Meet Me in Morocco: Study Abroad Part 1

By: Tori

Bonjour! مرحبا! Hola!…

Hello! And welcome to my study abroad journey. This summer I am headed to the North African country, Morocco (whoo hoo)!

Tori Morocco

Through the UMN program SPAN (Student Projects For Amity Among Nations), I have the opportunity to spend 8 weeks traveling, researching, and immersing myself in the culture of Morocco. Approximately 30 UMD students will be joining me on this journey and taking on a project equal to an Honors thesis. It will be no easy task, in fact, it is quite stressful, but I am stoked to see where these next four months take me.

You may be asking; HOW did I choose this program? And WHY study abroad? Well, let me tell you!

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Coming into college I knew I wanted to take full advantage of what UMD has to offer, including their numerous opportunities to study abroad. However, as I became more involved on campus I realized the deep desire that I had to experience something completely different. I wanted to be introduced to new perspectives.

Morocco is not your typical study abroad destination, which is the sole reason when I found out about the program I said, “Heck yes, sign me up!”. It is opposite of the typical comfort zone I find myself in. Instead of going to an English-speaking, mountain encompassing country – I’m heading to the desert, where my Norwegian skin may fry and my lack of French and Arabic skills will be exposed. Morocco is a country of major diversity and my entire time abroad I will be a part of the minority for the first time in my life.

Meet in Morocco

There is a difference between simply spending time abroad and completely immersing yourself in another culture. Going abroad helps students gain awareness of other cultures and learn to accept people for who they are. Studying abroad even pertains to students future careers. As a young person entering the business world, I have the advantage to use my experiences to affect those around me. And as a Human Resources major, I will be connecting business and people my entire life. There is no better way to be exposed to diversity and become more self-aware than to take a leap of faith and go abroad.

To say I am excited to embark on this journey would be an understatement. I am ecstatic to come back to campus and share what I have learned with my peers, advisors, co-workers, professors, and faculty. Would you like to hear how Morocco changes me and “Meet in Morocco”?

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Photo sources: Tori; Unsplash | Florian Bernhardt; Unsplash | Sergey Pesterev

How to be a Good Traveler

By: Willow

I had an awesome Spring Break this year. (Yes, I know I’m bragging a bit but I promise I have a point.) I was fortunate enough to be able to visit a family friend in Switzerland and do a little traveling around Europe. I learned a lot on my spring break, and I think this information could be useful if you happen to go on a sweet trip someday.

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I know what you’re thinking, “But Willow, the Peer Into Your Career blog is about helping me with my career, jetting across the world isn’t going to do that is it?” Well, yes and no. While the act of going on a fancy trip itself will probably not advance your career, it is possible that you will find yourself in situations where your actions traveling help or hurt your future. Here are a few tips that will help you make put your best foot forward no matter where you are.

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Learn a little bit of the language. I know this sounds like a given but it’s easy to get by without doing it. In Switzerland everyone speaks English, they teach German, French, and English in schools so literally everyone has a basic knowledge of English. Not only does everyone know at least some English, my hostess is getting her masters in English. I figured I would be fine as I would always be with someone fluent in English and German, so I would always have a translator. This was true, but it got really old. One night, we went to an event where a British author talked about her books. When the author introduced herself she thanked the crowd saying how much of a privilege it was to speak in her native language to this particular audience. The speech was in English and all of my host’s friends spoke English. I had no problem talking to the people around me the entire night. While I was standing with the circle of new friends, I realized they were all speaking English for my benefit. I was the only one who didn’t speak any German, and they were all adjusting for me. And that made me feel like crap. How did I go to a new country and not learn any of the language? How ignorant am I? Ugh! The mix of the speaker acknowledging her privilege and me realizing everyone was speaking a language for my benefit hit me hard. I felt bad, really really bad. If you ever do go somewhere where you don’t know the native language, learn a few key phrases, it will go a long way. People notice when you make an effort, and it will mean a lot to them. If possible find someone who knows the language and can help you practice a bit. Or find a friend and learn together. There are a lot of great resources you can use: YouTube videos, books, or language learning apps. Once again, knowing a little bit of the language goes a long way.

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Willow with British author Laura Penny.

Figure out what the driving laws are. Maybe you won’t be driving at all and you think you don’t need to do this. YOU DO. You interact with cars all the time, even if you’re not in one. so you need to figure out the basics such as: what side of the road to they drive on, what are the pedestrian laws, and how their stop lights work. These all could be different depending on where you are.

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Know the phone number and address of the place you are staying. Again, this one seems simple, but don’t forget. If you do you will get really confused and cry in front of the lost and found baggage lady in the Zurich airport. Uh… At least that’s what I’ve heard…

Always say thank you, preferably in the language spoken where you are. Whenever you go into a store, ask someone a question, talk to anyone at all for any reason, say thank you. It’s just a best practice.

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Finally, make as many connections and learn as much as you can. Traveling is an amazing thing to do and honestly a great way to change your life. You never know who you may meet. Keep these guidelines in mind and they might help you get a job, or make a new friend, or just have a great time.

One last reminder, in all your travels, be safe and have fun.

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Photo source: Willow

Study Abroad Takeaways

By: Cassie

Hi everyone! So if you’ve read my posts before you know that this past summer I decided to study abroad in Ireland. The trip I went on was focused on innovation and how businesses differ between the US and Ireland. Through this trip I got to see amazing things, meet amazing people (like the CEO of the largest hospital in Ireland), and I also learned a lot of things about myself along the way. Going on this trip was a really eye opening and great experience for me. Today I’m going to sum up some takeaways in a few points.

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It was challenging
The general consensus on studying abroad is that you will take easy classes and just be able to have fun. Well, you are definitely able to have lots of fun, BUT you cannot forget the importance of doing your work. My class was challenging and really pushed me to think outside of what I normally would do. This ultimately made it a more rewarding trip for me and I got a lot of education out of it. It was not only academically challenging- it was challenging just being in another country! Figuring out how to get around, the currency, and even deciding what to eat was all a new and different experience that made me push myself.

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I made a lot of friends and connections
I met a lot of new people by going on this trip and made a lot of friends that I know will last a lifetime. We visited several companies and we met a lot of people who were doing influential and innovative things. We met heads of companies and we got to see how Irish business works. I also made good connections with people like Tony McNamara, who is the CEO of Cork University Hospital. This hospital is coincidentally the largest hospital and most innovative hospital in Ireland. The meeting was probably one of the most nerve-wracking things I’ve ever had to do, and it was also one of the most rewarding. By making these connections I now have a larger network and I have been introduced to so many more opportunities, which has been really great.

I saw amazing things
Every day of my trip was jam packed with a ton of things to see. We went all over the country and saw historical landmarks, scenery, and even contemporary cities. It was incredible to take in all the new sights, scenes, and surroundings that Ireland had to offer.

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I learned so much
By going on this trip, I didn’t just learn about Ireland. I learned about the people around me, whether they were business professionals or my peers. I learned that I could be a part of the business place. I learned that I am capable of so many things and all I have to do is try them. Overall, studying abroad was a great experience and I would recommend it to anyone because of all the great things you can get out of it!

Of Possible Interest:

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Photos by: Cassie

Why Should I Study Abroad?

By: Cassie

You know those things that you know you are always meant to do? The goal that you feel a huge drive towards and you are willing to do anything and everything to accomplish it. Well for me, that has always been traveling the world. I want to see everything, experience everything, and go everywhere. Well, I’m sure you’re thinking, “Well how do you plan to do that when you’re a poor college student and you know you have student loans to pay off after you graduate?” I have asked myself this exact same question. Then the realization dawned on me; study abroad is there for people who are experiencing the exact same feelings as me. You might be thinking, “I don’t know if study abroad is right for me”, and I am here to tell you all the reasons you should at least consider it as a part of your college experience.

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The first reason that you should consider study abroad is that it is SO flexible. There are so many different programs; you can pretty much go anywhere in the world. If UMD doesn’t have a program that you want to go on, don’t worry! They can find an affiliate program that will work with you so you can go wherever you want to go. You can also go any time of year. You can take May terms, J terms, semester long programs, or you can even go the whole year. The study abroad office is absolutely willing to work with you through every step of the way so you can make the best decision for you.

Another reason you should consider study abroad is, why not now? College is the time in your life when you are supposed to be able to take risks and experience new things. Once you get out into the real world you aren’t going to get very much time to vacation (especially right away as an entry level employee) so now is a great time. Another great reason is that when you study abroad, your whole trip, or a majority of it, is planned for you. It is much easier to travel with the help of experienced professionals than try and plan it on your own.

Finally not only is study abroad fun and exciting, but for practical reasons, it looks great on a resume! By putting study abroad on a resume you are telling employers that you are willing to put yourself out there and try new things. It also shows employers that you are willing to go international and are able to market yourself that way which is so valuable!

This May I am traveling with the Innovation in Ireland program. This is an entrepreneurship and innovation course that is offered through the business school. It is a three-week program where I will be traveling all around Ireland and I get to see all the sights while also enhancing my college experience and gaining knowledge. I chose this program because as Health Care Management major I don’t have a lot of flexibility in my schedule and this was a course that fit into my course requirements. It also is great because it is only three-weeks and I don’t know if I could go abroad for any longer than that. We are traveling in a big group as well, which was an added bonus for me because I don’t think I would be able to go abroad on my own. This has added a lot of work on my plate for this semester, and I know in the end it will all be completely worth it.

For all these reasons I think that if you haven’t at looked into study abroad, you really should. It is a lot of work and there are a lot of things to consider, but there are so many people who are here to help you through the steps. All you need to do is take the first step and look on the study abroad website to get some ideas. It never hurts to look, and you never know you could find something you like and change your life!

Of Possible Interest:

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Steps to Teaching Abroad

By: Emily

Editor’s note: Emily is a C&IS Peer Educator alumna. You can read her previous post, Adventures in Teaching Abroad, to get all the background info about why she and her partner decided to spend a year in South Korea teaching. Here is the rest of her advice about getting started with the teaching abroad process.

How do I teach abroad?

The entire process of becoming a qualified candidate, interviewing with a recruiter, lining up a job, and completing all the paperwork took about 6 months.

Steps to teaching abroad

Step #1: Find a reputable recruiting agency

  • Fees can be a red flag. Keep in mind that we didn’t pay a cent to submit an application, to interview, to apply for work, or to sign a contract. There are recruiters, like Don (ESL Joblink), that are paid by schools to find quality candidates to teach abroad. Our largest expense was mailing paperwork and the processing fees for required documents such as FBI background checks.
  • Ask others. Begin talking about your desire to teach abroad in casual conversations. Oftentimes people will bring up a relative or friend or reveal that they had an experience teaching overseas. This is a great opportunity to be assertive. In several instances, Danny contacted strangers on Facebook after having a conversation with a mutual acquaintance. For us this resulted in Skype sessions and informational interviews at coffee shops. Each time we asked if they went through a recruiter or organization. We found this to be the most helpful way of finding a reputable agency.

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Cambodia

Step #2: Complete paperwork

  • This includes getting an FBI background check, a passport, and work visas. Our recruiter Don guided us through this process. He kept track of deadlines and was available to answer questions. For questions he couldn’t answer, I was often able to find an answer online.

Step #3: Sign a Contract

  • Danny and I were very anxious to sign our contract because we had read horror stories of teachers stuck in terrible contracts. We asked for a few days to make a final decision and read our contract carefully, we had our families and friends read it and we sent several messages with questions to our prospective employers to clarify. My biggest piece of advice: take your time making this decision. Don’t become too excited or desperate, or you might become stuck in a difficult situation that could become increasing complex negotiating with language and cultural barriers.

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Floating market, Bangkok, Thailand

Step #4: Prepare to leave

  • You will need to order currency and start packing. Packing for a year away from home can be daunting. I started in phases and relied on packing lists I found on countless travel blogs. Keep in mind that you need less than you think you do. Almost everything you can buy in America you can buy in Korea. If you have even a little doubt, don’t pack it. You will accumulate things in Korea and it will become expensive to move your things back home. If you are planning on teaching in Korea, focus on a professional wardrobe. Koreans are dressed to impress, all day, every day.

Step #5: Go!

  • After making time to visit and say goodbye to your friends and family, it’s time to go! The big leap is exhausting and terrifying at first, but it will be one of the best years of your life.

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Emily with a few of her students.

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1st Photo Source: Unsplash | Ambir Tolang
Other photo sources: Emily

Adventures in Teaching Abroad

By: Emily

Hello! I’m Emily, a previous Peer Educator at UMD Career & Internship Services. I’m writing as a guest blogger today to share information about teaching abroad. Currently I live in Ulsan, South Korea with my boyfriend and fellow UMD alum, Danny. We teach at a hogwon, which is a private school that operates during after school hours. So, how did we get here?

Our Story

After graduating UMD with art degrees (BFA Photography and BA Theatre) Danny and I have both jumped from job to job trying to find something we loved. I landed for a brief period of time at the Minnesota Children’s Museum in St. Paul, where I met a co-worker who had taught English in South Korea and Brazil. Both of her experiences seemed extraordinary and I asked for the name of her recruiter. After some follow up research, Danny and I submitted an application to a recruiting agency based out of Minneapolis called ESL Joblink. The more we sought out past and present ESL teachers in our own workplace and communities we found more people who had gone through ESL Joblink. All of them had or were currently having a rewarding experience teaching abroad at reputable schools. Danny and I soon met and interviewed with our recruiter, Don, began an online TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) class and started our visa paperwork. Our recruiter was able to connect us with the director of a private school in Ulsan, South Korea and after a phone interview we were hired, as a couple, to teach abroad.

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Danny and I in Kyoto, Japan

Why should I teach abroad?

Since coming to South Korea we have been able to explore parts of Japan, Thailand, and Cambodia. By the end of our year, we will have traveled to Vietnam, Taiwan, Morocco, Belgium, and the Netherlands. Depending on how you plan your trips, traveling can be extremely affordable in Southeastern Asia. In Cambodia, for example, a large dinner can cost anywhere between 2-5 dollars and your accommodations can be just as cheap. If you want to see the world, teaching abroad makes traveling easier and affordable.

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Bangkok, Thailand

Traveling is my favorite part of teaching abroad, but I cannot stress enough that you have to enjoy working with kids and have an interest in teaching. I teach long and difficult hours everyday and I find it equal parts rewarding and exhausting. Nothing in my life has been as challenging as being an ESL teacher. Many of my students are overworked and tired (some go to school from 8 am to 10 pm, even on Saturday and Sunday) and they deserve the best teachers to energize and engage them in learning. Unfortunately, foreign teachers in South Korea have a bad reputation for not actually caring about their jobs, but for being backpackers. I can’t imagine enjoying this experience at all if I were only going through the motions, waiting for my travel breaks. This job is ninety percent teaching kids, so if you don’t have experience in teaching, or working with kids or saying, “Sit down, stop that, listen carefully, no hitting, indoor voice, hands to yourself” like a broken record, try it in the United States first before you hop over the pond.

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In Japan

Why South Korea?

Minimal research done online will show you that South Korea is one of the best locations to teach abroad. After signing our contract, our airfare was paid for, our housing provided, and a few household items/ utilities were given to us for free. Since our accommodations are located close to work, we spend little on transportation, which means at the end of the week our biggest expense (besides our student loans) is groceries. In Korea, you will be paid well and, without airfare and rent payments, you can save up a sizeable amount that you can then use for traveling or for other things. Even with student loans, it is completely possible to save up to $1,000 dollars a month.

Stay tuned for part 2 where I talk more in-depth about how you secure a teaching abroad position.

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All photos are by Emily.

Making the Most of Your Short Time Abroad

By: Katie

I’ve had the opportunity to participate in two of UMD’s short term study abroad programs during my time here: one for a month in Salamanca, Spain, and the other for 2 weeks in various cities in Italy. Both of these experiences were the most incredible of my life, but there was one major downside to both: I didn’t have nearly enough time.

Short term programs are great for many reasons, but they don’t leave you with much time to participate in all the things that add richness to the experience. However, there are ways to fully immerse yourself in the culture and get the most you possibly can out of your study abroad experience, even in such a short period of time.

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Venice

Use Local Transportation

Walk. Walk everywhere. Many cities outside of the U.S. (in Europe, at least) are made to be much more walkable than they are here, and people certainly take advantage of that. Walking around allows you to experience the city the way locals do, and you get to see things you wouldn’t see if you traveled by car or other means of transportation.
While I do think walking is the best way to get around, checking out the public transportation system the city offers can also be fun. Just make sure to watch out for pickpockets…and don’t put anything valuable in your back pockets or a bag that rests behind you!

Explore & Get Lost

There really is no substitute for experiencing foreign cities as they light up after the sun sets. You can walk around and see where people are hanging out or find something to eat. While you’re wandering during the day, check out the different shops around the city. And I don’t mean just the tacky tourist-y shops – go into the stores the people who live there visit, and see what interesting things you can find. For example, the way they weigh and buy fruit is different in Spain than it is here. Even something as small as that adds to your experience.

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Florence

Talk to Locals

While this may seem intimidating, particularly when in a country with a different native language, it’s totally worth it. I have so many great memories of conversations (and pictures taken) with the people I met in Italy and Spain. Talk to them about their culture, and tell them about yours. Ask them for recommendations on where to eat, what to do, and what the must-do experiences to have before you leave are. Ask for directions, and do your best to follow them…but always carry a map with you, for when you inevitably get lost. And on that note, make sure you know how to read a map before you leave the States!

Try all the things!

Or at least do as many as you can in two, three, or four weeks. Find out what foods that area of the world/country is known for (Salamanca loves its cured meats, and Italy loves, well, pasta and pizza), and try as many of them as possible. If there are any events or celebrations going on while you’re there, check them out. On our first day in Salamanca, we witnessed the annual Procesión del Corpus Christi. Later, we listened to musicians performing in the plazas. If you have the opportunity to take advantage of similar extra opportunities, definitely do so!

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La Plaza de Espana

 

Journal, take pictures, and make all the memories you can.

One thing I didn’t do much of my first go around but chose to do my second was to journal. I already took a ridiculous amount of pictures, but pictures can’t give you as much detail as a verbal description of what you did and how you felt. I look back on my journal from Italy and it instantly brings back all the memories the pictures are unable to. While it might feel like a bit of a chore at the time, you’ll appreciate it later as the memories begin to fade.

Most importantly…

The main piece of advice I can give you is if you’re thinking of studying abroad, do it, and if you’re not thinking of studying abroad, think about it. No one ever regrets studying abroad, but they do regret not doing it. It’s scary to venture outside of your comfort zone, but if you do, studying abroad will certainly be one of the most incredible experiences of your life.

Of Possible Interest: 

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All photos taken by Katie on her travels.