Students challenge their perspective of the world and themselves by maximizing immersion in host communities.
Here at PLU we value both global education and sustainable living. International travel creates a significant carbon footprint. Through Earth Deeds, PLU semester study away students calculate their carbon impact and direct funds to sustainability projects around the globe.
Social media can be a great way to stay connected with friends and family back home, as well as keeping in touch with new friends after your program ends.
Don’t forget to take lots of pictures to share once you return. Whether it be your morning coffee, a historical site, or a picturesque Instagram moment featuring yourself; try to take a lot of pictures of what you are doing while abroad.
The Wang Center loves to see what students are up to during their programs. Tag pictures and posts with #lutesaway. You can find us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
Blogging while abroad is a great way to journal and share your experiences with your friends and family. Rather than updating all your friends and family members one-on-one, you can post an entry for the day/week/month and let them view it as they have time. The Wang Center also welcomes blog postings and occasionally shares student work via social media or the website. Contact Jessica Hanson at firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in having your blog featured by the Wang Center.
Journal Prompt Ideas
As you prepare to study abroad, you’re probably already aware that you’re on the brink of a life-changing experience. From the moment you take off, you’ll visit many places and see many wonderful things, but without a doubt, the greatest journey takes place internally—we know it, and our alumni tell us all the time.
To help you process your experience, we recommend that you start a blog or keep a journal of your time abroad. Keeping a record of your cross-cultural experiences encourages you to think about, interpret, and analyze cross-cultural situations. Learning how to do this is one of study abroad’s most valuable lessons, so take advantage of the opportunity!
Here are eight tips for getting the most out of recording your cross-cultural experience.
1. Begin right away. Before you leave, record what you want to get out of your experience academically, socially, and personally. What do you expect to encounter? What concerns do you have?
2. Observe and interpret. Record day-to-day observations on your experiences and surroundings, from dinner conversations to people you see on the street. These details of daily life abroad are full of meaning. How do they represent different mindsets?
3. Respond to classroom lectures, discussions, and assignments. By documenting your impressions and interpretations of your academic environment, you are actively using classroom material to enhance your cultural experience in another country and vice versa. It’s one of the benefits of studying abroad versus just traveling abroad.
4. Experiment! Assign yourself different personal research exercises. For example, interview five or six “locals,” or take time to sit and observe how people interact in cafés, theaters, or public places.
5. Record your reactions. Ethnocentric moments are your reactions, based on your own cultural assumptions, to local situations and events. Recording an experience at the post office or a restaurant will help you to analyze your own cultural values. Re-reading them later in your stay can demonstrate how much you’ve grown and also be the source of a good laugh.
6. Break norms, customs, and traditions. You should also record how people respond to you. You may feel misunderstood, uncertain as to how to respond or relate, or lost because people do things differently. By imagining how others might interpret your actions differently, you will begin to understand different points of view.
7. Use your blog or journal creatively. Include photos, sketches, song lyrics, poems, or other creative projects. You may also wish to write in the local language. Keeping a vocabulary section will also help you remember the new slang terms and expressions you have learned.
8. Critique your blog or journal. How did your perspectives change? What did you choose to write about, and how did this change? How did you see yourself growing?
Text and information from IES Abroad
Tips for Study Away!
Before you go…
- Research the culture, history, and language of the place you plan to visit.
- Open your mind to new things and experiences.
While are you are away…
- Keep a journal. This will help you reflect and look back on your experiences, and it’s a good way to cool down after a long day.
- Take a BREAK from your phone. Learn how to read a physical map instead of depending on your GPS. Set a daily screen-time limit.
- Observe, listen, and try to be objective. Recognize that the filter of your own culture will always influence how you see the world.
- Attend local events not typically attended by tourists. Ask your host family/local friends about which ones to go to.
- Make an effort to learn the local language, even if that’s not why you are there.
After you return…
- You may experience “reverse culture shock.” Try to stay in contact with the friends you met while you were away.
- Find ways to continue developing skills you started building while you were away.
- Give yourself time to reflect on your experiences. Read that journal!