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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Non-traditional study-abroad spots offer unique living

    Ashley McLaren, a senior majoring in psychology and Latin American studies, knew she wanted to study abroad since she started college.

    “”Originally I had wanted to go to Spain,”” McLaren said, “”(but) I didn’t want to just study literature.””

    McLaren wanted a different experience, and her decision landed on Guatemala – “”a perfect fit,”” she said. “”Going to a less common destination seemed a lot more interesting than just Spain, because that’s where everyone goes.””

    Erika Coombs, a junior majoring in East Asian studies and economics, also knew she wanted to study abroad. Coombs chose to go to Japan last year.

    Although she grew up speaking some Japanese, as she is of Japanese heritage, the adjustment to life halfway across the world was difficult. Her commute to school lasted an hour, and she had to schedule her life around public transportation.

    “”It’s a totally different culture,”” Coombs said.

    Like McLaren and Coombs, more students from the United States seeking study abroad are choosing non-traditional destinations, or those outside of Western Europe and the English-speaking world.

    “”Instead of going to the usual countries, students are wanting to explore these more exotic locations,”” said Eric Deschamps, a UA study abroad adviser.

    The UA’s programs in the East Asian countries of China, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan is growing in popularity, Deschamps said. During the 2006-2007 school year, 77 UA students went to East Asia, an increase over previous years.

    Programs in China in particular are becoming more popular with students from a variety of majors, including political science and business, he said.

    The number of U.S. students going to China has increased 35 percent in the past two years, to 6,389 students last year from 4,737 in 2005, according to the 2006 Open Doors report, published by the Institute of International Education. China is now the eighth most popular destination for U.S. students studying abroad.

    Studying abroad in Latin America, also a non-traditional destination, has increased nationally, though not as quickly as programs to Asia.

    Costa Rica and Mexico are among the more popular Latin American destinations, both ranking in the report’s top 10 for U.S. students. Argentina (18th) and Brazil (19th) recently broke into the top 20 destinations.

    The UA has programs corresponding to all four countries.

    As much of Latin America is still developing, committing to live in such an environment can be scary, said Jill Calderon, a UA study abroad adviser. The language barrier can also be difficult for students.

    Nonetheless, she said, the experience can profoundly affect a student.

    “”(You) understand more of what people go through in the opposite direction, more of what your ancestors might have gone through in coming to the United States,”” Calderon said.

    A study abroad experience in a non-traditional destination can open doors for unique experiences, Deschamps said.

    “”Here at the UA, students spend a weekend going to Fourth Avenue or a football game, and that’s great and all,”” he said. “”Our students in East Asia are going to Tibet for a three-day weekend. They’re going to Mongolia, they’re going to visit ancient temples in Japan.””

    “”I’ve never had a student come back from a program in East Asia and say they had a bad trip,”” he added. “”I haven’t heard that once.””

    Do I have to speak a second language to study abroad?

    Not necessarily. Many programs require students to pass a certain number of semesters of the native language, but some do not require proficiency.

    What types of majors study abroad?

    Language and humanity majors are traditionally most common, but now programs can facilitate nearly every major. Engineering, biology, business and political sciences classes are offered across the globe.

    What about safety?

    The UA does not send students to programs where there is a U.S. State Department travel advisory, said David Wright, UA director of Study Abroad and Student Exchange. Students are advised to be aware of their surroundings and use the same common sense they would use anywhere in the world.

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