“My country ‘tis of thee, sweet land of…”
Well, a little bit of everything.
America, the greatest nation in the world, the leader of democracy, the beacon of hope. America, full of hypocrisy, promoter of consumerism and a rising gap between the rich and poor.
The metaphor of America as a cultural stew of different ideas is a fairly decent description of the country we live in. It doesn’t take reading a history book to understand this, so put it down, glance up and take a look around campus.
Sure, Temple’s diversity has been turned into a clichéd advertising tool, but its unique melting pot status is an indicator of a major university in an American city. The way of life in this country, from the Walmart moms to the jet-setting CEOs, is fascinating to examine.
Now, take it one step further and scrutinize American culture while eating a frozen treat from an Italian gelateria. Explore our politics with pubmates in London.
By means of studying abroad, the average Temple student does not only delve into a completely different culture but is able to reinterpret his or her own.
Studying abroad is no longer just for the typical honeymooning couple, the Lost Generation philosopher or the rich Hollywood celebrity. Temple makes it easy for students to study abroad for a summer program, a semester or even a year-long stay.
The toughest decision is whether this is the right time to do it. But with maturity and no full-time job commitments, this could be the best time to take advantage of living in another country.
Junior journalism major Ryan Judge has been living out his dream in London since September.
“I’m currently living in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea,” Judge said. “It is a very hoighty-toighty area that is not too far from High Street, the sort of posh ‘Fifth Avenue’ of London,” Judge said.
Students interested in studying in England or Ireland have a few different options based on their majors.
The School of Communications and Theater offers a semester-long program in London and Dublin. The Fox School of Business has a program at the University College Dublin’s Quinn School of Business.
But if none of these programs seem suitable, a student can register for a non-Temple program.
For the Spring 2009 semester, Rachel Donahoe, a junior history and English major, decided to study at Regent’s College in London, which offers American degrees to its students.
“It has a wide range of majors, and a main reason I chose this program was because it offered a wider and better range of courses than the other study abroad programs I considered,” Donahoe said. “Being a junior who hopes to graduate on time, I need to be able to take the courses I need for my majors.”
After choosing the right program, students interested in studying abroad must be organized and open-minded, both in a new country and at home.
“Living in London has many advantages,” Judge said. “The whole idea of a public house as a place to drink rather than a dingy dive or smoke-filled bar makes the social aspect of drinking and relaxing more palatable. But while being drunk is just as much of a pastime here as it is in the U.S., it is still noticeably frowned upon.”
With all of the sight-seeing exploration and adjustment, being in a perpetual hangover might not be the best way to take in London attractions. Before her departure in January, Donahoe is ecstatic about a semester abroad.
“Learning a new area and traveling are what I’m most looking forward to,” she said. “I’m looking forward to experiencing life outside the United States because I’ve always been fascinated by world cultures and politics, but I’ve never actually had the chance to go overseas before. This is my chance.”
With the eagerness of leaving for the land of tea and crumpets also comes the unavoidable feeling of homesickness.
“I think adjusting everyday parts of my life, such as accounting for the time difference when calling my family or finding a new place to buy every day necessities, will be the most difficult,” Donahoe said. “And it’ll be strange missing the second half of my junior year and not attending school here for a whole semester.”
Leaving the home country behind and studying abroad gives way to a feeling of “culture shock” that may initially leave an American feeling overwhelmed and out of touch with a new lifestyle.
Judge, having spent enough time in London, knows what the adjustment is like.
“The bottom line is that London is very much a globalized city with many diverse cultures and people,” he said. “True, there are large parts that are distinctly ‘British,’ but there is a large portion that is just as convoluted and muddled, without a linear form, as New York City as well as Philadelphia. There are myriad sections and places to see, and you could spend a few years here and not see it all.”
Homesickness will likely occur during a study abroad stay in some form, whether it is missing friends or family or just something trivial like wanting some ketchup on french fries.
An extended experience abroad tests a student’s patience and determination, but the end always justifies the means. If financial difficulties seem like a hindrance, there are always opportunities for scholarships and increased financial aid from Temple.
Before deciding on her study abroad program, Donahoe carefully weighed her options.
“Fight for every scholarship you can get, and don’t get let difficulties get in your way,” she said. “One thing I’ve learned is that it takes a lot of determination to do everything that’s necessary for studying abroad and even more if you’re doing a non-Temple program.
“However, some program providers offer their own scholarships, and Temple offers some great scholarships.”
Donahoe said interested students should thoroughly research programs in order to determine the best option.
“Some programs offer planned excursion trips, some expect you to make your own travel arrangements,” she said. “Some include meal plans. Others expect you to make your own food. Know what you’re getting into.”
The International Programs office is here to help, so stop by during the week to learn more information.
Judge has a dose of optimism for those still on the fence about whether or not to study abroad.
“If you have the drive and the means, or even if you don’t entirely have the means to study abroad, do it,” he said. “A person really gets a sense of himself and his relation to the world once he actually steps out and sees the rest of the world.”
Mark Newman can be reached at email@example.com.