Students Abroad: Escaping the American Bubble

Travel Blog  •  Julia Ross  •  11.05.07 | 2:24 PM ET

imagePhoto by tlindenbaum via Flickr, (Creative Commons).

As we’ve noted before, rising interest in study abroad programs has sparked discussion about how to reduce costs and improve access so more American college students can take part. Now a lengthy audio presentation underscores the point: A Yale student who studied in Oman has fond memories of watching Oprah every evening with the women in her host family. Another who studied in Argentina decides to take tango lessons five nights a week and ends up dancing with lawyers and subway conductors.

On the flip side, a University of North Carolina student spends a semester in Prague living and studying only with other Americans and admits she learned more about the world while on vacation in Morocco.

According to the Times, some 6,000 U.S. study abroad programs now send students to more than 100 countries. With so much to choose from, it seems students—now more than ever—should consider carefully what they want from the experience.


Julia Ross is a Washington, DC-based writer and frequent contributor to World Hum. She has lived in China and Taiwan, where she was a Fulbright scholar and Mandarin student. Her writing has appeared in the Washington Post, Time, Christian Science Monitor, Plenty and other publications. Her essay, Six Degrees of Vietnam, was shortlisted for "The Best American Travel Writing 2009."

6 Comments for Students Abroad: Escaping the American Bubble

Russ 11.06.07 | 8:36 AM ET

As a student at the American University in Cairo, I find it very true that one must be intentional about what they want out of the study abroad experience.  From my observations here, those who live in less affluent, non-English speaking neighborhoods and also limit relationships with other study abroad students do best in experiencing the true culture.

Emily 11.06.07 | 5:08 PM ET

I would have loved to take part in a study abroad program, but never had the money - so I definitely support increasing accessibility.  Perhaps more rigorous personal and academic requirements and less financial requirements would help to ensure that the students who go would get the most out of their experience.  I know in my schools it has often been affluent students in search of a vacation that ended up on these trips.

Kelly 11.06.07 | 10:19 PM ET

I’ll be interested to find out what comes of this topic now that study abroad programs are becoming so popular. I studied in London last summer, and one complaint we made about the program (as we were the first in our school to do this) was that we felt a little bit isolated and would have liked to mix with other students. Such is a summer program, I suppose, but nonetheless we wanted to mix with English students - particularly due to the absence of excessive language and cultural barriers!

student loan consolidation 04.21.08 | 11:55 AM ET

In an experience exchange program I got to be host for some American students. They came to Germany and were completely surprised to see that their American bubble burst and they had to handle the classes just like us residents did. Nobody gave them a break just because they were foreigners.

fake diplomas 07.12.08 | 4:57 PM ET

Studying abroad can only bring benefits to a student. Of course, some of them don’t have enough luck. In my opinion it’s a great experience and all students should consider it as an opportunity to learn more about different cultures.

Stefanie 07.26.08 | 6:48 PM ET

When you are young, you are not hanging on something or someone, I think it’s high time to go somewhere for experience, nice emotions and foreign friends!

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