Name: Schyler LaMattina
Year of Graduation: 2017
Where did you study abroad and with what program?
I studied abroad with Semester At Sea, Spring 2015. I went around the world. Hawaii, Japan, China, Hong Kong, Viet Nam, Singapore, Myanmar (Burma), India, Mauritius, South Africa, Namibia, Morocco, England.
What advice do you have for Caldwell students interested in studying abroad?
Your semester before you go for study abroad will be filled with prep for your trip. Paperwork, random errands, doctors appointments, and more paperwork. I started the application and consultation process for my study abroad in January 2014 and I would not be leaving until January 2015. There are many deadlines that need to be met on time. It is important that these all be met. I assume there was much more for me because of the nature of my program. Whatever amount of prep work you have, it is all equally important. They wouldn’t ask you to fill these things out for fun. It may discourage of overwhelm you at times and you may want to say forget it to the whole thing. If that happens, just take a step back from it for a moment and remind yourself the reasons you wanted to study abroad in the first place. For me, putting the experience back into perspective really helped get me through the nitty-gritty of the application process. As things start to fall into place, it gives you more motivation to get the next thing done and then you are one step closer to your unlimited experience.
I would also recommend attempting to get as many scholarships as you can. Yes, there are even scholarships for study abroad. There are many that you can find online through a simple search. They want to help students study abroad in any way they can because they know what an enriching experience it is and want you to have that. Depending on the program you go through, they may have their own scholarships you can apply for as well.
If you are considering short-term study abroad and think that won’t be enough time to experience someplace, think again. Any study abroad experience is better than never having done it at all. With my program, we stayed in each country anywhere from a day to six days. If you are worried about making the most out of a week or month somewhere, how do you think I did? Well, I did fabulously! It isn’t about how much time you have somewhere, it is about what you do with your time once you are there. I had a better time in my six days in India than I did in my month at the Jersey Shore. So don’t deny yourself a study abroad experience just because it is only for a short amount of time. Even on long-term programs, a semester isn’t that long in the scheme of things and it will fly by so fast. Take any time you get and make it the best of your life!
What was the best part of studying abroad?
Honestly, blowing the ships horn. Won that in the shipboard auction. Anyway, all kidding aside, the best part for me was being on a ship for 4 months. This may not relate to everyone’s study abroad experience but bear with me here. I know you probably want to hear about how learning about different cultures was the best part of my study abroad experience. That was great. But I went on Semester At Sea to live on a cruise ship for 4 months. Seeing the world was just a bonus. On the ship, I was in a community that was so different from that one that I know at home. Everyone was so accepting of one another. This cause me to be able to be more comfortable being myself. Everyone was free to be themselves because there was no judgement or discrimination. People were known for their personalities rather than what they looked like or their religion or where they were from. Friendships were formed right from the start (mostly because the voyage started with 6 days at sea and there was no internet). But then friendships were strengthened. By the time it was time to go explore countries on our own, people were grouping up and planning adventures. You don’t want to pick the wrong people to travel with so a great element of trust was fostered there.
The community was also different because the ship was not only home to the students, but also to faculty, staff, Lifelong Learners, and crew for 4 months. We all had to eat. We all had work to do. We all shared common areas. This is how colleges were when they first started. Students and faculty shared spaces and lived in a self-enclosed community. Students shared meals with professors and professors would have casual conversations with students between classes. On the ship, there were two areas to eat meals so it was pretty much guaranteed that you would see multiple professors in there while you were eating. They would even come over and eat with you from time to time. The best part? It was normal. The professors spoke to students as of they weren’t students, but rather friends of theirs. When in countries, you would sometimes be on a trip with a professor. I went to the Taj Mahal with my psychology professor. When do you ever get to say that? Even though we were interacting with our professors in casual manners outside of class, this in no way took away from their teaching in class. If anything, it enhanced it because you didn’t feel like you are just another student to them. They know your name, have had mealtime conversations with you, and have possibly traveled with you. This makes the classroom a much more comfortable environment and I found that the conversation during lectures flowed much easier.
So if I wanted to generalize what the best part of studying abroad was for me, it would have to be the different community that I was able to experience. Friendships were stronger faster. You felt more comfortable around professors. There was a greater sense of togetherness and that we all had each other’s backs. We were traveling around the world together. We were all in the same boat, literally.
Why do you recommend it?
It changes you. You learn things about yourself you possibly never would have otherwise found out. You went for one reason and find yourself coming back with a different reason. You come back a different person than when you left and you won’t even know when it happened. But don’t to in expecting a change. Go in expecting a great experience. The people you meet will become some of the best friends you will ever know. You will gain a new perspective on your own country. You don’t need to go to a third world country to have that happen. For me, I went to first, second, and third world countries and all of them have given me unique ways to look at America. Anywhere that is not like your home will give you a new way to look at your home. Studying abroad may give you new inspiration. It may cause you to reevaluate the career path you were so set on. Study abroad allows you to get out of the campus and experience a change of scenery even if it was only for a semester. You may fall in love with a country and want that to be your new home. Study abroad will give you stories that you won’t be able to find anywhere else. Another thing to put into your bag of tricks.