Alumni Spotlight: Richard Gerlach

Where and when did you study abroad and with which program?

Japan and Taiwan, Summer 2012

What were your initial thoughts when you first arrived in the country and started your program?

I had a fantastic time, and learned a lot. I didn’t experience much shock. However, some others did. For me, going abroad was one of the best times of my life. When I faced a bit of culture shock, instead of staying inside I  got out of my room and just took everything in. Doing this made the trip easier.

What advice would you give to a fellow BSU student looking to study abroad?  Do you have anything specific advice about your program/location?

If the country doesn’t speak English, trying to learn some of the language will make the trip more comfortable.

Once back from studying abroad, did you get involved in anything on campus to continue the international experience?

I became involved in the Office of Study Abroad, as a Study Abroad Student Ambassador, as well as with the International Culture and the Asian Student Union.

How has your study abroad experience influenced your post-graduate decisions?

I fell in love with travel and my plans changed into working abroad. Right now I’m teaching English in Nanjing, China.

Meet the Study Abroad Staff— pt 4!

As we begin a new academic year, we want to (re)introduce ourselves to everyone! Every few days, we will highlight a different member of the OSA staff. So fare, we have introduced Michael Sandy, Jennifer Currie, and Sasha Link. Up next is….

Alida Gomez- Administrative Assistant/Coordinator for short-term study abroad programs

What countries have you visited? Do you have a favorite?

In chronological order… Canada, Spain, Chile, Guatemala, Belize, Mexico, Brazil, Honduras, Nicaragua, Peru, Jamaica, Czech Republic, the Netherlands, Belgium, Aruba. I lived in Guatemala for a year, so it’s definitely one of my favorite places.

If you could get on a plane right now and go anywhere in the world, where would it be?

I really want to explore the United Kingdom, especially Scotland and Northern Ireland. Also, I will always want to go back to Latin America.

What’s the most bizarre and/or delicious food you’ve eaten abroad?

I ate Guinea pig in Peru for my brother’s wedding! Personally, I think it’s more work than it’s worth. In terms of delicious foods, you can’t beat fresh corn tortillas with rice and beans in Guatemala!

What’s your favorite part about working in the Office of Study Abroad?

Getting students abroad, of course! It’s great to work with someone through the whole process—from initially talking to someone about the possibilities of going abroad and helping them prepare, all the way to seeing them after they’ve returned to BSU and hearing all about their experiences and seeing how they’ve changed!

Meet the OSA Staff— Part 3!

As we begin a new academic year, we want to (re)introduce ourselves to everyone! Every few days, we will highlight a different member of the OSA staff. So fare, we have introduced Michael Sandy and Jennifer Currie.

Up next: Sasha Link!

Sasha Link- Marketing and Staff Assistant

What countries have you visited? Do you have a favorite?

Turkey, Barbados, St. Thomas, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Bahamas

If you could get on a plane right now and go anywhere in the world, where would it be?

Turks and Caico

What are some of your hobbies? 

Reading, traveling, crafting and swimming.

What do you think is one of the most important reasons for students to participate in a study abroad program?

To journey outside of their world, invite another culture in and explore the endless opportunities for growth.

What do you think is one of the most important reasons for students to participate in a study abroad program?

To journey outside of their world, invite another culture in and explore the endless opportunities for growth.

What’s your favorite part about working in the Office of Study Abroad?

The team effort and excitement of inspiring students to take the journey abroad.

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Sasha in Haiti

Meet the Study Abroad Staff! Pt 2

As we begin a new academic year, we want to (re)introduce ourselves to everyone! Every few days, we will highlight a different member of the OSA staff. Last week, we introduced Michael Sandy, director of Study Abroad. Up next: Jennifer Curie…

Jennifer Currie- Staff Assistant/Coordinator for Semester/Academic Year Programs

What countries have you visited? Do you have a favorite?

Canada, Mexico, Dominican Republic, England

If you could get on a plane right now and go anywhere in the world, where would it be?

Ireland or Puerto Rico

What are some of your hobbies?

I like to ski, read science fiction novels and organize!

What’s the most bizarre and/or delicious food you’ve eaten abroad?

I absolutely love dairy products abroad, especially chocolate and butter. The US just does not produce the same type of quality of dairy.  Dairy Abroad would be the name of a travel food blog if I had all the money in the world to travel!

Meet the Study Abroad Staff!

As we begin a new academic year, we want to (re)introduce ourselves to everyone! Every few days, we will highlight a different member of the OSA staff. We’ll begin with…

Michael Sandy- Director of Study Abroad

What countries have you visited? Do you have a favorite?

I have been very fortunate to visit 32 countries on 6 continents for work, service-learning programs, and personal travel.  My favorite place is often the last place I visited but I am most often drawn back to Latin America.

What’s the most bizarre and/or delicious food you’ve eaten abroad?

Fried grasshoppers in a village outside of Jingdezhen, China was the most bizarre food and massamam curry in Chiang Mai, Thailand was the most delicious (I went back to the restaurant the next day to have another bowl).

What do you think is one of the most important reasons for students to participate in a study abroad program?

Studying abroad is an excellent way to better understand our rapidly changing world and to develop global skills needed to succeed in our careers, relationships and communities.  The world has mobilized and study abroad and inter-cultural experiences, in addition to studying international subjects and foreign languages, provides opportunities to be engaged far beyond our classrooms and borders.  

What’s your favorite part about working in the Office of Study Abroad?

I love providing global opportunities for our students and creating pathways for their participation.  It is personally and professionally rewarding to support students, whether they are first time travelers or globe-trekkers, on their next cross-cultural experience.  I was afforded international opportunities in my youth which set the tone and priorities for my life, and I am grateful for a career in international education and opportunities to pay it forward. 

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Mike Sandy at the Royal Palace, Bangkok, Thailand

Busting the Top 10 Study Abroad Myths

By Stacie Nevadomski Berdan, Huffington Post

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/stacie-nevadomski-berdan/busting-the-top-10-study-abroad_b_4175861.html

Myth #1: Study abroad costs too much.

Fact: The cost varies depending on the type and location of the program, the length of the stay, and whether the program is administered through a university or an outside organization. A program can be significantly less expensive, more or about the same. Study abroad can be affordable. Many colleges and universities are committed to maintaining cost parity; a semester abroad should cost exactly the same as one on the home campus, at least as far as tuition and board. Some study abroad programs — especially those in developing countries — can actually be less expensive than tuition and fees for the equivalent amount of time on home campus. Financial aid should be transferable as long as the home college accepts the transferred credits. Enrolling directly in an international university can often save students a great deal of money, but the risks are greater (students are doing all the work themselves without a structure or proven process in place) as is the amount of time spent on managing the process.

Myth #2: Studying abroad is all about partying and having fun.

Fact: It’s about studying, learning and building valuable skills. There is no doubt that some students view studying abroad as a vacation, going just to party, drink and hook up with other students. Some programs are run more like glorified vacations, shuttling busloads of American students from one sight to the next. But times are changing, and study abroad is so much more than that. It expands personal horizons while opening up a world of personal and professional opportunities. Although it should be fun, it’s also a serious undertaking that will challenge students on a personal level and have an impact on their academic career. Studying abroad includes taking classes, preferably taught by local professors on locally-relevant subjects — and in the local language if possible. Students will learn about different education systems and ways of teaching. They will find themselves challenging their own ideas and beliefs once they’ve had a chance to experience an alternate perspective. Students will learn how to appreciate different cultures and solve problems while operating in an environment from what they’re used to.

Myth #3: Study abroad is only for language and international relations majors.

Fact: All subjects can be taught through a global lens. Study abroad is for all majors, and students in every field will benefit from a global experience. Historically, most programs embraced the humanities, but today only 11.3 percent of students who study abroad major in the humanities and only an additional 5.6 percent major in languages. More colleges are offering or even requiring international stints for students in social sciences (22.9 percent), business (20.5 percent) and engineering/math/sciences (13.2% percent. (Numbers from last year’s Open Doors Report 2012*.)

Myth #4: Study abroad is only for juniors.

Fact: It is for any undergraduate or graduate student at any time. While studying abroad as a junior continues to be the most popular — one-third of all students do it — the other two-thirds have taken advantage of different options. Freshmen, sophomores and seniors are studying abroad anywhere from two weeks to a full academic year. Many community college programs offer study abroad opportunities, and increasing numbers of graduate students are spending part of their time abroad. Students should consider the pros and cons of studying abroad at different times and for different lengths of time and choose that which is best.

Myth #5: Students only study abroad in Europe.

Fact: Students study abroad in almost every country in the world. Although almost 40 percent of students studied in the U.K., Italy, France and Spain in the year 2011-12, this number has been decreasing over the past few years. In fact, according to the Open Doors report, four of the top 10 destinations are outside of Europe: China, Australia, Costa Rica and Argentina. The shift is happening, albeit slowly, away from Europe; the programs in European destinations are well established with plenty of alums recommending them. But more and more students are considering rising economic global players, such as India, Brazil or Turkey to give them an extra boost when it comes to the job search.

Myth #6: Studying abroad is only for white students.

Fact: Anyone who wants to study abroad can study abroad. Although 78 percent of students studying abroad are white, they represent 62 percent of enrollment in higher education. Asian Americans represent 8 percent of study abroad students, which is close to their actual proportion of all college students. However, African-American students comprise 14 percent of the college population, but only 5 percent of study abroad students. Hispanic students make up 13 percent of all those enrolled in U.S. higher education, but only 7 percent of those who study abroad. For these students, barriers include fear of racism, worries about delayed graduation, and few role models — either family or faculty — who have traveled abroad. Most administrators agree that increasing racial and ethnic diversity in study abroad will require an effort to persuade students that going abroad is both possible and necessary. If you are a person of color, ethnically diverse, someone with a disability or anyone else who doesn’t fit the “study abroad stereotype” — you can do it. Groups such as Diversity AbroadMIUSA and NAFSA Special Interest Group provide support.

Myth #7: There aren’t many scholarships available for studying abroad.

Fact: There are hundreds and hundreds of study abroad scholarships available for merit, financial need and even specialty awards. Most colleges have a straightforward framework for applying for study abroad scholarships, one that lays out the potential amounts available, the process and deadlines for applying, and any restrictions that may exist for general scholarships as well as targeted scholarships for diversity, first-generation, high-financial need students and geography (choosing a destination off the beaten path). In addition, scholarships are offered by many other organizations, including private organizations like the Shawn Carter Foundation, foreign governments, and many sponsored by the U.S. government, such as numerous Fulbright awardsBoren awards and the Benjamin A. Gilman Award. As an example, in 2012-13, Gilman awarded 2,900 scholarships for a total of $11.3 million. Since inception in 2001, Gilman has awarded more than 14,000 U.S. undergraduate students of high financial need scholarships to study or intern abroad, who have come from over 1,100 U.S. institutions and gone to 135 countries around the world. For a comprehensive listing of scholarships and funding, check out IIE Passport’s Study Abroad Funding site.

Myth #8: Traveling independently offers the same experience.

Fact: Studying abroad includes “studying,” whereas traveling does not. Traveling and tourism are added perks to studying abroad, but they should not overshadow the actual purpose of studying abroad, which is studying and living in another culture. Taking classes with local students, and honing language skills by communicating and interacting with local friends or a host family, will offer much deeper insight into the local culture. Rather than leaving town every weekend, students should explore their host community and spend time getting to know the local neighborhood, not just seeing the big sights. Students will learn more about themselves and others.

Myth #9: Studying abroad will delay graduation.

Fact: If students plan ahead and make sure their credits transfer, there’s no reason graduation will be delayed. In fact, research shows that four-year graduation rates for students who studied abroad are significantly higher than those who stayed at home — 17.8 percent higher. Study abroad students return with a reinvigorated interest in academic pursuits and a renewed passion for lifelong learning. Some students who study abroad for a year have actually graduated in less than four years because of the accelerated classes they took while abroad.

Myth #10: Potential employers don’t value study abroad.

Fact: Employers increasingly want workers who can work cross-culturally and speak another language. Study abroad is one of the best ways (often the only way) for students to acquire marketable international qualifications, cross-cultural competency and proficiency in a second language. In addition to valuing the soft skills acquired while spending time abroad, employers want workers who can collaborate with others around the world. But just listing study abroad on a resume or in a cover letter won’t cut it. Students must package their study abroad experience in a way that showcases what they’ve learned. Organizations will want to know what an applicant did and learned while abroad — and how that experience can be brought to bear on the job.

Perhaps study abroad is not for you, and if that’s the case, it’s okay. But if you’re saying “no” due to any one of these misperceptions, do your research before you decide not to go. One of the reasons that the Institute of International Education and I collaborated on writing A Student Guide to Study Abroad is because of the need to consolidate the vast amount of information out there — and offer a comprehensive yet practical guide for students and parents to use in their decision making. All programs are not equal, and study abroad offices cannot possibly convey all the big and small things needed to know to make a decision, prepare a student for the experience and help students leverage what they’ve learned once they’ve returned.

Ecuador- new study tour location!

This winter, BSU is offering a new study tour— to the Galapagos Islands of Ecuador!  The tour is available for Biology or Math credit, but is open to all majors!


We thought this would be a good time to introduce some key information on the country:

  • Location: Western South America, bordering the Pacific Ocean at the Equator, between Colombia and Peru.
  • Population: 15,439,429
  • Capital: Quito
  • Currency: United States Dollar
  • Official Language: Spanish

Geography: Ecuador is divided into three continental regions—the Costa, Sierra, and Oriente—and one insular region: the Galápagos Islands. The continental regions extend the length of the country from north to south and are separated by the Andes Mountains. The Galápagos Islands, officially called the Archipiélago de Colón, are located 620 miles west of the Ecuadorian coast (International Living).

For more information on this incredible opportunity to study over the winter break in the Galapagos, visit the BSU Office of Study Abroad website: my.bridgew.edu/departments/StudyAbroad

Christmas variations from around the world

Around the world, family members help to decorate the tree and home with bright lights, wreaths, candles, holly, mistletoe, and ornaments. On Christmas Eve, many people go to church. Also on Christmas Eve, Santa comes from the North Pole in a sleigh to deliver gifts; in Hawaii, it is said he arrives by boat; in Australia, the jolly man arrives on water skis; and In Ghana, he comes out of the jungle.

In Ireland, it’s traditional to leave mince pies and a bottle of Guinness out as a snack for Santa

In Russia, Christmas is celebrated on the 7th of January and not the 25th of December like in most other countries. This unusual date is because the Orthodox Church uses the old Julian calendar for religious celebration days. In the traditional Russian Christmas special prayers are said and people fast, sometimes for 39 days until January 6th (Christmas Eve) when the first evening star in appears in the sky. Then begins a twelve course supper in honor of each of the twelve apostles..

In the Czech Republic, single women perform a very usual ritual on Christmas Eve Day to find out if they will marry in the following year. With their backs to the house door, they throw one of their shoes over their shoulder. If the shoe lands with the heel towards the door, she will definitely stay single for another year, while if the front of the shoe points towards the door, it means she will move out of her parents’ house and she should start making wedding preparations.

In Sweden, there is a giant goat made of straw to mark the beginning of the holiday season. Every year vandals do everything they can to burn down the goat before Christmas day. Since 1966 the straw goat has survived until Christmas Day only 10 times. People disguise themselves as Santa or elves to get past the guardian and ignite the straw monument.

In Germany, December 6th is Nikolaustag St. Claus day. On the eve of that day, children leave out shoes or boot outside their door, and the next morning candles and small toys appear in them for those who have been good or else a golden birch (a symbol for spanking) is placed next to the sweets if they were bad.

In Greenland, rather than the more traditional Christmas foods, Kivak which consists of raw flesh of an auk wrapped in seal skin and placed under a rock for several months until its well into decomposition is the order of the day.