Study Abroad: Semester in Groningen challenges communication student academically

Communication major junior Kelly Gerlak spent the past fall semester studying abroad in Groningen. She returned from her semester enamored with the culture of the Netherlands and the newfound sense of independence she found as a student abroad. 

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Study Abroad Profile: Spending summer in Senegal

International relations major senior Casey Ellis spent a month of this past summer studying abroad in Dakar, Senegal. Her experience helped solidify her career ambitions, as well as learn about diversity while immersed in a new culture and language. 

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Senior studies in Seoul

Senior international relations major Nora McKenna studied abroad in South Korea last semester for a total of four months. During her time in Seoul, South Korea she noted the different teaching approaches as well as the prominence of Internet culture.

During the fall 2016 semester, international relations major senior Nora McKenna spent four months studying abroad in Seoul, South Korea. As a visitor in a completely new country, McKenna reflected positively on her acculturation.

Before leaving, McKenna prepared for Seoul with some basic research including crime rates, popular tourist destinations, critical Korean phrases and vaccination requirements. Although she had no formal education in Korean, McKenna understood that she would bridge the language gap by picking up on important sayings when consulting with students who had also traveled to South Korea in the past.

“I wanted to experience Asia with the help of college students,” McKenna said. “The language barrier would make traveling alone challenging.”

While studying in Seoul, McKenna shared an apartment with another girl from Geneseo and two French students who were also spending the semester abroad. Adjusting to her new surroundings, McKenna found herself “lost for an entire month and a half”—she was not entirely confident navigating the city until October. 

Amidst her travels, McKenna noticed the superior cleanliness of the subway, in addition to the Koreans’ habit of taking photos wherever they go. In comparison to America, McKenna highlights the pervasiveness of Internet culture in South Korea. The Internet serves as a hub for Internet cafes that allow patrons to pay $10 for 11 hours on one of the company’s rows of computers. 

“Nothing came as too much of a shock, but everything that seemed weird slowly became normal,” McKenna said. “You slowly get used to the way of life there and the assimilation was kind of easy because they have a decent amount of things, like menus and public transportation signs in English.” 

To earn credits toward her international relations degree, McKenna pursued mostly international relations electives and political science classes at the host school in Seoul. Her favorite course at the school focused on globalization and Korean development. 

As opposed to the classroom atmospheres at Geneseo, McKenna noticed that South Korean professors favored lectures over discourse and classroom participation from students. Assessing the overall learning style she observed in Seoul, McKenna characterized the approach as less of an emphasis on creative freedom and more of a demand on the focus of the material covered during class lectures. 

Beyond attending classes, McKenna engaged in the tourist activities that South Korea has to offer and dedicated her recreational time—at least five days a week—to finding new museums and areas for exploring. 

Although she felt like four months did not give her long enough to experience everything that she wanted to, McKenna made friends that are native to the area who introduced her to something of great importance: traditional South Korean food. Some staples of Seoul cuisine include various soups, white rice, kimchi and Korean barbeque. 

“All of the places stay open so late,” McKenna said. “There is such a huge eating out culture that I never found an empty restaurant.” 

Reflecting on the highpoints of her time abroad, McKenna noted visiting the demilitarized zone—or DMZ—between North and South Korea as one of her favorite and most memorable experiences in Seoul. 

Before embarking on the all-day tour, participants must sign a waiver acknowledging the weight and significance of their surroundings. Throughout the day, participants have the chance to see North Korean soldiers and propaganda villages up-close, creating an immersive learning experience about the deep tension between the countries, according to McKenna. 

After spending an entire semester in South Korea, McKenna’s adventures helped erase the stigma about Asia being difficult or inaccessible for studying abroad. 

“I think that the best way to learn about something is to visit the place,” she said. “You can read about it, but actually experiencing the environment is completely different.”

Senior travels to Amsterdam, experiences positive mindset and culture

This past summer, psychology major senior Melanie Dudek studied abroad in Amsterdam, Netherlands for three and a half weeks. In Amsterdam, she took The Psychology of Happiness, taught by associate professor of psychology Jim Allen. According to the 2016 World Happiness Index, the Netherlands ranks as the seventh happiest country in the world, falling right behind Canada, Norway, Iceland, Switzerland and Denmark.

During this short period of time, Dudek grew accustomed to the city of Amsterdam in different ways, including adopting the primary mode of transportation in Amsterdam: bicycle.

“I had a huge thrill just riding my bike around the city and exploring,” Dudek said. “You can go anywhere, from the park, to the bar, to the train station on your bicycle. Everything was so close and it was easier than walking. I think the freedom of being able to go wherever, whenever you pleased was something that I truly loved about Amsterdam.”

The Psychology of Happiness course compares the well-being of the United States to the liberal social democracies of Western Europe, which includes countries like the Netherlands. The class also discusses topics that subjectively pertain to happiness, such as money, materialism, family life, social relationships and economic and social policies.

“The majority of the course actually took place outside of the classroom,” Dudek said. “We visited the cities of Haarlem, Rotterdam and Delft—among others—and learned about the water management systems that some of the cities use. We also went to many museums during the trip. Some of the best learning experiences I had were at the Van Gogh Museum, the Museum of Amsterdam and the Anne Frank Museum.”

Travelling to any foreign country almost always results in recognizing and understanding cultural differences from one’s native country. The Netherlands was no exception.

“Every interaction I had—from simply asking for directions to talking to the cashier in a grocery store—was consistently pleasant and welcoming,” Dudek said. “The people were also very straightforward and blunt when they spoke. You never had to guess what the Dutch were thinking.”

A large part of Dudek’s study abroad experience involved travelling to other cities in Europe, including Paris, Barcelona, Dublin and London. Although she felt all of these cities were unique and memorable, Amsterdam remained her favorite city.

The Psychology of Happiness—taught in one of the happiest places in the world—was an opportunity that Dudek could not pass up. In the future, she plans to go back to the Netherlands to further broaden her experiences.

Student studies abroad three semesters, makes lifetime of memories

Coming to Geneseo, I knew I wanted to study abroad for at least a year. I knew I wanted to go beyond my past linguistic and travel experience in Europe. This semester, I am returning from three semesters of studying abroad in Vietnam, Canada and Haiti. Study abroad has been an incredibly formative part of my undergraduate career—and my future plans—in both expected and unexpected ways.

The Global Service Learning Program in Borgne, Haiti proved to be a turning point for me. Through this program, I applied my interests in foreign language, intercultural competence and international education to connecting communities in Borgne and Geneseo. My experience in spring 2013 not only focused my academic interests, study abroad plans and career goals, but also had a lasting impact beyond that one semester. My service learning project became the design and organization of a Haitian Creole language preparation component for the course.

Immediately after the Global Service Learning Program, I knew I wanted to learn Haitian Creole and return to Borgne to help develop our program and relationship with the community. I traveled to Boston to attend the Haitian Creole Language and Culture Summer Institute, working with leading Haitian Creole scholars and collecting resources and teaching methods in order to help improve our Haitian Creole crash-course at Geneseo. As a result, I was selected to the Clinton Global Initiative University in 2015 to help support the first public library in Borgne.

In the fall of my junior year, I spent my first semester abroad in Vietnam. I went into the semester expecting a wildly new experience; one where I would learn an exotic new language. What I got was a semester where I was not only independent, but also the only native English speaker in my class. After learning Vietnamese, I could communicate with the locals and also speak to the internationals that spoke English. I met an extraordinary variety of people, both in Ho Chi Minh City and on my travels in Southeast Asia.

Perhaps the most surprising group I met in Vietnam was the Saigon Swing Cats. I had fallen in love with swing dance my freshman year, but I did not expect to find a club in Vietnam. It was a fascinating mix of locals and expatriates—mostly young professionals—gathering together to dance a vintage American dance. This is where I saw the overlap between my international interests and my dance interests.

My previous experience in Borgne had reignited my interest and study of the French language, which would eventually lead me to apply for the 2014 Gerard Gouvernet Ambassador in French Language and Culture and to pursue a French language study abroad program in Canada. I returned home for two weeks for Christmas from Vietnam and then left for Canada to study at Nova Scotia’s Francophone University. I slowly realized the complexity of Canada’s bilingualism, especially from the Acadian perspective. The distinction between French and English language was blurred, as the French—from the many Acadians regions—contained a variety of Anglicism. There was not only tension between Anglophone and Francophone interests in Canada, but also between Acadians and Quebecers.

Conclusively, I went to Haiti for a four-month internship at H.O.P.E., a nonprofit started in Rochester that focuses on grassroots community development. My main goal was to get visitors and community members to collaborate through creating orientation materials and building relationships. In the end, traveling to Haiti was my most immersive experience of all. I very rarely saw other foreigners and I spoke Haitian Creole almost always. As in Vietnam, I had to organize the greater part of my schedule and—as in Canada—I found another interesting culture of bilingualism. The challenge of this trip, however, was to be an ambassador between Geneseo and Borgne and to try to work and communicate my experience across cultural lines.

Although I do not expect the transition back to Geneseo to be easy, I am excited to see Geneseo students that I met during my time abroad and to see how the groups I was a part of have evolved. I encourage Geneseo students to engage in experiential learning opportunities like study abroad as early as possible in their college careers. 

Study abroad decision process taxing, ultimately satisfying

After entering college, I contemplated studying abroad for a long period of time. I had my fears—missing out on what was going to happen in Geneseo and whether or not my friends were going to forget about me. Questions like, “Do I have enough credits to study abroad?” and “Can I really afford it?” frequented my thoughts, too. I wasn’t sure how exactly I’d be able to do it—or if I really wanted to.

In the fall of my junior year, however, I asked myself if there was really any harm was in applying. One of the great things about studying at a SUNY school is that it’s a statewide program and New York is pretty big. I had the ability to choose from a plethora of study abroad programs spanning from the Western Hemisphere all the way to the Eastern—run through any SUNY institution.

Considering all of my options, I decided to apply for a program in Brazil. I felt it was the best choice for me considering my aspirations to become a foreign correspondent and my desire to address problems affecting Latin American countries. The only barrier that remained was learning the third most widely spoken language in Latin America: Portuguese.

Learning Portuguese motivated me to look for study abroad programs that offered intensive studies in the language. I was ecstatic when I found one: SUNY New Paltz’s partnership with Pontifícia Universidade Católica do Rio de Janeiro. The program not only had a focus on Portugese, but was incredibly affordable—matching Geneseo’s spring tuition bill with only a slight difference. I applied and four days later, I was accepted into the program. From there, I was given a list of forms and requirements. Even though I was sending forms in, I was still unsure of whether or not I really wanted to commit to the program; I did so with hopes that I would be prepared if I chose to go.

The moment I decided to commit to the study abroad program was when I realized the experiences I would gain. If I went to Brazil in the spring, I would add a language to my comparative literature major, learn about Brazilian culture and gain new ways of looking at life. Determining what I’d be able to gain from the experience made it much easier to commit.

A month after my acceptance, I learned that I had been awarded the Gilman Scholarship which would help fund my trip to Brazil. It meant that the worries I had at the beginning of my decision-making process were largely soothed. I had not had any expectations of receiving the scholarship. If the reason you’re worried about studying abroad is based on money, I suggest applying for as many scholarships as you can. You will never be afforded the opportunity to spend six months in a foreign country so frugally. Additionally, many programs are set at Geneseo’s tuition—you just have to look beyond the norm. 

My advice to students contemplating their study abroad decision is to make a list of the pros and cons of studying abroad. Think of it less as leaving things behind and rather as adding so much more. When I leave for Brazil in January, my entire world will tilt. I’m still a bit nervous about how I’ll survive in a country that’s immensely different than the United States, but I’m going into the experience with open arms. Do your research and apply; the world is literally at your fingertips.

Study Abroad: HUMN II abroad in Berlin lives up to hype

I participated in the Humanities II in Berlin program over the summer and realized every person—including my parents—who has ever recommended studying abroad was steering me in the right direction.

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Study Abroad: Overseas ventures offer unique, gratifying experiences

‘Tis the season—no, not for Christmas, but for study abroad applications. From the brochures with gleaming cities on them to the flags hanging in the MacVittie College Union to Facebook posts from fellow students away in exotic countries, study abroad is all around us.

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Study Abroad: Despite challenges, overseas experience proves invaluable

For as long as I can remember, I have been utterly enamored with the concept of traveling abroad. As a kid—and still as a 20-year-old—I felt like Belle from Beauty and the Beast—my nose was buried deep in books, desperately craving “adventure in the great wide somewhere.”

After salivating with jealousy while watching both my younger brother and mom have European adventures of their own—to Italy and France respectively—I was finally given the opportunity to study abroad for a month this summer by taking Humanities II abroad in the Czech Republic and Austria.

For someone who had romanticized studying abroad for essentially her whole life, the real experience was definitely much messier than I had pictured, but I’m still somewhat glad it worked out that way because it was enlightening.

I tend to stress over things out of my control, but various mishaps and frustrations that arose while traveling around new countries helped me to learn how to accept minor issues as part of the journey rather than disastrous setbacks. Despite impediments such as language barriers with cranky bus drivers, heat exhaustion in Austria, multiple mandatory hours-long tours and preparation for a 20-minute group presentation, I was still able to have a wonderful time while studying abroad.

While I did love Prague with its fairytale-like pastel buildings, easy metro system, friendly locals and incredibly cheap beer, my favorite part of being abroad wasn’t actually a scheduled part of my program. My boyfriend Taylor—who was also on the trip with me—and two other guys in our group decided to spend four days in Kraków, Poland while the majority of the group went off to Budapest. It was on this excursion that I found what I had been dreaming of for years.

Being in Kraków gave me a sense of exhilaration and contentment; a blissful kind of awareness and gratitude for a place that made me feel so happy and at home. I rode a bike alone along the Vistula river waterfront and laid in the green grass watching clouds. I made my ancestors proud as I did shots of Krupnik at a local Polish bar. Taylor twirled me around the narrow, bustling streets of Old Town while I laughed, drunk on too much champagne. What I found enchanting in Kraków—and throughout the whole trip—were the simple, spontaneous moments. These meant the most to me.

Everyone says that travel changes you, but I also think it helps you to discover more of who you are. My HUMN II abroad expedition reinforced my Belle-ness, my thirst for adventure and my love of new cultural experiences. It also helped show me that just like life, travel isn’t perfect, but you will learn and have those simple, beautiful moments that make you so grateful to be alive.

That, in my opinion, is something worth chasing for the rest of my life.

Senior revels in leisurely Greek lifestyle

About a week before I left for my study abroad adventure to Thessaloniki, Greece I was chatting with the mother of a girl to whom I gave swimming lessons. She gave me one of the most important pieces of advice that I have ever received.

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Study Abroad: Senior delights in dangers of Naples

As the alma mater of Jonathan Swift, Bram Stoker, Oscar Wilde and Samuel Beckett, Trinity College in Dublin was an easy choice when it came to picking a foreign school in which to study literature for a semester. Trinity was historic, prestigious, and located in the safety of the gorgeous and affluent tourist center of Dublin. Studying in Dublin, meanwhile, didn’t require that I learn any additional languages and ensured that I was exposed to a constant stream of goodwill and friendliness from native Dubliners.

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Study Abroad: Semester in Paris broadens language, perspective

“So where’s home home?” is a question we residential students hear all the time. Before spring of my junior year, my answer to this question was Syracuse. Thanks to my semester abroad through the SUNY at the Sorbonne program, “home home” now also includes Paris.

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Study Abroad: Exploring South Africa through Rhodes University program

I knew I wanted to take English classes related to my major when the time came for me to study abroad, so the obvious choice for a semester program seemed to lie in England or Ireland. But when I looked over the cost sheets, the price range was definitely too large for my budget. I began to feel discouraged; it had been my plan for a long time to study abroad in college.

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Study up on studying abroad before you go

There will come a time in every undergraduate student’s life when we must leave the comfort of campus and venture out into the “real world.” Whether it is entering into the professional field, continuing on to graduate school or other alternative paths, it becomes apparent that the time that we spent off campus is just as important as the time that we spent on it.

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Study Abroad: Netherlands trip encourages cross-cultural communication

“The past is another country, they do things differently there.” The words of novelist L.P. Hartley rang true for me in my study abroad experience. The spring 2014 semester brought me to Groningen, a lively city in the eponymous northern province of the Netherlands.

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Study Abroad: Service through sports

I have been to Jamaica several times. The attraction, however, was not caused by the abundance of ganja or the legendary music of Bob Marley. I went to volunteer at a sports camp for kids from the most underprivileged communities in Kingston—Jamaica’s capital and one of the murder capitals of the world. The camp—Jamaican Advantage thru Sports for Youth Camp—changed my life and has given me lifelong friends. I fell in love with the kids and with Kingston as a whole. The laidback mindset paired with a general kindness from everyone made me come back again and again.

When I came to Geneseo in the fall of 2013, I immediately knew that I wanted to study abroad. I was elated to see that Geneseo had an exchange program with the University of the West Indies-Mona in Kingston, Jamaica. I applied to the program less than two weeks after I took my first class here.

As with any study abroad program, I did much more than go to class while I was in Jamaica. I was enrolled in just three courses, so my Thursdays and Fridays were free. I was able to work with Monsignor Richard Albert and his organization, the St. Patrick’s Foundation—the same foundation that runs JASY Camp—to teach remedial math and reading at St. Margaret’s Human Resource Center.

SMHRC is located in one of the roughest parts of Kingston. The children there were amazing. Even if they couldn’t get a problem right immediately, they kept trying and genuinely wanted to learn. Being there made me appreciate everything that teachers have to go through.

Many of the friends I made at JASY Camp weren’t Jamaicans. The United States Marines stationed at the U.S. Embassy volunteered to play sports with us. One of the Marines, Sgt. Sarah Perkins, was in Kingston when I arrived for my semester. She asked me if I wanted to come play basketball at the Embassy and I immediately said yes.

So every week on Tuesdays and Thursdays, I would take a cab––costing about $0.90 each way––to the Embassy to do “boot camp” with the Marines, play basketball and play sand volleyball with Embassy workers and Jamaican police officers. I went to movies, bars and parties with many of the Marines. It was great to have a place with other Americans abroad just down the street from me.

I had a lot of fun on weekends. During Carnival season—from Ash Wednesday until Easter—my friends and I went to a huge party every Friday called “Bacchanal” at the National Stadium in Kingston. This party was much wilder than anything I’ve ever experienced in America; people were dancing like crazy and drinking like college students with nothing to lose.

My favorite place to go, however, was Dub Club. Dub Club is a Rastafarian club atop a hill less than a mile from UWI. It was a place to go on Sunday nights to relax and listen to reggae music, played by a Rastafarian DJ with five-foot long dreadlocks. The real charm of the club, however, came from its view over the city of Kingston and Port Royal. The glistening lights of street lamps and porch lights lit up the ground in the most perfect way imaginable.

I would not trade my experience in Jamaica for anything. I made some great friends and had the best semester of my life. If you’re thinking about studying abroad, consider going somewhere off the beaten path to explore what lies beyond the first world.




Study Abroad: Students discover heritage, cuisine in Florence, Italy

Senior Rebecca Simeone spent the fall 2012 semester immersed in Italian culture as part of a study abroad program centered in Florence, Italy.

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Study Abroad: Students investigate localized Dutch geography

Junior Nathan Trombley spent the fall semester away from home, studying abroad in Groningen, Netherlands.

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Study Abroad: Junior Katy Boland Explores Montpellier Lifestyle

 My first month in Montpellier has been full of adjustments, both big and small, to the French way of life. From mourning the dollar-to-euro exchange rate to getting lost in the twisting and often unmarked city streets, the differences between life here and life at Geneseo are striking.

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Study Abroad: FREN 388, a summer of Senegalese traditions, culture, lifestyle

Junior Christine O’Neill spent four weeks this past summer in an atypical study abroad location: the predominantly francophone nation of Senegal in West Africa.

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