Study abroad: status report finds students adjusting to life abroad


by Laura Wiersema, Reporter

Wanderlust: a strong desire to travel. For 30 percent of Simpson students, that desire becomes reality when they study abroad.

When the students first arrive in the country they’ll call home for the next three months, they’re initially overcome with feelings of bliss and wonder.

“The first few weeks have felt like a vacation,” Erin Wendover, a junior studying in Germany, said. “It feels almost surreal to be in another country with new things around every corner.”

According to Bruce Brown, a Simpson professor traveling with the students in Germany, the novelty of the experience hasn’t stopped them from immersing themselves in all it has to offer.

“I have been impressed that this group has no fear which means they have jumped right into the culture by going out, figuring out subway maps, shopping, getting haircuts, joining choirs and doing things with their host families,” he said.

Aside from their classes, the students are taking time to travel within the country they’re studying in. Susan Alt, a sophomore studying in Thailand, said her favorite experience has been exploring Chiang Mai, the city where they live.

“We generally walk until we get lost or get dropped off in a random part of the city,” she said. “It’s the best way to learn about and see Chiang Mai!”

Studying abroad opens a door to a world of adventure and opportunity, one of its major appeals. Students often forget, however, that transitioning from one culture to another can be very difficult.

Hallen Phung, also studying in Thailand, said it’s challenging to be open-minded about a different culture and a way of life, like the appropriate way to dress.

“It’s more conservative in comparison to the U.S.,” Phung said.

Alt agreed.

“There is a lot to take in, such as the extreme differences in food, culture, transportation, language and general view on life,” she said.

Students currently in Germany are adjusting to an additional change. While the Thailand students live in small apartments with one other person, the Germany students live with host families.

Wendover said her biggest adjustment has been going from living independently to living with a family again.

“It is a great experience to live with a family,” she said. “But it’s been interesting to shift from being able to come and go as I please or eat whenever I want to telling my host mother where I am going and when I will be home.”

Neither students in Thailand nor students in Germany have had any major complaints or problems thus far. They’re taking each obstacle as it comes and maintaining positive attitudes.

If you were to ask any of the students currently studying abroad if they would do it again, you would receive an enthusiastic “yes” from all of them.

“I think if people get the opportunity to visit another part of the world, they should jump at it because there is so much to see and experience,” Wendover said.

If you have any interest in studying abroad, it is worth your while to explore your options. There are even scholarships available to assist students.

“Studying abroad is an absolutely incredible experience that cannot be put into words; you really need to experience it,” Alt said. “It opens your mind to new people and places, makes the world seem a little bit smaller and makes you feel more connected to the things around you.”