Broaden Your Horizons with Dominican Study Abroad

By: Isabel Paner

Posted October 19, 2017 at 9:52 AM PDT

Photo via Isabel Paner

Photo via Isabel Paner

What is one word to describe studying abroad?

Rewarding. Surprising. Transforming. Inspiring. Life-changing.

These are the answers I received when I asked Dominican students who spent semesters abroad in countries from Spain to Ireland, Greece to Hong Kong. Anyone who has studied abroad will tell you it was the best time of their life without exaggerating, and if they could do it all over again, they would.

I know I would.

The six months I spent in Ghent, Belgium last Spring were some of the best of my life, and even though there were its ups and downs, it was absolutely worth the hassle to get my student visa, flying thousands of miles across the Atlantic all by myself. I ended up falling in love with the city and someone I met there too.

I made lifelong connections from Belgium and all around the world, including Sweden and Germany. I also created irreplaceable memories not only in Ghent, but in several cities in Europe I made the point to travel to while I was there. I was able to see the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland, get lost in the streets of Florence, listen to live jazz in a hidden bar in Berlin. There will never be enough words to fully encompass my experience abroad, but the nights I spent at the Graslei, a quay where the river runs between in Ghent, talking and laughing with my friends will always stick with me.

I learned more about myself than I thought I would, and I can truly say I’m a better person for it. Studying abroad is a way to expand your worldview beyond what you’ve known at home, and having to adapt to a new country with possibly an entirely different language teaches you how to step out of your comfort zone pretty quickly and to be unafraid of change.

“Meeting people from Morocco and other countries and interacting with them really just helped expand my horizons and realize how important it is for us to build bridges and communicate,” said Salma Abdulkalder, a senior Political Science major and International Studies minor who spent her full junior year studying at Al Akhawayn University in Ifrane, Morocco. “I really was taken aback by how warm the culture there is. It's really common for total strangers to invite you into their home, to strike up conversations on the train or with your cab driver. People in general are very kind and friendly and are so welcome to foreigners, no matter what country you're from or religion you practice. It's such a hidden gem.”

Another senior Dominican student, Joyce Chu, was the first person in her program to study abroad. She is a senior Liberal Studies major and Communications minor who studied at the University of Eastern Finland in Joensuu for a semester. “I definitely had to get used to the weather and the hours of daylight in Finland,” she said. “When I first arrived in January … the sun rose at 9:30 A.M. and set at 2:30 P.M.” By the end of her semester in May, she said, “The sun rose at 2 A.M. and set around 11 P.M.”

In Belgium, sunrises and sunsets weren’t as drastic of a change for me, but I had to get used to stores closing not only completely on Sundays, but closing around 8 or 9 P.M. the rest of the week instead of until 11 P.M. or even being open 24 hours like they are here. This just shows that even the everyday occurrences that we are so used to go in a completely direction when we uproot ourselves. Just little things like trying to remember what was push and pull in Dutch (duwen and trekken) when seeing them on doors made a difference.

But what are your options for studying abroad as a Dominican student? For semester or year long programs, Dominican partners with ISEP (International Student Exchange Programs), which offers exchange programs in over 50 countries around the world, as well several other universities. You’d pay the same tuition as you pay at Dominican and your units are transferable. You just need to your courses abroad substituted for ones here at Dominican.

Maybe you want to go to school in South Korea or Australia, or maybe you’ve always wanted to study in Norway. Many international programs are offered in English, so you don’t necessarily have to worry about learning another language unless you want to, though it’s always good to know a few phrases.

If you’re lucky enough to have the opportunity to study abroad and it’s something you’ve always wanted to do, take a chance. I promise you won’t regret it.