Immersive Qualities

Question: How Does Study Abroad Affect the Academic Trajectory of a Foreign Language/Culture Student?

Immersive Qualities

For a foreign language and culture student, studying abroad is the ultimate dream. I know it has been a dream of mine since middle school to travel to another country and experience their customs, language, and culture. The benefits of such an experience are innumerable, but a few of the most pertinent ones are career opportunity, immersion, and perspective.

Studying abroad allows a student to finally (literally) see what they’ve been studying in classrooms for so long. This realization brings on a question that will cross every student’s mind, at least once during their stay: “Could I actually live here?” Depending on the study abroad program, the option to intern, get a job, or research is a very real possibility. These opportunities are usually gratifying in the sense that the student can determine if what they’re doing in this new environment is applicable to their home country, or if it is worth it to come back and stay. Having that opportunity at such a young age will give a student plenty of insight into their path with their foreign language and culture. 

Moreover, if anyone has looked up “how to learn a language,” one of the most popular suggestions is always to study abroad.  Immersion is proven to be successful in developing a student’s understanding of a language. Not only do they get to practice the language of that country, but they will also become familiar with colloquial language, which is helpful for the future and speaking to natives. This comprehensive experience gives a student a vision of the rest of their academic career and how they can expand and utilize their newfound knowledge.

The combination of these two experiences as well as several others will change a student’s perspective for life. While they are there, they will think and appreciate every meal, trip, and lesson they learn. When they go home, they will apply every skill they developed there and remember where it came from fondly. Perspective sparks everything great in the world – new ideas, zeal, and tenacity come with becoming globally competent. Academically, this is beneficial for the student and their teachers; they approach their assignments with more appreciation and excitement. 

As a first year at Emory, I have not had the opportunity to study abroad, but I traveled to Costa Rica for a week a couple of years ago. It was a Girl Scouts trip where we were able to do a cultural exchange with local teenagers in the area we were in. This trip meant a lot to me – I’d been wanting to practice my Spanish for so long, and I wanted to take in as much of the Costa Rican culture as possible. Even though my time there was short, my Spanish improved and I fell in love with the country… I can only imagine this experience would be magnified over a longer period. 

All things considered, a study abroad experience can ignite a new passion or give a student the push they’ve needed to follow that passion. No one leaves a study abroad experience the same because it changes a student personally and academically. Careers that a student may not have considered could become an option, having a more complete understanding of a language can propel a student to use it in ways they never imagined, and the way it impacts them will alter their mindset forever. A foreign language and culture student’s academic trajectory will be enlightened by the study abroad experience.

My friend and I posing with two girls at a school in Costa Rica – it changed my life!


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