How to Cope With Where You Are Not

“The grass is always greener on the other side” is a proverb I have always firmly disagreed with. It gives the misguided impression that fulfillment in life is inherently tied to your physical location. If you are not fulfilled, it’s because of where you are (or where you’re not). It suggests that you could be living somewhere else that’s better than where you’re currently living. It leaves you with a feeling of helplessness and scrambling to figure out coping mechanisms.

In the several stages of my life during which I was living somewhere that I didn’t want to be, when I knew the place I would have rather been in, this proverb haunted me and fueled my various episodes of depression. In this article, I will share some of the lessons I learned, mistakes I made, and adjustments I implemented which all aided in coping with the challenges of being where I was whilst knowing I’d rather be elsewhere.

Some Context

I am from Los Angeles, CA, and I first moved away from home at age 18 to study at Berklee College of Music in Boston, MA. At the end of my first year there, I studied for a semester abroad at the Berklee Valencia campus in Spain. By the end of my second week there, I had discovered that Spain was where I belonged. It is simply the perfect place for me to be. 

The knowledge of these truths was also the cause of several depressive episodes in my life, ​​despite all the clarity and gratitude which it gave me. Whether it was because of visa issues or other logistics, the simple fact of not being in Spain was a tough pill for me to swallow. It was like I was a small child who had been given the sweetest candy they had ever tried every day for four months and then told they could not have it anymore.

Expat at Heart

Besides my love for Spain, I have never felt a connection to LA or the US. I’m only the third generation in my family to have been born in the US. I have always carried a strong sense of criticism towards my environment from as young as I can remember. Whether it be towards the underfunded public school system in LA, the frustration of spending what felt like half my childhood sitting in traffic, or the laundry list of large-scale societal issues such as gun violence and income inequality plaguing the country as a whole.

My dad and older brother are both political science majors. There was always an emphasis on what was happening in the world in family conversations as I grew up. These conversations combined with my empathetic nature led me to feel very dissatisfied with “my” country. In the aftermath of my mom’s traumatic brain injury and severe depression when I was 16, you could say that dissatisfaction hit its maximum.

The First Arrival

I had already suffered from depression earlier in my life (before attending Berklee). The first “grass is always greener on the other side” depression hit me the moment I walked onto the street from Arrivals at the Los Angeles International Airport. This was my first return from Spain in 2017. 

The sound of constant cars honking, the smell of trash and smog, and the greyness of the concrete jungle which is LAX, all made me want to turn around and get on the first plane back to Spain. It wasn’t only the literal sensory overload/reverse culture shock that affected me. The weight of personal, emotional baggage which being in LA and the US brought to the surface hit me like a tidal wave. My parents brought me to their house and I sat on their couch crying hysterically for more than two hours until I fell asleep from exhaustion and jet lag.

The First Lessons of Coping

The intensity of the depression was unlike anything I had ever felt. It became my mission to return to Spain by any means possible. Studying abroad a second time at Berklee Valencia was a possibility. However, it meant I had to work twice as hard to complete all the courses for my major. Unfortunately, the school only offered them in Boston in a year less than it typically required. This was the first lesson. If you want something, especially something which is difficult to obtain, it requires some serious hard work and dedication. However, the learning of this lesson was only the first of several hurdles to be cleared. 

My unwavering focus on getting back to Spain, combined with my work ethic, was by no means a cure to my depression nor even a passing coping mechanism. If anything, it only fueled the fire. The “grass is always greener on the other side” has the often overlooked, terrible side effect of “the grass is always worse where you are.” This meant I had to learn how to cope with being where I was not.

While I was completing my major courses, waking up every day at 7 am and working nonstop until 1 am, I did my best to appreciate Boston for what it was. I thought I had understood then how to fully live in the moment, be grateful for what I had, and make the most of every situation. In reality, there was still a huge part of me whose voice kept telling me, “But this isn’t Spain. This isn’t good enough.” 

The Next Lessons of Coping

I nearly worked myself to the point of mental breakdown. Nonetheless, I made it back to Berklee Valencia in Spring 2019 for my final semester of university. I had (thought that I had) made it. I had another wonderful four months, just like I had experienced the first time I studied abroad. My Spanish had improved to a fluent level, so it was even more fulfilling than the first time.

I was also in a relationship with a woman who I deeply loved. We shared a mutual desire to spend the rest of our lives together. However, due to mutually undesirable circumstances, the relationship ended two weeks before my flight to Boston (the city we met) for my graduation from Berklee. 

After graduation, I immediately turned around and ended up in Madrid for a summer internship working with a Spanish composer. I was in an extremely emotionally fragile state. It felt like I was barely clinging to relative stability based upon the pure knowledge that I was in Spain. That fragility shattered when the internship ended, and with it, my visa.

In August 2019, I found myself hysterically crying on the same couch in my parents’ home which I had been hysterically crying on just two years before. Only this time, there was no option of studying abroad again. I had graduated. This depression lasted a solid two months, during which I was practically incapable of doing anything. I wasn’t coping with my reality at all.

The Power of a Present Mind

Sometimes, with depression, especially when it’s severe, there’s not really much to actively be done to reverse it. The healing process can, at times, be extremely slow and gradual, which was my case that summer. Once the initial shock of returning to the US wore off, I finally learned how to live in the moment and feel grateful. 

I started working at a nonprofit for music education. I moved into an apartment with former classmates from Berklee. Finally, I discovered a social life in LA that was enough for me to feel satisfied with my life. The voice in the back of my head saying, “But this isn’t Spain. This isn’t good enough” was drowned out by my actively present mind. The voice was still there and still motivated me to work towards my goal of moving to Spain. However, it no longer had the power to control my mood.

Eli living in Valencia in spring of 2019.

Key Takeaways

The lesson of taming my internal voice has been the most consequential of my life. I realized that ignoring the voice was not an option. I simultaneously loved Spain and disliked the US so strongly that it was simply impossible to ignore. Listening to it actively also was not an option as a true coping mechanism.

In the year which I spent completing my major courses in Boston, the word “Spain” went through my conscious mind at least once a day. It prevented me from enjoying Boston as much as I could have. It was only upon returning to LA in August 2019 and experiencing the worst depression I had ever had that I learned how to balance that voice. 

Finding Balance

Balancing that voice meant many things to me. Above all, it meant using only the required amount of effort needed to get me back to Spain. If there were programs to be researched, people to be contacted, or any other practical tasks that would benefit my potential return to Spain, I would use my energy for those.

As soon as my mind started to wander into “My life isn’t as good in LA as it used to be in Spain” land, I would actively do something to make myself more present. It didn’t matter whether that meant going for a drive, calling a friend, or playing a video game. This coping strategy was so much better than the unending dissatisfaction I felt before.

Anything that it took to change my mind from a state of “the grass is always greener on the other side” to “let’s enjoy the grass that I’m standing on” was sufficient. Even if, deep down, I knew that the grass I was standing on wasn’t the grass I most enjoyed standing on, the most important lesson of my journey (so far) has been that the grass is never greener on the other side. It is simply different. The color of the grass is all based on how I choose to look at it. That’s a coping technique I can live with.

by Eli Slavkin

Returning to Canada: Catching Up After a Gap Year

Carmen in San Francisco, at the Golden Gate Bridge.I first interviewed Carmen Graves when she and I met at a language school in Madrid on an intensive academic year-long Spanish program. At the time, Carmen was using the experience to study at the school’s three centers around Spain as a gap year abroad between finishing her high school degree and starting university back in her home country of Canada. Carmen began her year in Madrid. She then traveled the Iberian peninsula for three-month-long stints in Málaga and Barcelona.

Catching Up After Carmen’s Gap Year

Close to the end of her gap year experience, I spoke with Carmen to see what she’d learned and gained from her year abroad in Spain and how she anticipated it would impact her moving forward. Over a year has passed since then. Carmen is now living back in Canada and working towards her bachelor’s degree. She is currently a sophomore at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Canada, and is double majoring in Actuarial Science and Economics. Recently, Carmen and I spoke again so she could share some updates with Dreams Abroad. Read on to see what has been going on in her life since her return to Canada.

What have you been up to since moving back to Canada?

“Once I arrived back in Canada, I moved halfway across the country to attend Dalhousie University on the East Coast. I originally started pursuing a degree in Actuarial Science — a branch of Math focusing on risk assessment — but I quickly added another major in Economics. To date, I have thoroughly enjoyed my courses as well as other aspects of university life. I’ve been spending time with my friends, exploring the city, and taking on leadership roles where I have the opportunity to advocate for my peers.”

Carmen and her university friends posing on a dock next to a lake after her gap year.

What was it like returning to Canada after a gap year in Spain?

“It was a bittersweet experience. I would have been happy to stay in Spain forever, but I also missed real maple syrup. It helped that I was moving on to a new chapter in my life starting university. University was something I had always been excited about. 

When I got back, it was a challenge to find a balance between sharing my experiences and not falling into the ‘I studied abroad’ stereotype.”

Carmen in the snow after her gap year.

How do you think taking a gap year influenced or changed your first year in university?

“It was a huge influence. Living independently in a different country really prepared me to adapt to a new city and a new student lifestyle. I also learned how to manage myself and my time in a way that I had not learned right out of high school. In addition, I was also excited to throw myself into new opportunities, such as taking on roles in student leadership, to keep challenging myself now that I was back in Canada.”

How did your experience shift as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic?

“It has definitely been an interesting time. A positive effect has been that I moved back home with my family. I hadn’t really planned on moving back. Fortunately, that means that I have spent some quality time with them which would not otherwise have been possible.

Carmen remote learning on a pink swing chair outside.

Unfortunately, I had planned another study abroad experience in Australia for the Fall Term, which now won’t take place. It has made me incredibly grateful that I had my time in Spain. I took advantage of every opportunity to travel when I was there.”

How has the remote start to your second year been so far?

“It has been better than expected. Fortunately, I study math. The transition to online delivery of content has not been as difficult as some other fields of study. The biggest challenge has been connecting with other students and faculty while I am almost 2,000 km away from my university.”

You’ve had a number of experiences abroad even before starting your university degree. How do you think students today can engage the world even if they can’t study abroad?

“I think the most valuable thing I got out of my experiences abroad was connecting with people from different cultures with different perspectives and experiences. There are plenty of opportunities to meet people across the world, whether traveling once it’s possible again or engaging with people online. Platforms that facilitate these connections continue to grow in number.”

Carmen posing with pumpkins after her gap year.

What is on the horizon for you now? And where would you next love to go when we’re all able to travel again?

“Despite my university study abroad being canceled, I would still love to go to Australia. Once travel opens back up, I would also like to prioritize trips where I can visit the friends I made during my study abroad experience in Spain. In the longer term, I would love to work abroad.”

Carmen posing with her university friends one night.

Filling in the Gaps

Since finishing her gap year in Spain, a lot has happened in Carmen’s life. She has moved back to her home country of Canada. Almost immediately thereafter, she moved across the country from the Toronto area to Halifax to pursue her university degree. She then had the second semester of her first year disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Carmen started her second year of university remotely from her family home. Nonetheless, she’s taken it all in stride — something surely attributable in large part to the skill set living abroad helped her to build.

Through the unexpected twists and turns this year has taken for all of us, Carmen has been able to draw upon her certainty of self to move forward and persevere. She’s been able to thrive through a very unconventional beginning to her undergraduate career because living abroad prepared her for the unexpected and uncomfortable. And like a true expat, she hopes to be able to travel again very soon.

by Emma Schultz

Teaching at a University in Medellin, Colombia

Catholic School Medellin ColombiaLeesa and Lamon met while he was teaching at a university in Medellin, Colombia in 2015 while Leesa studied Spanish over the summer. The Spanish language coordinator at the time, Juan, introduced Leesa to Lamon. Juan worked directly with Lamon and Leesa, but at different times over the course of their studies at the university in Medellin, Colombia. Leesa attended one of Lamon’s classes while he was teaching at the university and thanks Juan to this day for this great connection.

Lamon describes his Spanish studies, English language teaching, and how he started out as an expat living in Colombia.

How did you learn Spanish after you stopped working at the Catholic school?

“After I finished at the Catholic school, I applied for and was awarded the Beca Cultura scholarship at EAFIT University. Essentially, the scholarship allowed recipients to receive language classes at no monetary cost in exchange for facilitating lectures about the culture of your home country. The scholarship was a six-month commitment with the option to extend it for an additional six months. The majority of my lectures were related to popular holidays in the United States, sports, and music.”

When did you start teaching at EAFIT University? How did the opportunity arise?

“I started teaching at EAFIT University in Medellin, Colombia after I completed my six-month commitment to the scholarship program. During my lectures, the language department observed my ability to present and manage a classroom. This ultimately led to a job offer.”

What was your best memory while studying at EAFIT?

“One of my best memories at EAFIT was during a Spanish class with language learners from all over the world: China, Japan, France, and Russia, if I remember correctly. It was a great experience because not one learner spoke the native language of the others, but we could all communicate in Spanish. I remember stopping for a moment to absorb what was occurring at the moment and feeling thrilled.”

Did you use the same method of teaching at EAFIT that you used at the Catholic school? Why or why not?

Teaching at a University in Colombia“Yes, I used the same method. When I started teaching at EAFIT, I realized from the first day that the university heavily supported and preferred the incorporation of technology and group activities. For me, it provided a great sense of relief and appreciation. As mentioned previously, creative methods of teaching were not well-tolerated when I taught at the Catholic high school.”

What was an important lesson you learned from working there?

“Don’t repeat words you don’t really understand! When I taught at the high school, my students gave me the nickname of Lamonda. At the time, I didn’t really know what it meant; I just assumed it was cool and perhaps the Spanish equivalent of my name, Lamon. For the next six months and even when I started teaching at EAFIT, I often introduced myself as Lamonda, and locals would always laugh. I assumed it was because my name was different. 

During a staff meeting with about 50 other teachers, I introduced myself as Lamonda. A dead silence punctuated with a few laughs. Later that day, a co-worker asked me if I knew the origin or meaning of the word and I responded by saying it was my Colombian nickname. Right then and there, after introducing myself to an entire room of all my co-workers as Lamonda, I learned that it means a big penis. So yes… for more than six months, I walked around Colombia introducing myself as a big penis and had no idea… Lesson learned.”

How long did you work at the university in Medellin, Colombia and why did you stop?

“I worked at EAFIT for five consecutive years. After my fifth year, I wanted to have more free time and flexibility to travel to the States to spend more time with my family. Teaching at EAFIT had many perks, but it also required a certain level of commitment to the university and my students. I didn’t have the option to move freely when I desired, which became a problem for me after five years.”

What did you do for fun while you worked for the university in Medellin, Colombia?

best memory at EAFIT“Salsa. During my first two years, I didn’t enjoy or want to listen to salsa music. As I immersed myself more and more into the culture, I learned to appreciate salsa and became a pretty good dancer. When I wasn’t working, I tried to find time to dance or take lessons to learn new steps and embrace my new-found passion.”

What tips would you give to someone who wants to move to Medellin, Colombia?

“Learn the language… even at a basic level. It will open up so many opportunities to meet new people and experience the culture.”

How did you prepare for your new life in Colombia?

“Three months prior to moving to Colombia, I committed to studying for two hours Monday through Friday; one hour in the morning, and one in the early evening. My morning started off with 30 minutes of listening to and repeating Pimsleur audio lessons. After, I would read about current events out loud and write down new vocabulary. In the evening, I would review the new vocabulary and write a sentence for each new word. My evenings concluded with practicing verb conjugations. On Saturdays, I would try to do something fun like watching a movie in Spanish or attend a language exchange event posted on Meetup.”

What did you do to adapt in your first six months?

“During my first six months in Medellin, I focused on functional/survival Spanish: How to order food; How to ask for directions; How to ask for my change back from a taxi; etc. During my first six months, I didn’t see an immediate need to learn vocabulary across the board, but rather an immediate need to learn how to survive in Spanish. I often walked around with a small pocket notebook and would listen for keywords that seemed to be important.”

How about after that?

“After six months, I had a really good foundation in survival Spanish but was not yet conversational. I started thinking about topics that I wanted to practice and would talk to as many people as I could about the same topic. For example, if I took a taxi with five different drivers, I would bring up the selected topic with each driver; or, I would sit in the park and talk to locals. Hint: Colombians love to talk. 

Talk to other expats! Speak to credible sources that live or have spent a sufficient amount of time in Colombia. If you don’t have a contact, there are plenty of groups on Facebook with experienced expats. Be sure to speak to multiple sources as everyone has a different experience and perspective of Colombia. AVOID OR BE CAUTIOUS WITH MISLEADING INFORMATION!”

How much did you miss the United States?

Move With an Open Mind“One mistake that I made early on was comparing Colombia to the United States; don’t do it. You will become miserable. When you make the move, it’s important to understand that both cultures are completely different. For example, in Colombia, things move a bit slower than in the United States. Going to the bank to make a deposit may require an entire day’s commitment versus the 15 minutes in the States; or, adjusting to putting toilet paper in a garbage pail versus in the toilet. Things may require some time to adapt to. Be patient with yourself.”

Why did you leave Medellin after five consecutive years of living there?

After living five years straight in Medellin, I felt that I had completed everything that I wanted to complete. My Spanish level had increased from A1 to C1. I had experienced life in another country and I had received a Grammy Nomination. Taking all those achievements into account and wanting to spend more time with my family, I decided it was time to leave and think about the next chapter in my life.”

Wrap Up – Teaching at a University in Medellin, Colombia

Lamon and I spoke during the first weekend of May, 2020. He was speaking to me from a finca in Envigado. I said: “Lamon, what is a finca?” After I Googled “finca Medellin,” we both agreed that I need to go back to Colombia to experience a finca. I hadn’t been there long enough. In 2015, I was working on finishing a master’s and didn’t explore Colombia as Lamon has described it. 

Speaking of long enough, Lamon arrived in Medellin on February 25, 2020, and didn’t realize he would not be able to fly back to the US after his Primeros Cinco event. Lamon had planned to fly to Colombia for his quarterly event and return back to the US per his usual routine. This time, he got stuck when the Colombian government restricted all flights coming in and out of Colombia due to COVID-19. 

Lamon is not sure how much longer he will be at the finca but he knows it will be at least until June 1, 2020. He is excited to announce that on May 16, 2020, his debut single Spotlight will be released. It can be found on Apple Music, Amazon, and Spotify. Be sure to check it out and find Lamon on his social media to send him your feedback. Catch up with Lamon Chapman’s first interview.

Latin Grammy music award

Using Only the Target Language in a Foreign Language Classroom

 

caroline hazelton teaching ESOLHow did a Southern, non-Hispanic begin her bilingual journey in an English-only rural town? 

Solo español,” replied my Spanish 2 teacher who spoke to us in almost no English right from the beginning.

How have I taught nearly every grade level of Spanish/ESL ever since for seven years?

Only in the language that I am teaching… with some exceptions. I’m here to challenge you both with experience and science for using the target language (the language you are teaching) as much as possible in your classroom. And believe me, you can use it a lot more than you think you can.

Why only the target language?

Learning to listen and speak a language occurs the same way babies learn to talk. They listen to in the language constantly, with images and context to teach them meaning. Then, after hours upon hours of exposure, the babies are ready to speak. As their brain develops, they are able to form more complex phrases, sentences, and ideas as they age. Our second languages are learned in the same way. Our brains absorb grammar through repetition. they absorb meaning through context created by situations and visuals. Finally, they absorb pronunciation through constant exposure and confidence via experience. Because we “acquire” language (that is, to soak it up through the ability to speak and listen, then in our ability to write and read in it), we cannot teach language in the same way that we teach other subjects. We must mimic a caregiver teaching a child to speak.

Enter the language classroom. In the case where the teacher and students both speak the students’ first language, many teachers do not speak in the target language. They do this to get through the lesson faster, to avoid frustrated students, or to build rapport with students. Other times, they simply do not know how to teach in the target language. As a result, you see students who have textbook knowledge of the target language but who are unable to communicate in it.

Remember Phonics?

abc PhonicsWithout appropriate communication in the target language, students haven’t developed an ear for how the language sounds; they haven’t learned enough vocabulary in natural context nor have they developed the confidence to speak the target language. Additionally, students don’t have the opportunity to form an identity in the new language they are trying to learn if they aren’t being exposed to it or being forced to use it — they rely only on their original, or L1, language/identity. Finally, if they don’t see how they are able to communicate in the target language they lose motivation. They feel as if they aren’t learning it. However, a student who is forced to speak the language feels that they are actually learning.

I speak from experience. It started in my high school Spanish 2 classroom where my teacher uttered not a word in English for two hours a day, five days a week. The instructor spoke in an incredibly simple way. He would not answer anyone in English, and only in Spanish. He spoke with gestures, dramatic emotions, and cognates. 

Speaking From Experience

By the end of the semester, I (Caroline) had not only studied Spanish, but could actually speak basic Spanish. I learned more in that semester of high school Spanish alone than I did in any other community college course I took. In those courses, the instructor used a mix of Spanish and English. They missed opportunities to give their students the true ability to communicate in our second language. After moving from my small town to attend a state university to study Spanish and second language acquisition (SLA), I saw more examples both as a Spanish and SLA student of why teachers should use ONLY the target language.

I speak as a teacher. When I speak in the target language at first, I see students of all ages initially very frustrated. I ALWAYS have students who are hesitant to learn the language and resist. However, I insist upon only using the language I am teaching. I have seen their progress. I have seen students score higher on proficiency tests than their level indicated that they would. Ultimately, I have seen my resistors eventually change their ways. 

Success in the Classroom

Every semester, I have ESL (English as a Second Language) students who request to join my class because I insist on using only English. As a university instructor, students have changed or added majors and minors in the language I taught. My students have returned to me bragging about how they asked their counselors to speak to them in their target language. Some of my ESL students took jobs in English. I have taught China’s brightest professionals that they STILL have more to learn because they could only communicate in English and realized that they couldn’t as they wished. Finally, I have had a student upon student thank me at the end of every semester. 

So, How Do You Teach? 

Be your normal teacher self… in the target language. Notably, you are not going to speak like you would speak to native speakers. Aim for a much slower, simpler pace with tons of visual clues to help convey your message.

You first have to speak in the simplest way possible. For example, “We’re all set, so could you please hand in your papers?” becomes “pass the papers.” In the beginning classes, use gestures, gestures, gestures. In intermediate classes, say, “Please pass the papers — we are finished! Thanks!” I suggest sticking to a handful of common requests or words that are most repeated in the target language or in a classroom setting. 

Change Your Expectations

You’ll also have to change your expectations according to the natural stages of language development and to what level of communication each level can reasonably do in the language they are learning. You should try to have low/beginning students listen as much as possible. They should respond non-verbally until they have the confidence and the feel for the sounds of the language to speak. Even then, it will be very similar to a child learning how to speak — first with one-word phrases, then two, etc. From knowledge I’ve gathered from my graduate studies, the development of language is the same for everyone in terms of language stages and whether it’s a first or second language.

Once your students get past the low/beginning stage and into intermediate or high/beginning, they can start to communicate basic needs. The goal now is to increase their confidence in the language. Have students speak in small groups and with yourself as the teacher as much as possible. You should require that all communications with you and their classmates be in the target language with some exceptions so students can make the most of every opportunity. 

Because all teaching is about creating meaning, you need to try to provide as much context for language as possible… visuals, gestures, and culturally authentic material. Creating meaning is important because you want to be teaching at a level slightly higher than the students’ current level. This way they are challenged and can advance forward in an attainable way. 

first language puzzle

So, When Is the First Language Okay?

You never want students to lose their identity. Therefore, I have found that when students (particularly in ESL courses) are speaking about their native countries, idioms, or cultures, the use of their mother tongue is powerful. Plus, some words don’t quite translate the same.

You also have to recognize that speaking a second language requires more brainpower from students. If you want them to do some higher-order thinking that they don’t have the language skills for just yet, you might allow them to use their first language to think through the task, then use the second language once they have the activity mastered. 

Criticisms of Only Teaching in the Target Language

One criticism that gets mentioned of teaching only in the target language is that you don’t want students to miss out on important information — and I agree. For beginning students, you don’t want them to miss out on key information, so I think it’s okay to FIRST say the information in the target language. If, after multiple attempts to clarify their understanding they still don’t understand the concept, it is okay to use their first language. However, just explaining the concept in the first language immediately takes away the opportunity for growth.

I have also seen the usefulness of translation, despite what current language teaching methods (the communicative method) say. When I’m teaching grammar, second-language students often literally translate the grammatical rules of their first language into their second. It can be helpful to compare the differences. I also run into the issue when teaching vocabulary that while it’s better to reply with a synonym or image to stay in the target language, sometimes there is no image or similar word that students know, so a translation can be handy. 

Knowing these situations, my rule with my low/intermediate students is “Only English… except during grammar activities, cultural celebrations, group projects, or if you ask special permission.” 

A Conclusion About Using Only the Target Language in a Foreign Language Classroom

By purposely speaking only in the target language to students, we make language an acquired ability instead of a memorized subject. With careful exceptions, we can also respond to our students in a sensitive way. 

by Caroline Hazelton

Which Study Abroad Program is Right for You?

So, you’ve decided you want to study and live abroad. Congratulations! Studying abroad is a fantastic way to see the world, expand your horizons, and learn something new – in and outside of the classroom. Once you’ve decided to study abroad, your next step will be to decide which type of study abroad program is right for you.

After you’ve made that decision though, what’s next? How do you decide where to go and how long to stay? Once you know which type of program is right for you, here are some resources and ideas to get you started on brainstorming your study abroad experience.

on a school trip

Research the Big Names in Your Program Type

Maybe you’ve decided you want to do a language program abroad to improve your speaking skills. Look into the different companies you could go abroad with. Which seem to have the best reputation/most programs? Where are their centers, and how long do they recommend going for? It’s also a great idea to read student reviews of these programs. Reviews are highly likely to highlight issues you may run into abroad.

You can gather this information relatively easily on the internet. Then, whether you decide to go abroad with a large company or prefer to go with a smaller one, you’ll have lots of perspectives to help you make your decision.

college students

Talk to an Advisor About Study Abroad Programs

If you’re planning a semester abroad as part of your undergraduate degree, talking to a trusted advisor is a great place to start. This is particularly if you will study abroad through your home college/university. An advisor in your study abroad office can tell you what your best options are and which programs are likely to transfer credits towards your degree. They can also weigh in on location, duration of a program, and other considerations like finances, language, and more.

Though this approach might work best for traditional study abroad programs, it can also work for other types as well. Reach out to other types of advisors and mentors. Perhaps a professor of yours might be familiar with language programs. Maybe a family friend knows about a great volunteer program abroad. Having lots of conversations about study abroad will help you find the right fit.

Follow a Passion

study abroad program

If you’re having a hard time knowing where to start when it comes to picking a place, thinking about your passions can help a lot. Perhaps if you’re passionate about history, you could think of what kind or era sparks the most curiosity for you. If you love sports, where could you go to engage in that by joining a local team? Connecting over interests is a great way to become part of a community while living abroad, so it’s not a bad way to help you figure out where to go.

Go Somewhere that Will Help Advance Your Studies and/or Career

It also makes a lot of sense to study abroad in a way that will move your studies/career forward as well. These days, many companies are looking for I. Just going abroad is marketable, but going abroad to attend school or work is a great idea.

Maybe your university has a great business exchange program worth looking into (if that’s the career you’d like to pursue). Or, if it’s advantageous to speak another language, a program that focuses on language skills might be best. Perhaps a volunteer program would give you the necessary management/community outreach experience. Thinking about how your short- and long-term goals will pay off down the road.

Finding the Right Study Abroad Program for You

I knew for a long time that I wanted to study abroad. But finding programs that were a good fit for me involved personal interest, location, academic requirements, and so much more. Doing thorough research, talking to advisors, professors, other faculty and family members, and following my intuition helped me decide what was right for me. With the right tools, you can make an informed decision about where and how to go abroad too – and gain so much from the experience.

study abroad students

by Emma Schultz

Essential Tips for Studying Abroad: VLOG

by Zoe Ezechiels

Tips for Studying AbroadMio Matsumoto was born in Tokyo, Japan. She is one of three children, with a younger sister and an older brother. Her mother works at an office in Tokyo while her father works at a shipping company. Her dad’s job led her to living in New Jersey and Thailand when she was younger, allowing her to explore the world at a young age. She enjoys walking her two rambunctious poodles, going on adventures with her friends, and playing basketball.

Mio studies hospitality at Waseda University in Tokyo, Japan. Japanese people do not commonly pick hospitality as a major. Mio wanted to forge her own path to her dreams. She plans to head into the tourism industry and work for a famous hotel or an international airline.

Year-Long Exchange Studying Abroad

Part of the curriculum before graduating from Waseda University with a degree in hospitality is going on a year-long exchange and studying abroad. The two countries she had in mind were Spain or the United States. She wanted to improve her Spanish first and foremost. However, since her dad now lives in Mexico, she figured she’d be able to go on vacation there and practice Spanish while experiencing what the United States had to offer. So, the United States became the clear choice for her. The fact that FSU is the 26th university in the nation stood out to her and she found herself part of the international student community in Tallahassee.

If you haven’t read her interview already, check out her amazing interview about university life living abroad. In this video, Mio shares tips essential for living and studying abroad. While these tips can apply for studying abroad in a variety of places, Florida can be a bit unique, especially when it comes to the weather! Always make sure to check the weather before leaving. Check it out!

Tips Essential for Studying Abroad