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Baker encourages studying abroad

Story by Brenna Thompson, News Editor

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A unique aspect of Baker University’s academics is the overwhelming popularity and access to foreign studies. Baker is not only known for but also highly encourages studying abroad and even has relationships with Harlaxton College in England.

Every semester, students embark on education experiences halfway across the globe, taking the leap of faith to leave their family, friends and classmates to journey to a new country.

However, this decision doesn’t come easily or without hesitation as many students feel panicked, homesick and uncertain right before they leave. Not only this, but many are worried about the impact it could have on their four-year plan, which includes completing all the credentials for their major while still graduating on time.

Others stress over the financial burden of plane tickets, money for travel and tuition. Yet, studying abroad is not only an enriching life experience but an incredible chance to truly find who you are. A chance to determine exactly where you came from, but also the possibilities of where you will go.

Although studying abroad can have its ups and downs, overwhelmingly people report that it is the best and most eye-opening journey of growth, learning and acceptance.

Junior Matt Emerson said his time at Harlaxton was the most transformative and freeing time in his life. He was able to not only learn about the cultures and people of Europe but also gained insight on how to manage time and money, tools he can now use for the rest of his life.

“I spent more time in the library in England then I ever have anytime else,” Emerson said.

However, he was still able to travel to a new country almost every weekend, and even recalls staying back at a hostel in Germany to finish a paper while on a weekend getaway. Another time he wrote a group paper during a four-hour train ride back from Scotland. He said he learned time management, deciding when and where he would have the ability to work on his homework and projects.

“I just had to balance everything. Instead of fraternity and extracurricular activities, I was balancing travel and school; it was still the same,” Emerson said.

Even with the opportunity to manage and complete assignments, some students still expressed their concerns regarding the inability to take classes they would need that would be offered the semester they leave. Yet, for those students Robyn Long, study abroad director, assures students that it is not only possible but due to the large popularity and push to study abroad, Baker works with each student to make sure they will still graduate when desired while also getting to experience foreign cultures.

Long said at Harlaxton there is a course offered called British Studies, which counts for both Quest and the linked course for Quest.

Emerson said he was able to get credit for his Quest 212 and its link, which helped tremendously with credentials needed for his sophomore year.

Senior Rosie Hollis looked for programs in countries that included business classes and found one in New Zealand that fit her academic and travel needs.

“Overall, it didn’t impact my graduating time,” Hollis said.

Emerson’s advice to those on the fence, especially those worrying about fulfilling credits while abroad, is to just do it.

“I learned so much about myself,” Emerson said. “I learned how to be so independent.”

Hollis agreed, saying anyone who wants to study abroad should definitely look into it more and at least explore their options. She also said to plan ahead and recommends talking to your advisor as soon as possible to figure out which semester would work best to travel.

Emerson said he had to strictly budget each trip to make sure he had enough money for each adventure.

“It was a lot of responsibility,” Emerson said. “I grew up a lot.”

Hollis’ biggest challenge to overcome was getting out of her comfort zone. She had never even been out of the country before and questioned every moment of her decision on the plane ride across the ocean.

“Everything just worked out, I think it’s just the fact of getting there,” Hollis said.

Long is a huge advocate for traveling abroad and urges students to consider partaking in such a life-changing semester.

“There is tremendous value in knowing who you are outside of the constraints of a place where everybody knows you so well, they tell you who you are,” Long said.

Hollis also spoke on the amazing growth that she experienced overseas.

“People see me as the same person, but I have a lot of different perspectives now,” Hollis said. “I think it made me more adaptable.”

Long attested to this as well, arguing that it makes you more marketable, well-rounded and creates new learning opportunities.

“There is no other travel opportunity beyond college that will be less expensive and equal in enrichment,” Long said.

Although traveling in foreign countries can seem terrifying, Emerson said he never felt afraid or alone. He had a group of friends that looked out for one another’s safety and well-being, holding everyone accountable to stay with the group and not wander off.

“We were all very aware of our surroundings,” Emerson said.

Emerson was grateful to experience different cultures but never took his traveling for granted.

“You are a guest in their country,” he said. “You need to be respectful of that.”

Hollis said as much as she learned in the classroom, she learned so much more outside of her classes.

“You get to test who you are in a place of all new ideas,” Hollis said. “I’m me wherever I go. I didn’t realize that until I traveled abroad.”

Although Emerson visited some of the most beautiful and diverse countries in the world, he said the greatest take away of his entire semester was the relationships he built with his fellow travelers and classmates. He has visited the friends he made abroad several times and says they will be friends for a lifetime.

“We will always have that bond of that semester,” Emerson said.

Long also agreed, saying studying abroad is a socially enriching and rewarding experience.

“You automatically have something deep in common with the people traveling with you,” Long said.

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