By Samantha Skovran, media relations assistant
|Mathew Lenda studied in Macerta, Italy for the fall 2011 semester.
Oakland University’s study abroad programs give students an once-in-a-lifetime experience. Seniors Michelle Blascak and Matthew Lenda spent this past fall experiencing different cultures while continuing their education.
Lenda, who is majoring in human resource development, decided that a study abroad to Italy would help satisfy his desire to travel, as well as place him closer to his future career goals dealing with multiculturalism and traveling.
Likewise, Blascak spent her study abroad in Greece experiencing new places while continuing towards her degree in sociology.
“I really wanted to travel and see something new,” she explained. “The study abroad program allowed me to do all of that without putting my college career on hold.”
Trips like these allow students to experience different cultures, customs, and perspectives all while maintaining their academic work load. Students may also get hands on teaching in their respective cultures.
“We learned about the wonderful architecture and art inside of Santa Casa cathedral in Loreto, Italy, in class on a Tuesday, and by Friday, we were on a field trip to Loreto to actually see what we learned in class,” said Lenda, whose classroom experiences frequently led to a real life experience like this.
He reminisced, “On one day, we learned how to Gregorian chant in music history, and so with a few chants memorized, we visited a thousand year old cathedral in Frasassi and actually got to chant in the cathedral.”
Students interested in broadening their academic experience, like Lenda and Blascak, should begin to plan and save for their study abroad trip about a year in advance. “Your preparation usually depends on you and the program you’re planning to participate in, and you don’t want to be rushed at all,” said Blascak.
Once in Greece, Blascak did everything she could to experience the culture even if it wasn’t what she was used to.
“If you want to speak the native language, go for it, but make sure you know how to say the word correctly. In my case, I was a syllable off and ended up saying something that I shouldn't have been saying to people,” recalled Blascak. “My native Greek friends thought it was hilarious though.”
Even if a student is not fluent in the language they can still communicate through body language and pointing. In her experience, Blascak also observed that most people at least spoke a little English.
Lenda found it best to embrace the language barriers.
“Before you leave, do some research on where you will be living, learn the basics of the language and customs, and buy a phrase book to practice,” he said. “You need to be open to learning something new and need to remember to be respectful of your new culture, just as you wish someone foreign would be to your own culture.”
Both students recommend that others consider a study abroad program because of the unique and long-lasting effects it can have on an individual’s education and life.
“I was driving home from class tonight and I was thinking, if I were back in Macerata right now, what would I be doing?” Lenda thought aloud. “Maybe I would be walking up to Piazza Liberta to meet a couple friends, and then we would get some gelato on Corso Cavour before heading to the soccer field. The thought made me homesick. I miss my home in Italy. It really became a home to me.”
The Top Five Items You Can’t Forget on a Study Abroad Trip
According to Michelle Blascak and Matthew Lenda
1. Get one pair of really comfy shoes for everyday use, and if you’re a girl don't bring heels because you will never wear them. Italians don’t have carpet so slippers are nice as well.
2. A good guide book to help you find those little gem towns.
3. A journal. It's fun to just write or draw about your experience, and then it gives you something to look back on later.
4. A good camera to document your experience, and some pictures from home to personalize your living space.
5. Bring an empty bag! That way when you buy way too many souvenirs for people, you don't have to go out and spend more money on another suitcase to bring them all home in.