Immersing Yourself in a Foreign Culture



By Milena Nutrobkina, Chemical Engineer, 2020-2021 SCS Student Advising Leader

With remote learning, studying abroad may seem like a far-reaching goal. But it’s possible to participate in international activities on campus and to plan for studying abroad in the future. I had the opportunity to study abroad at Comillas Pontifical University in Madrid, Spain during my second semester as a sophomore in Spring 2019. It was an experience that I have wanted to partake in for a while. I studied Spanish since first grade and I couldn’t wait until I could immerse myself fully in the culture. Whether you’re a chemical engineer or a chemist, it’s possible to study, research, intern abroad, participate in faculty-led programs, or volunteer.

My journey was through International Programs in Engineering (IPENG). However, for non-engineers, the study abroad program would go through the LAS International Programs. In either case, the first step is to attend workshops that are offered twice a week. These workshops teach you about the program you’re going to be a part of, how to apply to a program, set goals and expectations, meet the education abroad continent specific coordinators, and apply for financial aid and scholarships. For the IPENG program, the application consists of short essays about why you want to study abroad. While abroad, you’ll take one credit hour course where you’ll be able to reflect on your journey and apply the concepts learned during the workshops.

The whole process can be a little intimidating. But the end goal is well worth it. I started planning my abroad experience at least a semester before traveling. Depending on the country, you might need to get a visa. These appointments fill up quickly. Once you get your acceptance to your program, make sure to make a visa appointment right away. Another important aspect of planning is figuring out your accommodations. Does your program provide housing or will you need to look for an apartment or home stay? Home stays are a great opportunity to get fully immersed in a culture. You’ll live with a host family, eat with them, go on trips with them, and learn about their culture.

Lastly, it’s important to coordinate with your advisor. These discussions will most likely surround how beneficial it will be in the long term to research or intern abroad or which classes will and will not transfer over to your degree (if you’re studying abroad). Transferable courses can be found on the course approval database and the course approval form will need to be signed by SCS Advising and LAS. If the course is not counting for a technical elective, ChBE research, or ChBE core and you want it to be utilized for such requirements, follow these steps:  Study Abroad Course Approvals for CHBE

Studying abroad can be done at any time during the year. Most students study abroad during the semester. However, if you’re worried about missing a semester, you have the opportunity to study abroad during a winter session or the summer. Furthermore, studying abroad usually costs less than a normal semester. Studying abroad now is much easier than traveling as an adult with other responsibilities. I was able to learn and grow as an individual, brush up on my Spanish skills, compare and contrast Spanish and American cultures, and make lifelong friends. Studying abroad was life-changing for me, and will be for you as well.