation.

The law, due to come into effect on September 1st, requires police officers to check the immigration status of anyone they suspect might be illegal if they are pulled over for some other reason. (It’s also a criminal act to harbor or give a ride to someone who is in the country illegally.) Alabama businesses are required to use the E-Verify database to check the immigration status of their employees and businesses that employ illegal aliens could have their business licenses suspended or even revoked.

Opponents of the bill are honing their attacks on the fact that public schools will be required to check the residency status of their students. Jared Shepherd, an attorney with the ACLU, said he is concerned illegal immigrants will not send their children to school out of fear of being arrested. One of the bill’s sponsors, Senator Scott Beason of Gardendale, said that particular section of the bill is intended to gather information about how many illegal aliens attend Alabama public schools, and the cost of educating them. In fact, the bill specifically states that “primary and secondary education” is a public benefit that does not require residency to be verified.

In the 1982 case Plyler v. Doe, the United States Supreme Court ruled that illegal immigrants could not be denied a public education based on their status. The writers of the immigration bill studied Plyler v. Doe previously, and the state bill contains no provisions violating it. Also, because of the way this bill was written, if one section of the bill is ruled to be unconstitutional, the rest of the law will still stand. “We want anybody who wants to make their home here to be able to do so,” says Representative John Merrill. “But we want every one of them to do it the right way.”

As a lifelong Alabama resident and current undergraduate student, I don’t believe this law will impact me personally – I am a citizen and every international student I know is either part of an exchange program or recently obtained citizenship – but I can see how it might hinder illegal students from wanting to pursue or continue higher education. The real test will be when the law comes into effect in three months.

Kara Coleman attends Gadsden State Community College, where she is a member of Phi Theta Kappa and has received the school’s Outstanding English Student Award two years in a row. Kara’s writing has been featured in Teen Ink magazine and she is a children’s book author through Big Dif Books. In her spare time, Kara enjoys reading, painting, participating in community theater and pretty much any other form of art. She plans to transfer to Jacksonville State University in August 2011 to study communications with concentration in print journalism.


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Choosing Your Study Abroad Destination

by Mariah Proctor

Most peoples’ perfect study abroad destination is dictated by major. Should you find yourself studying English, you will likely want to go to the land of Shakespeare, Keats and Wordsworth. Ancient Near Eastern Studies will likely send you to the modern Near East. Music may see you joining me here in Vienna. But if you’re undecided, here are some helpful hints in choosing a study abroad destination.

If you want to remain comfortable, have frequent Internet access and see sights you’ve heard about your whole life, go to Europe. In doing so, know you’ll see thrilling sites and learn royal history but also know that the people accompanying you will probably be on their parents’ dime and may be inclined to constant shopping, checking items off their bucket lists and taking countless photos. If you are one of those people, perfect fit.

If you’re ok with a little sweat and dirt in your shoes, explore the Middle East. It will be full of things religiously significant to multiple sects so prepared to be bowled over by devotion and the drama of clashing beliefs. Desert heat is dry but desert dwellers know spices so be prepared for some incredible taste sensations. You’ll be joined by students with specific passions; people that travel to the Middle East aren’t just traveling for the sake of traveling so make sure you aren’t either.

If you want a daily helping of potentially incurable culture shock and an environment that is both stringent about formal propriety and laid back about everything else, head to Southeast Asia. Your travel companions will likely be humanitarians and adventurers. Just avoid getting stepped on by the elephants that will be lumbering down the street.

Every study abroad has a distinct student culture. Thoroughly research not only the place but the kind of people that choose that destination to ensure it is paradise for you. But rest assured, no matter where you choose to go, there will always be plenty of ice cream.

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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Getting Along With Your Host Family

by Mariah Proctor

A practical stranger just walked into my room in her underwear to tell me not to be so rough with the cold water handle of the kitchen faucet.

Yes, living with host families is an adventure but can also be one of the most rewarding parts of a study abroad. It’s an adjustment to suddenly be sharing personal space with people you hardly know but here are a few rules of thumb that can help make the whole experience a little smoother for all.

Follow their rules, not yours. One of the biggest adjustments of attending college in general is that not everyone grew up with the same sensibilities as you did and the things you thought everyone knew (i.e., obviously mustard should be kept in the fridge) might be a ‘just you’ thing. That gets compounded fourfold when you are in a different family and a different culture so when your host family sets up initial guidelines, follow them. Even if it’s not how you would ever do things, you are in their home and you should respect their rules.

Monkey see, monkey do. For all of those other things that just have a big question mark and for which those new strangers whose , two words: watch and learn. Try to be observant and aware of the way things are done and follow suit.

Communicating isn’t stepping on toes. Don’t assume, ask! If there’s a language barrier, use some clever props or charades; through giggles and victorious discovery, they’ll figure out what you mean. Don’t feel like you’re being silly or an imposition for communicating your issues. Solving those issues will make you a less imposing presence.

Show your gratitude. Most of all, remember to be gracious and courteous! Your host family has opened up their home to you; learn all that you can learn from them because you will have no better opportunity for cultural immersion. Maybe, just maybe, these complete strangers can become like family after all.

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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Non-Traditional College Majors

by Lisa Lowdermilk

Do you feel restricted by more traditional college majors such as business, education and nursing? If so, a non-traditional major may be for you! Many colleges offer majors you may not even have known about including decision making, Egyptology and marine biology.

You may be wondering how there could possibly be a major devoted to decision making but the coursework is surprisingly difficult! There's actually a real science to making decisions, meaning you'll have to apply your mathematical reasoning skills to everything from information technology to artificial intelligence. The end result, though, is highly rewarding: You'll be able to use your decision making skills to produce soaring business profits.

The University of Pennsylvania offers a major in Egyptology, which is exactly what it sounds like: the study of ancient Egyptian culture. If you choose this major, you'll learn how the ancient Egyptians measured time without clocks, studied astronomy without telescopes and much more. Should you decide you want to pursue a Ph.D. in Egyptology, you'll even learn to read and write in Demotic and Coptic, two of the phases of the ancient Egyptian script. If you've grown up fascinated by pharaohs and mummies, consider turning your passion into a career. You might even discover an artifact that becomes as famous as the Rosetta Stone!

Marine biology, though not unheard of, is still not a very common major. UCLA even gives its students the opportunity to go snorkeling as part of the major! Past diving sites include Hawaii, Tahiti and Catalina Island (a friend of mine will be studying coral reefs in Hawaii next year). Just think: while your classmates are busy studying for finals, you could be out swimming with dolphins! Keep in mind, though, that physics, chemistry, biology, calculus and statistics are all subjects you should be proficient or above average in if you're even considering this major.

If you decide to major in any of these fields, one thing's for sure: You'll have a college experience like no other.

Lisa Lowdermilk is a published poet, avid video gamer and artist. Her poems have appeared in Celebrate Young Poets: West (Fall 2006) edition and Widener University's The Blue Route. She enjoys watching thrillers, trying different restaurants and attempting to breakdance. Lisa is now majoring in professional writing at the University of Colorado Denver.


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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

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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Should You Take a Gap Year?

August 31, 2011

Should You Take a Gap Year?

by Katie Askew

After 13 years of school, are you thinking about postponing your college experience? Taking a gap year is a common post-grad option, so don’t feel alone! Even I considered taking a semester off to pursue missionary work but in the end decided staying in school was the best choice for me. Still weighing your options? Here's some info to help you make a decision.

The first step is attending a gap year fair in your area. These fairs can show the different options available to you instead of going directly to college. There are tons of options like student exchange or travel, volunteer and missionary trips, or even jobs or internships. Possibilities like these will keep you from just sitting around for a year...and will look much better on your resume than “channel surfing” or "loafing."

Taking a gap year isn’t all fun and games, though, and getting back into the swing of school could be the hardest change to make. Not only will taking the SAT or ACT after high school be hard (Ninth grade algebra anyone? I can’t remember any of that!) but it’s also harder to get letters of recommendation from teachers and guidance counselors even a year or two after high school graduation.

The best option is to do the “normal” duties as a high school senior. Visit colleges, ask teachers for recommendations, write college essays, apply to schools, take the necessary standardized tests and get accepted to college. This is important because maybe after visiting and experiencing just a bit of college life, you will want to continue your education and be less likely to drop out shortly after enrolling. Also, most schools will allow you to defer your enrollment for one year so if you do want to take a gap year, you have a plan to follow when you return.

Katie Askew is a sophomore at the University of Minnesota pursuing degrees in journalism and English. At school, Katie can be found reading, drumming or working in the Office of Admissions. Outside of school, she enjoys traveling, teaching and performing music and spending time outdoors with friends and family. Katie loves all things zebra and has a necessary addiction to coffee. Her iPod is perpetually playing Death Cab for Cutie or classical music because she truly believes that when words fail, music speaks.


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