Tellus

Tellus: (tel’us), n. 1. [Latin] earth, soil, and the land; a country; the world. 2. a collection of Willamette University student’s insights, stories, photos and thoughts from their experiences studying abroad.

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So you plan to study abroad:

No matter which country you are planning to go to, studying abroad is an extraordinary experience; however, every experience is different, so as a seasoned study abroad student, I would like to offer three pieces of broad advice that I believe can apply no matter where you choose to go.

(1) Before you get caught up in the excitement of being in a foreign country for the next few months, you should first and foremost make sure to remember that it’s still school. It may be school in a country outside your own native one, but you can reasonably assume you will still be given work to do, and you’ll still be expected to do it. As exciting as it can be, studying abroad is precisely that:  it’s not a three-to-six month long break from school, it’s school in a brand new setting that offers it’s own means and opportunities for expanding your education.

(2) That being said, the other half of the studying is the fact that you are abroad, and being able to spend so much time in a new country is not an opportunity to be missed. So as a general advice, always be sure to say yes to everything:  unless it’s something illegal or a just-plain bad idea like doing drugs or going to rob a bank, you’re more likely to regret not participating in something than trying something new out.

(3) When it comes to trying out those new things, though, it’s important to remember that where you go will heavily influence what kind of effort you need to put into respecting and adapting to the general culture. It goes without saying that you will always have to make an active effort no matter where you go, but there is still a huge difference between going to Japan versus Nicaragua versus England. It’s quite simply safest to assume that everything you’ve learned about these places while outside of them is wrong, or at the very least heavily biased by your own upbringing, and that the best place to learn is in the place itself. People who have been to your country of choice–or perhaps even better, the program of your choice–are the closest you can get before going yourself, but that will still always pale in comparison to experiencing it for yourself.

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