All Aboard!

Travel Made Easy for College Students

Kamille Ritchie, Cactus Staff Writer

If you ask someone what is on their bucket list, traveling seems to always be a common answer; but why wait until you’re graying and wrinkled. CAC has your ticket to board! For two lucky CAC students, the International Studies program offers the opportunity to study abroad with their Foreign Student Exchange program. If studying abroad is not something that interest you, but travelling for leisure is, there’s something in here for you too. I had the opportunity to sit down with the program’s host coordinator and former director of International Studies, Dolores Underwood to get the dos and don’ts for travelling abroad, travelling on a budget, and how to get started.

For the last 6 years, Ms. Underwood has been working with the exchange program. Her job as host coordinator is do her best to ease our visiting professors’ and students’ transition onto campus. Whether that be registering for classes, setting up dorms, or coordinating with contacts to help expose our visitors to activities and other cultures they might be unfamiliar with, Ms. Underwood as well as other hosts want our visitors to feel comfortable. Her experiences travelling, including three summers spent teaching in China, have allowed her to better understand our guests and give advice to the American students and professors participating in the program as well.

The Foreign Exchange Program has exchanged amongst universities in India, Brazil, but mainly China, two students and one professor for each of the past 10 years. Now you might be thinking, I didn’t know there was such a program, tell me more. For the course of the semester, you get to travel to a different country and learn amongst its students and have experiences you might not be used to. While the program has gained popularity thanks to the word from our participants, usually only 10 to 12 students apply to the program. A common issue is money; while the program covers tuition, room and board, students are responsible to pay for transportation overseas as well as their Visa. Another reason might be the idea of being so far from home is terrifying for first time travelers. If you’re worried about not being able to communicate, there’s no need. “Over there in China, they want to be able to practice their English so they love the idea of Americans over there…,” Ms. Underwood reassures. Another thing to know is there will be people to help you adjust there as there are people here. Don’t let these worries stop you from having a life changing experience. “These students have had wonderful experiences, they feel they have grown not just academically, but emotionally…” If this has piqued your interest but you’re unsure how to get started, here are some suggestions: Get involved, take the classes being offered by our visiting professors. Actually associate with our visitors, show them you’re interested in different cultures. Students might be hesitant to approach them but understand that they might come off shy because everything is new to them. They want to interact with you so don’t be scared to make the first move. Learn a different language, it does not have to be Mandarin. Taking time to learn another culture not only shows your interests but can also come in handy for any future language-based situations that might occur.

You might be thinking, that sounds interesting but I don’t want to deal with the pressure of studying overseas, how else can I travel? There are many ways to travel, especially as a college student on a budget. Research. Research. Research. Airlines sometimes offers deals on affordable airfare. Look for openings for a nanny or perhaps a tutor. Probably the best way to start is making short term trips that way it’s easier on your wallet and a way to get your toes wet. Ms. Underwood does suggesting starting in the U.S., especially if this is your first time travelling. Move on to nearby countries and so forth, gradually, expand your horizons. Consider travelling around by train. Bed and breakfasts are affordable alternatives to hotels. Travel with a group of friends, not only to cut costs but have that familiar security. Ms. Underwood says, “There’s always a way to do it.” You just need to be willing to go that extra mile.

So whether it be travelling for pleasure or travelling for school, there are somethings you need to better your experience. For all sakes, go with an attitude that this is not going to be America. Thoroughly research the country you are going to. You need to be open minded to conditions or beliefs that might not mirror you own. Try things you normally would not eat. Of course, see the sights, but when you’re done with that, talk to the people. Make it your goal to get to know them and be kind; aspire to make global friendships. Listen. Observe. Learn. These three alone can prevent you from offending someone. Be respectful and understand that they might not change to accommodate us. Do not put yourself in situations that will make others uncomfortable. Probably, the most important thing that can be helpful to you is learning basic phrases; trust me, it will be helpful for everybody involved. “When you do that [these things], you enjoy the experience even more.”

If you’re interested in the program or would like to know how to volunteer, please contact Dolores Underwood at [email protected] or director of International Studies, Sherrie Soria at [email protected] or 520-494-5410.