MiraCosta College has been sending students to study abroad for more than two decades. This spring will mark the 16th year of the Salamanca, Spain program and fall 2013 will be the 25th year of the Semester in London program. Study abroad can be a life changing experience that gives students an opportunity to not only learn about life and culture in another country, but also to discover more about who they are and what direction they want to take in life.
Christine had contemplated study abroad since high school, but on her mother's advice opted to wait until college to pursue the idea. Once at MiraCosta, Christine began researching her options and discovered the Salamanca, Spain program. Although worried that she might get homesick, 10-weeks seemed like a manageable amount of time and she discovered that she could fulfill GE requirements along the way, which was in her words "a huge plus."
She recalls that traveling and keeping her grades up during her study abroad experience was easy; learning how to manage a budget, cook, and live with other people was the difficult part. While abroad, Christine found the time to travel with new friends to Barcelona, Rome and Venice. Loving Barcelona so much, she returned after her program ended to complete an internship.
Studying abroad gave Christine the opportunity to discover who she was and what she was passionate about. She traveled to Spain as an International Relations major and after being exposed to the great artists of Spain, returned with a new found love of art. She is now an Art History major with plans of continuing her education through the doctoral level to becoming a museum curator.
Her advice to students interested in studying abroad is "do it!" Christine believes that if there's an interest, there is no reason to not make an effort to go. The program is affordable and safe, offering students an opportunity to fill GE requirements while being immersed in a different culture. "You don't just learn a lot about the culture and society, but also about yourself."
Brianne had gotten back from a high school study abroad program in Thailand shortly before starting classes at MiraCosta. With a passion for travel, she knew that she wanted to study abroad again and on her first day of school picked up the Salamanca, Spain study abroad program brochure. She went home and told her parents she was going to Spain no matter what. The spring before transferring to UC Irvine, she did.
Brianne was undecided in her major, leaning towards Psychology. Her studies in Spain guided her in a different direction. She transferred to UC Irvine and earned a Bachelor's degree in Global Cultures and a minor in World History. Brianne went back to Spain after graduating and worked in Madrid teaching English. She also found the time to go back to Salamanca to visit her homestay family.
Her study abroad experience taught Brianne critical life skills and allowed her to grow more independent and self-reliant. She chose to live in a homestay and relished the opportunity to be part of the day to day lives of a typical Spanish family, learning about cuisine and customs, while practicing her Spanish skills with native speakers. She still stays in contact with her homestay family and grew particularly close with her homestay sister.
Her advice to other students who are considering study abroad is "expect to be shocked, but embrace it. It's goes by so quickly" and to get out there and meet locals. It's easy to make friends with other program participants, but you can limit your exposure to what life abroad is really like, and ultimately, study abroad is about exposure to new cultures and experiences.