Across the ocean in big cities and rural towns, in the mountains and on the coast, thousands of people discover there is more to life than meets the textbook. If you are a student, you have the power to submerge yourself into a culture you have only read about, while building friendships with unlikely confidants and living adventures unrivaled in awe. And while you’re there, get college credit for it. Study abroad through your university or someone else’s is an open door to this possibility.
“The purpose of college is to understand a world beyond your own perspective,” says Megan Gavin, Records Manager at Boston University’s Study Abroad Department. According to Megan, there is no better way to manifest this idea than venturing overseas. She should know. Megan first opened her eyes to a different way of life when she was 16 and had the unique opportunity to volunteer in Guatemala for two weeks with her school.
It was in Guatemala, when she was picking coffee, playing with children at an orphanage, and helping with reforestation, that she realized that money doesn’t make a country rich. Megan reflects on this paradigm shift, “Someone shows you a new reality and you see your life is just one truth out of so many truths, and you see how many ideas, approaches, perspectives to the world are out there.”
To see this contrast of rich versus poor, excess versus meager, and to not label either as good or bad left a lasting impression on Megan. It piqued her curiosity about traveling and about the world, and for this Minnesota native, BU was the natural choice for college. Boston University offers over 40 programs across more than 20 countries during fall, spring, and summer terms, so students can select an opportunity best suited to their needs and interests.
The internship exchange program fulfilled Megan’s desire to experience yet another way of life. BU sponsors internship programs in Paris, Madrid, Geneva, Sydney, Dublin, London, and Beijing, where participants take three classes and the internship counts as the fourth. Deciding on Madrid in the spring of her Sophomore year, BU set up Megan with an internship based on her input. She was placed at The Institute of Latin American and African Political Studies, and the job was ready and waiting for her the day she set foot in Spain. Megan’s role with the organization provided her a chance to pursue her interests while gaining valuable real world experience.
But let’s face it- yes, it’s school and yes, it’s work, but it’s school and work in a foreign country. Everything is exciting because it’s different and new, and each day is an adventure in the land of the unknown. Even an average Friday night at the club is grounds for an eye-opening experience. Unparalleled in nightlife, Spain gets started at 2am and the party doesn’t end until 5. And not just for the young- Megan recalls seeing 70-year old couples out for strolls at 3am. The only way she can describe her semester abroad is, “Fun beyond imagination.”
However, Spain was only the beginning for Megan. She decided to embark on another journey during her Junior year that was poles apart from, yet inspired by, her life in Madrid. She made her way to Niger, the second poorest country in the world. This time she took classes on African philosophy, national languages, cultures in West Africa, and spent time volunteering in the community as part of her coursework.
Megan’s collection of international discovery ultimately inspired her to help others paving a similar path. It only made sense for her to work at the Study Abroad Office at Boston University. Senior Enrollment Coordinator at BU, Heather Kent, comments, “People work in Study Abroad for the reward in seeing how international experiences change students, the skills and personality characteristics they acquire, etcÃ¢Â?Â¦” Heather has spent nearly two years in France, and, in many ways, has never really left. Heather and Megan are just two of the well-versed staff members assisting students on their quests overseas. “Everyone I work with has lived abroad (studied, taught, did the peace core, etc.),” says Heather, who has helped over 1000 students achieve their study abroad goals.
And BU’s programs are not limited to BU students. According to Heather, “BU students make up about 2/3 of total participants, and non-BU students come from schools all over the U.S.” Transferring credits to or from any university is surprisingly easy, so students shouldn’t feel limited by their current enrollment. Anyone who has traveled loves nothing more than discussing their experiences, so inquire if you have questions and let your imagination run ramped. With hundreds of universities in the U.S. and hundreds of countries in the world, if you can imagine it, you can do it.