Whether looking for a six-week summer internship in India or study for a year in Sweden, the opportunities for Cal Poly students to go abroad are endless. The level of immersion into a country’s language, culture and customs can vary depending on the program chosen.
Programs such as University Studies Abroad Consortium (USAC) and Cultural Experiences Abroad (CEA) help students ease into the lifestyle of the country where they are studying. Cal Poly students often travel together as a group and live with or near each other.
To further her studies in her German minor, history junior Ashley Reed studied abroad in Lüneburg, Germany. She went through the USAC program, which provided her with German classes as well as classes taught in English.
“Each class has excursions that you get to go on,” Reed said. “They help you become acquainted and make you feel like you are a real German citizen.”
Reed said she learned to be independent and had to completely adjust to a new pace of life, different kinds of people and sometimes a new language.
“The food in Germany was amazing and I got to travel and see neighboring countries as well,” Reed said. “Study abroad is kind of expensive; however, you can look into programs which accept your Cal Poly tuition. There are also ways to travel for cheap, such as staying in hostels and cheap flights.”
After history senior Derek Koehler discovered Cal Poly did not have a program for studying abroad in Hong Kong, he planned a five-month adventure to China on his own. He went to the University of Hong Kong, without any help from a program and was able to get credit for three classes he took while he was there.
“I was kind of shy before going abroad, but I had to completely branch out on my own since I had no structured plans,” Koehler said.
Koehler spontaneously planned his trip during the end of Spring Quarter 2011, arrived in Hong Kong just two months later and continued to crave adventure.
“You can’t plan life in Hong Kong, the culture is to live life to the fullest,” Koehler said. “They embrace Daoism, which basically is a ‘float down the river’ attitude. It was a highly contagious source of energy.”
Although the cost of living in Hong Kong is more expensive than in the United States, the cost of food, entertainment and travel is much cheaper, Koehler said. He would give himself a monthly allowance and budget his spending similarly to how he did while at Cal Poly.
Koehler kept a WordPress blog that he updated daily with entries and pictures during his time abroad. He recommends that anyone studying abroad do this so they can remember all the little details.
“At the bottom of my entries I would often include songs I was listening to at the time, mottos I tried to live by and moments with friends I didn’t want to forget,” Koehler said. “I did things I never thought I would do, like eat a scorpion on a stick and frog hearts. You just have to try everything.”
AIESEC is an entirely student-run and non-profit organization which provides Cal Poly students with internships abroad. Rather than going with fellow Cal Poly students, interns work with students from all over the world. Vice President of Outgoing Exchange Noe Klein interned in Colombia through AIESEC this past summer and lived with a family.
“The family dynamics are very different from America. Colombians are very family-based and very protective,” Klein said. “It’s important to really try to fit with the cultural norms rather than impose American customs.”
AIESEC focuses on cultural immersion while working and living abroad. AIESEC members help students find internship matches and maintain contact with those who they send abroad. The program hosts outgoing seminars on how to adapt to customs and be safe in another country as well as reintegration seminars for when students come back to Cal Poly.
AIESEC is holding its recruitment for going abroad April 1 to 14.