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Junior year abroad - wait, a whole year?

Zac Wilkins

Issue date: 12/4/09 Section: Opinion
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As the semester comes to a close, and as I write my final article before Case students embark on that snowy road home for the holidays, it's hard to forget that I'm studying abroad for a full year, and, even more shockingly, not going home for winter (summer) break. What could possibly have compelled me to starve myself of my homeland for so long? Don't I miss peanut butter, blueberries, and Chipotle - not to mention friends and family - enough to head back north?

Well, aside from the outrageous cost of plane tickets, especially this time of year, there are way more pros than cons to deciding to actually spend junior year abroad.

The first reason is one I've heard echoed time and time again from post-study abroad students. It can take quite some time to fully adjust to the new culture and lifestyle, even in English-speaking countries like Ireland or New Zealand, where it seems like 'adjusting' wouldn't be a big deal. These places have their own slang, tipping standards, and eating customs that you don´t adopt overnight. This is especially true for those of us who aren´t exactly well traveled.

I feel as if I have genuinely spent two or even three months figuring out seemingly simple issues such as buying a cell phone, finding a fair-priced laundromat, buying a gym membership, and getting long-term bus and subway passes. A very important added difficulty for many is adapting to life in a big city, since students tend to study abroad in places like London, Sydney, Madrid, and Paris. I don't know about most people, but I don't consider Cleveland a big city, especially from the perspective of the CWRU campus. Waking up to the sound of one of the busiest avenues in a city, in addition to being blocked by protests on the way to class or needing to take taxis to go out to clubs, are all experiences that have taken good time to get used to, such that I needed a full semester to reach that comfort zone.

Another key issue that a lot of people overlook is how the amount of time spent in another country affects friendships. By the time you've finished study abroad orientation, visa processes, registering for classes, and by the time you start being able to get to know natives and make friends, you might find that it's taken up to halfway through your trip before you start establishing real friendships with non-Americans. This leaves you with less than three months to get to know the people within the culture and cultivate relationships with people who just might not be interested in putting effort into a three-month acquaintanceship.
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In This Issue

Cross Country

  • Women finish 15th in nation; Simpson has best finish in university history


  • A conversation with Christina Mastrangelo
  • CWRU students among thousands at SOA protest
  • CWRU's Great Lakes Energy Institute honored as "Center of Excellence"
  • Relay for Life 2010 kicks off with recruitment fair
  • Smart holiday spending tips
  • USG Minutes

Spartan Spotlight

  • Spartan Spotlight: Reid Anderson

Sex and Dating

  • Are you tired?


  • All-American, UAA honorees back
  • Building starts on Mather Park
  • Dukes, Criss keep grapplers strong in the middle
  • For Spartans, Allegheny is splitsville
  • Revolving door is no good for the Browns
  • So far, it's been so good for women's basketball


  • Early Ending: Spartans eliminated from playoffs by Trine University

Fun Page

  • Combo Scramble Solution
  • Crossword Solution
  • Sudoku Solutions

Worst Case Scenario

  • Reading days and salad days


  • Column on smoking misinformed
  • Copenhagen summit may not be effective
  • Divisive politics dilute meaningful discourse
  • Editorial: Semester grades
  • Junior year abroad - wait, a whole year?
  • Take some time to earn your coal
  • What are your plans for winter break?


  • Director Peter Jackson discusses film adaptation of The Lovely Bones
  • M.U.S.I.C. assembles talented group of musicians for 24-hour recital
  • Surviving the home stretch
  • The Buzz
  • The Observer's choices for the best books of 2009
  • The Observer's choices for the best films of 2009
  • The Observer's choices for the best music of 2009
  • The Observer's choices for the best video games of 2009
  • The Spectrum Drag Ball
  • tUnE-yArDs' debut record merges folk music with noise
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