What does international education mean to you?

International Education could easily be defined as education that occurs internationally; but it carries with it so much more than that. College students are bogged down with the word “education” everywhere they go – and honestly, it doesn’t sound very appealing. Mostly, the word “education” carries expectations, stress and a lot of times, debt.

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For me, my “international education” was actually an “international experience.” I believe wholeheartedly that when students go abroad to study (whether that be an American student going abroad, or an international student coming to the US), they gain a different type of experience along with their educational classes. The classes and credit hours are only a small (but still significant) portion of what a student will learn when they travel.

An international experience is about learning a culture. It’s about learning what that culture represents and getting to know the people behind it. It’s about speaking the language (or at least trying to) even if you’re not extremely confident. It’s also about being humble and being accepting of a different culture – and sometimes even embracing it and loving it by the time you leave. It’s also about realizing that you can leave your heart in different places of the world and fall in love with somewhere that’s thousands of miles from home.

Even though the experience will eventually end, international education doesn’t end there. When a student returns from any study abroad, no matter the length or location, it’s then their duty to share their changed perspectives with their peers and colleagues. If not for international experiences and encounters, our world – and especially the Untitled States) would have remained stagnant for generations. Learning is about being able to open the eyes of others with your stories of relationships, new food, new interactions and an overall changed outlook.

Erin Golden is a senior Strategic Communication major who studied abroad in Spain and Southeast Asia. Erin is also a Peer Adviser at the Office of Education Abroad. Visit her during walk-in advising hours every M-F from 1-4pm or email her at eg684710@ohio.edu.

Meet the Staff – Kirsten Dabelko

KirsteneditedName:  Kirsten Dabelko

Position: Program Coordinator. I work with several OHIO faculty-led programs as well as all the exchange programs open to students at OHIO.  I work closely with faculty members who lead programs abroad so that I am better able to advise students, who might be interested in participating.  The exchange programs are a very interesting group of programs to work with.  They provide students with a very different and somewhat more independent model for studying abroad, and I really enjoy working with this student population and our partners abroad.

Education history: I have an MA in English and American Studies from Odense University in Denmark.  During those studies, I came to OHIO as a student on the Denmark exchange.  Later I returned to complete an MA in Political Science here and then went to University of Maryland for a Ph.D. program, however I ended up leaving UM with an MA instead.

How long have you been at the OEA: Since November 2013.

Favorite aspect of work: I love coming to work every day for many reasons.  Working with students who are curious about the world and international experiences is my favorite part.  I also enjoy working with an amazing group of truly dedicated colleagues.  The OEA has a very dynamic and forward-thinking atmosphere, making it a fun place to be.

Experiences Abroad: Given that I am from Denmark, my study abroad experience was coming to the United States, where I have lived and worked in three very different states.  I have traveled throughout most of Europe, primarily as a tourist and been fortunate to also visit Chile and Costa Rica.  While at UM, I lead three different study abroad programs to the Czech Republic, Denmark and Costa Rica.

*The post is a part of  a series of “Meet the Staff” posts. Each week different staff members from the Office of Education Abroad (OEA) will be featured. You can contact Keely at 740-597-9039 or dabelkok@ohio.edu.

Social Media Versus Social Life Abroad

best-cell-phone-plans-2-11ep8kqLong before I arrived in Moscow, I knew I would need to find some way to communicate with family and friends back home. Three months is a long time, especially for parents who send their daughter to a country which frequently makes the news for riots, political tensions and anti-American sentiment. My family wanted to periodically make sure that I was still alive and well. I myself wanted to stay updated on the lives of everyone else. Some of my friends were graduating, others joined the army and even more were studying abroad themselves. Amidst that were breakups, hookups, stresses, successes and major life events galore.

In order to keep up with all of this, I needed a couple things. First, there was the technological component; I would have internet access, Skype and Facebook and a phone with an international data plan which would allow me to use all of the above even when away from my host family. These things were relatively simple to find and everything was figured out ahead of time. The next, more complicated part involved time management skills and balance.

When my family hosted a Turkish exchange student my senior year of high school, we learned that her provider’s policy was to allow her only two hours of internet communication per week. Considering the amount of time their American daughters casually spent on Facebook every day, my parents considered this rule pretty drastic and more or less let Alara do as she pleased. However, my reasons for traveling to Russia did include learning the Russian language, growing close to my host family and making new Russian friends. I wanted to find a way to accomplish these things without going to the extremes of Alara’s program.

When I was in Russia, I spoke with American friends about once every day or every other day. I Skyped around once a week and called my parents once every other week. I used Facebook regularly. In order to make up for what I felt were decently long periods of time

speaking and writing in English, I would follow up these conversations with Russian activities. I tried to watch movies and cartoons in Russian, work through Russian texts and listen to Russian music or the radio. After a Skype call with my best friend, I would sit down in my host family’s kitchen and start a conversation with Sasha, my host sister. After a couple weeks, I found my solution. This way, I felt like I was able to keep in touch with family and friends without losing touch with my current reality in this amazing new setting.

While what I did worked for me, I wouldn’t prescribe it for every Bobcat abroad. My advice for the traveling student: find out what you want from your experience and shape everything, including Facebook usage, around that. Balance means something different for every student; it is up to you to figure out how much is too much when it comes to keeping in touch.

Anna Mendlein is a junior Social Work and Russian major who studied abroad in Moscow, Russia during the Spring 2014 semester. Anna is also a Peer Adviser at the Office of Education Abroad. Visit her during walk-in advising hours every M-F from 1-4pm or email her at am832011@ohio.edu.

Meet the Staff – Keely Davin

KeelyeditedName: Keely Davin

Position: Senior Program Coordinator. I advise students who are interested in global programs and work with Faculty Directors who run programs.

Education: Gannon University (undergrad) and Arizona State University (graduate).

How long have you been at the OEA: I’ve been with the OEA since May 2011.

Favorite aspect of work: I really enjoy helping a student find a program that is a great fit for him/her personally and academically.  Especially for those students who think that an international experience won’t fit into their plans.  It’s very rewarding to find a way to make it happen for those students. I’ve gotten emails from students abroad in which every sentence ends in an exclamation point.  It is an exciting experience to help students discover. I also enjoy working with our faculty members who put so much time and energy into making these programs a success.  I feel lucky to be involved in facilitating such unique programs for OHIO students.

Experiences Abroad: I studied abroad in Costa Rica then spent some time volunteering in Guatemala after graduation.  I’ve also visited France, Honduras, Mexico, Spain, Czech Republic, Ireland, England, Morocco, and Brazil.

*The post is a part of  a series of “Meet the Staff” posts. Each week different staff members from the Office of Education Abroad (OEA) will be featured. You can contact Keely at 740-593-1798  or davin@ohio.edu.

Moscow – Land of the Sincere Strangers

AnnaMoscow quickly broke me of the habit of smiling and nodding at people on the street. First I noticed that people typically ignored each other on the street, unless they were looking for money or directions. Seeing as I was equipped to give neither of these, I started to look away. Then I realized that a young woman’s smile would mean something completely separate from her actual intentions, so I learned to keep my gaze down – or at least forward – and carry on my way. When talking to my professors about this difference, I heard two opposing viewpoints on the subject. The first was that American smiles are insincere and thus make up a negative cultural practice. This is compared to Russians’ glares, which can at least be considered accurate representations of their moods at the time and as such are honest and commendable. On the other hand, one professor argued that we Americans are in the right because smiles can be contagious, regardless of the actual level of happiness behind them. While I definitely appreciated hearing from this professor, I found that her thoughts were definitely in the minority.

This idea of honesty behind everyday Russian interactions became strengthened every morning as our professors started class with the typical “Как ваши дела?” or “how are you?” At the beginning of the semester, everyone answered “хорошо” (I’m good) or “отлично” (excellent). But our professors were suspicious that we all could truly be in good moods early in the morning and corrected us, saying more common answers are “нормально” (alright) or, if you’re even grumpier or sleepier, “так себе” (so-so). While in America we feel the need to demonstrate to even strangers that we’re feeling well, in Russia, it’s understandable and expected to truthfully describe your mood.

A third example of this part of the Russian mentality is the general attitude toward political correctness and protection of others’ feelings. As a social work major, I’m always concerned with semantics. Part of my future job is to carefully phrase statements as to offend no one, include everyone and make sure all parties’ interests are considered. If I were discussing anything – a book, movie, political leader, etc. – which might elicit different feelings from different people, I might wait until I heard others’ opinions before freely disclosing my own. Before that point, I would remain neutral and diplomatic. This was not the case in several interactions with my professors and host family in Russia. My grammar teacher would openly tell you that she hated the movie you went to see or disliked the prominent political leader who just made the news. In addition, terms for specific groups of people, whether in discussions about race or religion or any other factor, were less carefully used than we generally see in the United States. Yet while I might see some of these practices as being rude, cold or offensive, Russians take pride in the fact that they are speaking honestly.

I might not have picked up the straightforward social habits during my stay in Russia, but I did take home an admiration for such direct dialogue. While it took more time to acclimate to some of these changes than to others, I began to understand the Russian mindset and respect it for its values instead of measuring it against our own.

Anna Mendlein is a junior Social Work and Russian major who studied abroad in Moscow, Russia during the Spring 2014 semester. Anna is also a Peer Adviser at the Office of Education Abroad. Visit her during walk-in advising hours every M-F from 1-4pm or email her at am832011@ohio.edu.

Farang Me (or how this blog got its name)

Originally posted on Farang Me:

I can’t really say being a travel journalist is a dream I’ve had for as long as I’ve remembered. My childhood fantasies of adulthood were just as filled with firemen and superheroes as the next kid in kindergarten class. No, my goal to be a ramblin’ roamin’ writer is a more collegiate one, to be sure. It’s one I picked up while reading some of my favorite books and novels, still my favorite escape from reality (though Netflix and it’s devious convenience is quickly becoming a close second).

I always envisioned myself there, while hungrily flipping through my favorite American authors’ accounts of their travels. Burly Hemingway in Paris and Africa, posh and opinionated Eliot in London, and, of course, cool Anthony Bourdain wherever it is he would be writing from in the world that week. I saw myself, sun-glass bespectacled, a traveler’s stubbly beard poking through as I sat at…

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Meet The Staff – Lori Lammert

LorieditedName:  Lori Lammert

Position:  Associate Director, Education abroad.  I oversee our office’s program management, advising services, and office management.  I facilitate many aspects of risk management for study abroad.  I work to ensure successful student experiences by making sure all of the nuts and bolts are in place in terms of process.

Education:  BS in Journalism (at OU) and MA in Spanish (also at OU).  Go Bobcats!

How long have you been at the OEA:  Nine years.

Favorite aspect of work:  I love that we facilitate global opportunities for students and they get so much out of these experiences. We have a lot of satisfied customers.  We’re helping OHIO students toward a path of global citizenship.

Experiences Abroad: I studied abroad in both Spain and Mexico as a student  – both were immersive language programs during which I lived with a host family, which was such a great experience both times.

*The post is a part of  a series of “Meet the Staff” posts. Each week different staff members from the Office of Education Abroad (OEA) will be featured. You can contact Lori at 740-597-2730 or lammert@ohio.edu.