Welcome Back from the Office of Education Abroad!

It’s officially the first week back to school at Ohio University and the Office of Education Abroad wants to welcome you back! All week we will be giving out FREE ice cream and information on global programs at The Scoop, right outside of our building (15 Park Place). Feel free to stop by for a cold treat or come inside to cool off during our walk-in advising hours every M-F from 1 – 4pm.

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Stay up to date with the Office of Education Abroad by following us online and on our social media platforms. We look forward to seeing your travels this year!

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London Theater

Theater has always been a huge part of my life, so it’s no surprise that I was determined to see as many shows as I could while in London. In a place like Athens, it is not often I get to treat myself to a night out watching a live performance, but in London’s West End, there are playhouses on practically every block. Needless to say, I was in heaven. In my short time there, I had the opportunity to see Phantom of the Opera, Book of Mormon, and War Horse. All three of them were incredible performances that took my breath away (and caused me to shed a tear or two… maybe). It was War Horse, however, that stood apart from the rest and really got me thinking about how theater in the London differs from theater in the United States.

For those who don’t know, War Horse is a play that depicts the powerful bond between a young man and a horse as they relentlessly try to find each other after being separated at the start of World War I. It is an incredibly emotional play that incorporates some of the most innovative props I have ever seen. It was the use of different languages that I found most fascinating, though. There were entire scenes spoken in German or French—and no, there weren’t subtitles to help those of us who did not understand a word of those languages.

This might not seem like a big deal, but when the rest of the audience is laughing at a joke that goes right over your head, you start to feel a bit uncomfortable. This got me thinking about how diverse and cultured London truly is. There are people from all over the world, and almost everyone speaks more than one language. I don’t think this rings true in America; we all speak English and that’s about it. Sure, we might know a bit of Spanish or French from the couple years we took in high school or college, but few of us are fluent enough to keep up in a fast-paced conversation.

After the show, I started wondering how this heavy use of foreign language would fare in America and felt that general audiences probably would not be so fond of it. While it might be beautiful from a playwright’s perspective, I have a feeling that the rest of an American audience would feel the same way that my fellow classmates and I felt: lost and wishing we paid more attention in French class. In London, the playwright might be able to get away with this, but it would definitely have to be adapted for an American audience.

Not understanding certain parts of War Horse did nothing to lower my pure enjoyment of the show, however. I honestly doubt anything could; it was amazing and overwhelming in the best possible way. The theater nerd inside of me was having a blast.  It is now on my to-do list to see an American production of War Horse to make comparisons and see how they handle the issue of using foreign languages—if they even changed anything at all. It is ultimately an artistic choice that lends to the authenticity of play’s reality.

Overall, War Horse is a breath-taking production that will have you craving more. Just reliving it in my mind right now is giving me chills. The same can be said for Phantom of the Opera and Book of Mormon. The atmosphere might be slightly different in London’s theater world, but it is still the same at its heart. I can honestly say that these shows were highlights of my trip and only reinforced my absolute love of the theater. I just can’t get enough of it.

 Breck Willis is a senior communication studies major who recently participated in the “Exploring Art in London” program over winter break.

Why education abroad makes you a better student

I believe the surest way to ensure your academic success in college is through at least one education abroad experience. I am proof of this.

Having the drive and curiosity and ambition required to study abroad are all markers of your own ability for achievement. But perhaps more important than all of this is taking your experiences abroad and applying them to your schoolwork and life. Students that study abroad are better-informed and more courageous students. Raising your hand to participate in class is easy after presenting in another language to a native speaker. Working on a group project is simple after having to navigate a new host family. Managing time is a breeze when you have already learned a train system in a foreign country.

This is just the start. Education abroad introduces students to a new set of beliefs and worldviews that can assist us in critical thinking exercises and improves general knowledge about other cultural perspectives. Students identify more as global citizens and gain insight on the stereotypes they hold and that others have about Americans. As globalization becomes a cross-disciplinary theme among all university programs, students that have studied or travelled abroad are able to apply personal experiences to classroom concepts.

Finally, students with experiences abroad have something to offer. Study abroad experiences are interesting and people genuinely want to hear about them. This is a huge advantage and an easy way to impress professors and peers with your prowess on a certain topic. It will also help when you leave the world of academia because it signals your confidence and academic ability to have studied abroad. An interviewer might care less if you were on a sports team, but no one really says “Oh, you studied abroad in India… I am uninterested!”

Claire Bens is a Peer Advisor at the Office of Education Abroad.  Follow her  @clairebens or stop by and see her during walk-in advising M-F between 1pm and 4pm.

Airports and Adrenaline

By: Breck Willis

        Getting myself from Columbus to London was quite the experience for a novice traveler. I had only flown once before as a child and didn’t really know what to expect; a solo international flight is in an entirely different ball park than flying to Chicago with the ever present direction of my mother. I can honestly say, though, that all of my dramatic nightmares of missing my flight or getting detained by TSA were just that: dramatic nightmares. Flying is easy. No joke.

            After doing some research—which is generally how I handle anything that makes me uneasy—I gathered that I should be at the airport three hours early for an international flight. My overly cautious side translated that into four hours just to be safe. My mind was filled with visions of mile long security lines and having to run down crowded hallways to get to my gate as I was mentally counting down the seconds before my flight left without me. I’ve obviously seen too many movies. Much to my relief, none of this happened. I checked my bags, got my boarding pass, blew through security, and was at my gate in less than half an hour. I thought for sure I was missing something it was so easy.

I was flying on New Year’s Eve, however, so that might explain why the airport was not quite as packed. Flying back from London took a bit more time, especially with customs, but it was nothing terrible. I found that the worst part of flying was by far the waiting. I have never been happier to have two books with me than when I was sitting at the gate waiting to board.

My journey was far from perfect, though. My flight coming back from London was slightly delayed due to someone’s carry-on getting stuck, so I started worrying that I wouldn’t have enough time to board my connecting flight in JFK to Columbus. This, combined with the tedious task of going through customs, put me in my place. I’ll be honest, after seeing how smooth my flight to London was I got a bit cocky. Flying home from London reminded me of the importance of always staying on my toes and preparing for the unexpected. Even though I joked with my parents about being perfectly fine with missing my flight and staying in New York, the only thing I wanted after a long day of traveling was to be in my own bed.

After reflecting on my own experience, there are definitely a few things that I would recommend to ensure a smooth—and enjoyable—international flight.

1. Bring something to do! This might sound cliché, but it is very important. There is a surprising amount of waiting when traveling, and the last thing you want to do is sit there twiddling your thumbs.  This could also lead to severe boredom and probably missing your flight because you fell asleep in a sea of luggage and strangers. A book was my weapon of choice, but pick whatever works for you.

2. Choose your seat on the airplane wisely. This is especially important when you have a connecting flight. Getting off of an international airbus can take some time, and the last place you want to be is in the very back of the plane when you are in a time crunch. The closer you are to the front, the quicker you can get off the plane and do what you need to do before boarding your next flight.

3. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. The employees at the airport are being paid to help you get where you need to be. Set aside your pride for five minutes and ask questions when you are confused. They can also jump you to the front of the line if you have a connecting flight. This was the case for me in JFK. I had one question about customs, and the next thing I know I am being taken to the front of the line after the woman looked at my boarding pass. It was great.

4. Enjoy it. International travel is an amazing experience that some people may never get the opportunity to engage in. In an airport, you are surrounded by people from all over the world with different customs and speaking in different languages.  Seeing all of this come together in one place is an awesome experience that makes you realize just how amazing our world truly is.

Flying to London was an experience in and of itself that I will never forget. It was definitely stressful, but it almost gave me an adrenaline rush. It was addicting in a way. Now all I can think about is saving money for my next adventure out of the country. Where will I go next? I haven’t quite figured that out, but I am ready for whatever life throws at me.

 Breck Willis is a senior communication studies major who recently participated in the “Exploring Art in London” program over winter break.

How to make the most of studying abroad

Preparing for a semester abroad can be daunting – you’ve literally got a world of options. Lucky for you, there is a network of people who have already gone through the entire process, and their knowledge can answer more of your questions than you probably realize. Don’t be afraid to ask when you come across something you’re not sure of. Chances are, we’ve all asked the same questions and had the same worries. I’ll address some of the big ones from my preparation, and a few things I picked up along the way.

  1. Choose somewhere you’ve never been before. Choosing somewhere familiar can make the idea of going abroad less scary, but being uncomfortable can be rewarding. One of the best moments in a study abroad experience when you stop being scared of where you are. This is your opportunity to make a home somewhere completely new, and there is nothing cooler than being able to say you made it completely on your own.
  2. Work as much as you can before you leave. Studying abroad is expensive, and it’s pretty hard to avoid that. Rake in as many paychecks as you can before you leave. Create a ‘Study Abroad Fund.’ I worked so much that I barely had a summer before my program, but it was worth it. Knowing that I was going to have the money to afford to take full advantage of my opportunity was a great comfort in the days leading up to my departure.
  3. Don’t be afraid to spend your money. No matter how much you have in the bank before you leave, it will probably not seem like enough. While budgeting isn’t a bad idea, don’t be too strict with yourself. Wait until you know what you want to do before you tell yourself you’re only going to spend X amount on this, that, or the other thing. You don’t want to blow it all in the first month of your program, but if you’re worrying about money from day one, chances are you’ll miss out on some really cool things.
  4. When you do spend your money, spend it on experiences. Buy the train tickets or plane tickets or tour buses before you buy a dinner out or another drink when you’re out. When you look at your receipts, which you will, you’ll be much less likely to bang your head into your desk if you’ve got the memories for each of those dollars that have vacated your account. The memories of trips to new places will last much longer, too.
  5. Go out alone. You’ll learn more about the place where you’re studying and about yourself this way. Don’t worry about getting lost. At best, your wandering will lead you to discover a wonderful place; at worst, you’ll have a story to tell.
  6. Find a favorite hangout and become a regular. This will make you feel more at home than anything else.
  7. Finally: Be selfish. This is your time. A once in a lifetime experience shouldn’t be spent doing things that you’re not 100% excited about. Find the things that are worth your time and your money and that will make you happiest. Don’t worry about anything else.

Amy Rubenstein is a junior journalism major in the Honors Tutorial College. She is currently studying abroad in Dublin, Ireland. Follow her travels on twitter @amyelisabethx.

“Exploring New Heights” – Facing your fears while abroad

By: Katie Foglia

Katie Foglia_Foreign Correspondent 3On my first day in Quito, Ecuador I found myself facing one of my biggest fears: heights. Quito, the capital city, sits 9,350 feet above sea level, and the elevation takes some time to get use to. It’s recommended that you drink a lot of water, get a lot of rest and take things slow the first few days in order to avoid altitude sickness. I was extremely worried about feeling sick, and started hydrating a few days before leaving the United States as an extra precaution. I couldn’t sleep the night before I left and had been awake for more than 24 hours when I arrived in Quito. I was exhausted, but excited to explore this new city that I had only seen on the Internet and in travel books.

On the first day, I reluctantly woke up after only four and a half hours of sleep. I listened to the plethora of information that was thrown at us during an orientation session, and started to feel my lack of sleep catching up to me. After orientation, our group did a scavenger hunt and ate a large three-course lunch consisting of bean and noodle soup, chicken lasagna and a chocolate nut brownie for dessert. Not quite the typical cuisine I had anticipated, but delicious nonetheless. I was tired after lunch, but I was also excited to take a tour of Old Town and to explore the city that I will call home for the next month.

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Our first stop was the Basilica del Voto Nacional (Basilica of the National Vow), a Roman Catholic Church located in the historic center of Quito. Initially, we weren’t going to go inside the church, but our tour guide told us that you could climb up the towers to view the entire city from the top. Everyone in the group wanted to go, and I knew that meant I was going as well. I immediately began to feel uneasy. I tried to remain calm and collected, but I started to slowly panic. I hate heights. I always have, and probably always will. At first I told myself I would simply stay behind. But I knew that this was an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

I eventually decided to disregard my fear of heights and go for it. I took a few sips of water and began the climb. After slowly (and carefully) maneuvering the three separate sets of steep, rickety and rusty stairs, I finally made it to the top of the tower and reunited with the other students in my group. As I peered over the walls of the tower, I immediately felt a sense of calmness rush over me. The spectacular view of the city left me speechless. I felt a sense of pride knowing that I had faced my fears and made it to the top.

Katie Foglia_Foreign CorrespondentAt the peak of the tower, the wind stung my cheeks as I slowly turned 360 degrees, I could see all of Quito and the surrounding mountains. I listened to our group’s tour guide give explanations of the various sights around the city, and (of course) took a lot of pictures. After about twenty minutes, it was time to climb back down. Let me tell you, going down the stairs was three times worse than going up them. But I eventually made it all the way to the bottom of the Basilica and was more than happy to have my feet back on the ground.

I spent the remainder of the day exploring the city and taking in the new sights, sounds and smells. I know that during my month here in Ecuador I will face many challenges. Whether it’s altitude sickness, heights, new foods, the language barrier or some other unknown, that first day proved that I’m able to overcome any obstacle. I’m looking forward to every day here in beautiful Quito, Ecuador.

 Katie Foglia is a senior in the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism and has a minor in geography and a specialization in Spanish. She is currently studying abroad in Quito, Ecuador. Follow her travels on Twitter: @ktfogs.

How traveling abroad helps you “get to know yourself”

Out of all the lectures and cultural experiences I have had while being here in Ireland, I can very easily pinpoint the single most important lesson I have learned through my time abroad: how to be alone.
I didn’t learn this because I felt alone. On the contrary—the friends I have made while being here are some of the best I’ve ever had and there hasn’t been a single day where my smile and laughter haven’t been completely genuine. I have people here; I have a support system…I have a family.
What I mean is that I’m no longer afraid of my own company. I’m no longer scared of doing things alone. I believe wholeheartedly that it is this experience that has taught me these lessons.
The obvious thing that you learn when you’re abroad is how to do things on your own. You don’t have your parents, your old friends, your normal surroundings…basically, whatever your usual comfort blanket is in stressful situations, it’s gone. So when you have problems at the bank or with a visa, you learn how to handle it yourself, because you have to. It’s an invaluable lesson, and learning it while in a foreign country teaches it to you ten times better than any other environment.
In my experience, though, the bigger lesson is in simply being alone.

I learned how to do this by making my own adventures for myself when others didn’t have the time. I went into the city alone, I went on wandering walks off campus, I sat by myself in crowded places and I just watched. I wasn’t too shy to sit down at a café and drink a tea by myself. I wasn’t too scared to venture out of familiar territory and make my own discoveries. Some of it made me look local, some of it all but shouted TOURIST, but all of it secured a belief in myself that I hadn’t had before.

Starting from scratch forces you to build a life that is all your own. You get to find your own favorite places and your own favorite people. You introduce yourself. You keep in touch, or you don’t. There’s no one and nothing to tell you which decision is best. You don’t have connections or friends swaying your decisions. You don’t have allegiances to anyone. You don’t have promises to fulfill. All you have is you. You’re creating your own environment, from the people you choose to spend time with to the things you decide to spend your time doing. This is a kind of freedom that often doesn’t come when living at home. Or, when it does, we sometimes don’t take advantage of it.

I’m not underestimating the advantages of roots. I love and am excited to get back to the life that I have in the US. My time in Ireland has simply given me the gift of comfort within myself. It’s by far the biggest thing that has come from my time abroad, and why I think that studying abroad is such a valuable thing to do. It can be so easy to just follow when you are surrounded by familiarity.

The unknown will allow you to be a leader, if you let it. (Let it.)

Amy Rubenstein is a junior journalism major in the Honors Tutorial College. She is currently studying abroad in Dublin, Ireland. Follow her travels on twitter @amyelisabethx.