Students share study abroad tips, experiences

Logan Raschke, Staff Reporter

Students Pamela Padilla and Esther Simon shared their experiences studying abroad and advice for interested students at the Catch Flights, Not Feelings discussion Wednesday afternoon.

Padilla, a junior Spanish education major, and Simon, a senior elementary education major, said they both would recommend studying abroad to almost anyone.

“Go to the study abroad office. They will help you get to the program that you would like to get into,” Padilla said.

Study abroad coordinator Emily Tooy said students who only speak one language are welcome to study abroad, even if they are traveling to a country that mostly speaks a language that isn’t their own.

“A common misconception is that you have to be a foreign language major or have proficiency in a foreign language to study abroad, and that is an incorrect assumption,” she said.

Tooy said students who only speak one language usually go to the UK, the office’s most popular study abroad destination, or other European countries.

The office of study abroad has over 500 programs for students; some of them are third-party programs, and others are available through partnerships with other universities.

In order to study abroad, Padilla had to apply to the office of study abroad at Eastern and for the third-party program she was most interested in.

“The study abroad office is here, located in Blair. So, if (students) have any questions, they’re super helpful,” she said. “They made the transition super easy and super helpful.”

Something students interested in studying abroad need to keep in mind is how time-consuming the process is, she said.

Padilla said there are many documents including doctor’s notes, vaccination records and other documents that must be accounted for before a student can study abroad, and getting these documents and applying usually means putting lots of time aside.

Simon, a senior elementary education major, said she recommends traveling with faculty members or other experienced professionals before students go independently.

“It would be very difficult to just go on your own,” she said. “I just feel like it would be very hard, and you probably wouldn’t enjoy it as much.”

Simon said she went to Antigua, Guatemala with her class.

As a Mexican-American, she said one lesson she learned from her study abroad is how to appreciate the seemingly mundane privileges available at home.

“In the United States, we take so much for granted,” she said.

An example she gave was how clothes were cleaned in Antigua compared to how they are cleaned in America.

She said in Antigua, most clothes are hand-washed and air-dried, so it takes hours for people to get their clothes back.

Americans are fortunate enough to have the ability to place their clothes in a machine and have the job done for them, and have it done faster, she said.

Even though she experienced culture shock, Simon said she would not trade her experience, and she is looking forward to going on another study abroad in the future.

“The buildings that I saw, the people that I saw, the music that I heard, the things that I did—I don’t know. I can’t bring it here (or) experience it like I did in Guatemala,” she said.

Padilla said she was happy she got to go to Cusco, Peru last summer, seeing as there are not many study abroad programs for Peru.

At Peru, she visited prominent destinations like Lake Titicaca, Machu Picchu and Cusco, which used to be the Inca empire capital.

“A lot of the ruins are still (in Cusco),” she said. “A lot of the cities are built on top of the ruins, so it’s kind of cool to walk through Cusco because all of the walls of that empire are still there, but the stores are built into them.”

Padilla said one of the main reasons she studied abroad was to help educate her future classes about the different cultures that speak Spanish.

“My major is Spanish education, so hopefully I’ll be teaching Spanish,” she said. “I specifically went on this trip (and) took pictures of things I’d love to show my class … I wanted to have content and authentic stuff for my classroom.”

Logan Raschke can be reached at 581-2812 or at [email protected].