Editorial: Study abroad for true cultural immersion


Everyday we see the fruits of education through technology, increases in the standard of living and most importantly, social change. Former South African President and revolutionary Nelson Mandela once said that “education is the most powerful tool you can use to change the world.”

Sitting in a classroom and absorbing instruction from professors and textbooks has its place, but there is something to be said for experience. This is certainly true for those who have chosen to study languages, cultures and religions.

Studying abroad can offer the valuable experience needed to attain a well-rounded education. But if students do choose to study abroad, they should ask themselves one thing: “Is studying in Western Europe or another popular spot really the best place to attain a well-rounded education?”

The Lariat published an article last week stating that roughly 70 percent of Baylor undergraduates who study abroad choose to do so in Western Europe. Because of the region’s esteemed reputation for art, food and music, the region appeals to students wanting to study internationally.

American and Western Europe, however, have many cultural similarities and can sometimes cause students not to get the most out of their study abroad experiences. Many of the countries in Europe speak English and have some of the same social customs as we do in America. And despite the fact that it is often advertised as such, Western Europe is not always the best place to broaden horizons in an area of study.

Students studying business for example, often neglect to remember that China and Eastern Asia have some of the fastest-growing economies in the world. Even those who study art and architecture have various options throughout Africa and the Middle East, which contain some of the original wonders of the ancient world.

Language is often a barrier students are not keen on facing when it comes to studying and traveling abroad. But several studies have shown that studying abroad is actually one of the best ways to learn a language because travelers are forced to adapt.

And because Baylor requires students to take four semesters of a language before graduating, this could be a great way to reinforce what’s been learned in class. And even if you are unfamiliar with the language, don’t worry. Those at the Tower of Babel managed — you can too.

The good thing about studying abroad at the university is that financial aid is available to those who otherwise may not be able to afford. Endowed scholarships such Glennis McCrary Goodrich Scholarship are often based on academic merit and financial need, and give generous scholarships to those who qualify and are selected.

For students choosing to study abroad in the fall or spring semester, financial aid from the university can be applied to study abroad programs. Before deciding you can’t afford it, be sure to explore your options.

Several students who have gone on study abroad trips during their undergraduate career say that doing so helped them in unimaginable ways. And wherever they decide to study internationally, they will undoubtedly benefit from this endeavor.

Students should carefully decide whether studying abroad at all is a good decision. While it can be an amazing experience, studying abroad is not for everyone. Class credit is a major part — if not the most important part — of studying abroad.

Overall, immersion into new cultures is the best way to learn about the world. It’s worth it.