Every year, more Chapman students find themselves studying abroad to experience different cultures, live in different countries and meet new people. Without fail, they have apprehensions before leaving and will face many challenges. More often than not, they all seem to return bursting with great memories and a changed perspective of the United States.
“Chapman is such a small bubble and I wanted to put myself in a situation where I didn’t know anyone,” said senior Mike Ammann, who studied in Prague.
Study abroad programs have been available at Chapman since the late 1960s. The amount of students who participate increases every year. Last year, 167 students studied abroad to over 50 countries including Italy, France, Spain, the Czech Republic and Semester at Sea.
Katie Roller, the study abroad coordinator at Chapman, helps people prepare to study abroad every semester. She feels that studying abroad allows for students to grow personally, culturally and academically.
“[When students return], I notice improved motivation and more self confidence,” said Roller.
Students choose to study abroad for a variety of reasons. Like Ammann, some choose to go abroad because they want to take a break from Chapman. Others, like senior Eliza Daniels, who went to Greece, go abroad because they want to be immersed in a culture where everything is different from the United States.
“I had no Greek background but I knew it was a chance for self growth,” she said.
Going abroad can often introduce students to different lifestyles, cultures and traditions. Education, food and family values can all be different in a foreign country. For some students, adjusting to these customs can be challenging.
Daniels was excited about studying at a school with different professors and teaching styles. She took a philosophy class with a professor who had three doctorates, and classes were often taught outside of the classroom.
“The professors I had were more conversational in Greece,” said Daniels. “They had reason to have larger egos [than American professors] but didn’t.”
For Ammann, however, studying abroad was more about experiencing the lifestyle than focusing on grades.
“Classes weren’t important to me,” he said. “I had to focus and get decent grades but overall I was there to enjoy my time, travel and be on my own.”
Like Ammann, junior Lindsey Clopp decided to go abroad so she could travel. She is studying on Semester at Sea this spring, which stops in places such as Istanbul, Egypt, Spain and India. Like many students before her, Clopp is anxious about leaving, and doesn’t know what to expect.
“I am equally nervous and excited to go,” she said. “It’s giving me a step in the real world to see what’s really out there.”
Much like Clopp, Daniels did not know what to expect while in Greece. In addition to experiencing a new culture, she also felt a stigma against America from Europeans. This is something students often notice when they go to different countries.
“They don’t like Americans because they think we are boisterous. Americans are the loud ones, the drunken ones behaving obnoxiously,” said Daniels. “I got looks of disgust.”
As a visitor in a foreign country, Daniels felt she had little control. She did not speak Greek and would sometimes not speak to other people for days unless they spoke English. Because of this, she felt humbled.
“Society doesn’t stop for you,” said Daniels. “You miss the metro? Too bad. We have a tendency to think the world revolves around us. But it doesn’t.”
For Clopp, however, any difficulties she encounters abroad will not compare to the difficulty of leaving her family for a semester.
“My mom’s my best friend,” said Clopp. “The hardest part will be not seeing my family.”
While in Prague, Ammann was able to stay connected with his family through e-mail and telephone. When he returned, the amenities of living in America were refreshing at first. However, Ammann started to miss the Czech lifestyle.
“Here, everything revolves around a car,” he said. “It was so nice walking everywhere, and it gives the town more of a community feel.”
When she returned, Daniels had to readjust to the American lifestyle where everything seemed to move faster. In Greece meals could be four hours long.
“I was so mellow at first when people would have issues and problems,” she said. “Slowly, I have gotten acclimated to Chapman and American life.”
Before they leave and when they return, Roller notices a common theme with all students.
“The funny thing is, they all return stating that ‘studying abroad was the best thing I ever did,’ and then they forget about all of their fears,” said Roller.