Live and Learn Episode 8
[Danielle Chaloux]: Welcome to Live and Learn, a production of the Honors Program at the University of Connecticut. I’m Danielle Chaloux, and this is Episode 8 for the week of November 13th. Dr. Nicholas Leadbeater of the Department of Chemistry will be hosting a Lunch & Learn on Tuesday, Nov. 14th, at 12:30 PM in the Buckley Classroom. All majors are welcome to join Dr. Leadbeater in an informal conversation over lunch. RSVP at honors.uconn.edu/lunchlearn. And on Thursday, Nov. 16th, stop by the Student Union Theater at 7 PM to hear from the Pollinators Protection Panel, featuring beekeepers, professors, and the state apiary, talking about the necessity of bees and how to save them.
[DC]: This week we’re talking Education Abroad with Katie Ouimette, a junior Art major and global student mentor in the Study Abroad Office. Katie has recently returned from Australia and speaks about her experience. We’ll also hear from Matt Yates, the associate director of Education Abroad.
[DC]: What is the importance of Study Abroad?
[Matt Yates]: It’s very important in this day and age. We all know that this world is very globalized and that there are a lot of different, competing ideas and perspectives and cultures, and in order to make sense of that, it’s important to engage, not to pull back. It doesn’t matter what your perspective is and your personality if you’re not really somebody who is a people person or you don’t really see yourself going out a lot, that’s fine, because there are so many ways to engage with difference: difference of opinion, difference of religion, difference of language, no matter what you’re studying, you can find a way to globalize that. And that’s important of course, not only for the practical things of getting a job but to become a better person. We have an ethical obligation to work with other people, we don’t live in a world where we can get to do whatever we want, for better or worse. And so we should do right by them, we can only do right by them if we talk with them, if we engage with them, if we get to know who they are as people. Going abroad isn’t necessarily just about taking classes in your discipline, which I hope people do, that’s great! They can make academic progress towards a degree, they can take languages that will give them practical skills to get jobs, but it’s also really about learning who you are as a person, and how to ethically act towards others in a way that will help this world become a better place.
[DC]: And what about Honors students specifically? Can you earn Honors credit abroad?
[MY]: Yes, that is possible. We do have some programs that are more geared towards Honors students, so that’s something that advisors can help recommend to students depending on what they’re looking into, but yes that is possible.
[DC]: And what about thesis research?
[MY]: I would be more than happy to help students try to find programs in which they can do that. Research can often be very customized, right? So, it’s maybe more a matter of doing a impending study, network with faculty members, and then, not necessarily “studying abroad” but going abroad and registering with our travel registry so that you get insurance and are connected with the resources that you need in order to be successful and save for when going abroad.
[DC]: For a student who is maybe just starting out their UConn career, what advice would you give them, specifically regarding Education Abroad?
[Katie Ouimette]: My first piece of advice would be going to talk to your academic advisor and let them know that that is in your mind, so then you can plan accordingly and then you can know what program you want to go on and what program will offer the course you want to take while abroad, a lot of people, plan to take their gen eds abroad so that they don’t have to worry about taking their specialized classes in their course. So that, really just planning ahead and letting all of your advisors know, and even coming in and talking to a Study Abroad advisor, they’re more than open to talking to people who are years ahead from studying abroad.
[MY]: Talking about students who come in and I’ve talked with a lot of juniors and seniors in high school who say “I know in my second semester of my junior year I want to do this program” and like wow you’ve done a lot of research and you know exactly what you want to do, there are students like that. And then there are students who, one of the best students I have ever worked with was a student at Kansas State who came into the office the day before the deadline to apply to one of our most intense academically challenging exchange programs in Australia. And he completed the application on time and went and got scholarships for a lot of the programming he worked on while in Australia. He’d liked to say he came back with “down one penny” because he had enough scholarships and work while he was there, he was able to cover the costs of not only his program but also the traveling he did while he was there, so you don’t have to plan everything out to be a successful student is my point. It’s great if you do, and that’s what we’re here for, we’re here to talk about that process, the strategic process, it’s best that you do, I recommend that you do try to think things out and that’s what we’re here for too. If the moment strikes and you feel like the opportunity is there, come talk to us we can definitely see what we can do.
[KO]: That’s another thing I noticed. I was one of those students who was not together at all. I had no clue where I wanted to go, I know that I wanted to abroad, I’ve been thinking about going abroad my whole life, but I just waited and waited until the deadline, so you have to be flexible, and you have to think “Ok, I can’t go to Barcelona so where should I go?”, and I waited and waited so that a ton of deadlines were passed, so I kind of ended up in Australia, and I went and had an amazing time. So really being flexible and sometimes things don’t go to plan, even if you do plan ahead years in advance.
[DC]: What would you say to students who are on the cusp of leaving to start their semester, year, or experience abroad?
[KO]: I think one of the cliche things people always say is “never say no” and always be open to experience, and when someone says “Oh, do you want to go try this weird food”, try it! If they ask you to go on some trips say, “yes of course I’ll go” or “of course, I’ll try it” because you’re never going to get that chance again, and if you do it might be a little different, and to always take every opportunity that you can.
[MY]: I think that’s very well said, I would definitely jump on the food piece, I’m a big foodie, and part of the reason why I love Education Abroad so much is because I love to try new things, and to talk about that. And that’s something that I worked with with my students when I was teaching them at Kansas State was that I asked them to try different foods in Hong Kong and in Paris, two very very different cities, and to discuss it, because food is a very social thing, it’s something that we all have to engage in. Katie was saying earlier how it’s in the small things that you kind of have culture shock in, based on unknown assumptions I think that’s dead right, because another topic, not just food, that I like to talk about with students is, because we can all relate to it and it’s also kind of fun, is toilets. Like how to flush a toilet when you’re going abroad can be so different and force you to challenge you to think about something you never really thought about. In the states, for most of the toilets you just flush, right? But you may be prompted to think about how to do that when you’re abroad. And that can be uncomfortable and unsettling but it can also be exciting because this is something that I never thought about before. This is a way in which the culture is formatted, for whatever reason, has a different approach. Food is the same way, sleeping habits, when people eat, all the different things that go into our lives that we don’t have to think about are brought to our attention full force whenever we’re abroad and that can be very unsettling but also incredibly exciting and it makes you become a lot more open to experiences and open to other people’s stories, and doing right by them, and helping the world become a better place.
[DC] If you’re thinking about studying abroad, there are options that work for almost any constraint. The Education Abroad Office in Rowe 117 is a great resource to ask the questions you’re worrying about. Live and Learn visited the Puerto Rican and Latin American Cultural Center (PRLACC), located on the fourth floor of the Student Union. We spoke with two undergrad student workers, Ashley Amaro and Stephanie Andrade about the programs and community of the cultural center.
[AA] Our programs are usually student run and they do give more of an idea of what you can do to better yourself as an individual and to give you more of an idea that you are as capable as anyone else on this campus to get as far as you want to. And it’s giving you that motivation to push yourself further while also giving you that community that’s also pushing you forward. You can come if you want to expose yourself to different cultures around the world and embrace all the different parts of Latin America. We do have another program called Cafe con Leches where we have a guest speaker come in and we talk about social issues or we talk about things that impact a person’s life on campus.
[SA]: One of the biggest things is that we want to be a resource to people so we even smaller things, we had one just recently which was “How to Apply to Jobs as a LatinX Student”, the kind of things you want to say on your resume, like your second language, they try to teach you on how to emphasize that, especially the LatinX community, but could be absolutely anyone.
[AA]: The community is very family like, you have someone to talk to at any point in time that’s not going to judge you for any decisions you made or the classes you take or for switching your major five or six times, or even if you had a bad grade on your exam and you’re questioning who you are, there are people there who are going to motivate you. You can be of any ethnicity, of any culture, you can be somebody who’s never dropped by the center before, and you just need someone to talk to, they are there for you. How we can make you feel comfortable, knowing that when you’re comfortable and you are relying on people around you, you do the best that you can be. Being a part of this campus, it’s not just making it past your academics, it’s about making bonds that will last a long time.
[SA]: It’s very diverse. I want people not to think that they come in and they’re going to find one kind of LatinX student, and it’s not like that, they are so different. Typically there’s always music or talking and you can also find all sorts of majors and stuff like that, and that’s one of my things that you find all sorts of different kinds of people in the center and they’re always welcome to help you. I get to work with people who are genuinely driven to try and help people. Recently we just had a meeting and we talked about how we can help Puerto Rico with everything that’s happen and I think that’s amazing that I’m a part of something much bigger.
[AA]: This is a center that is so dedicated to helping the society around them and helping the communities within the LatinX community, and the drive to help other people. We see how we’re all working together to make sure they get to what their goals are, and that’s my favorite part of the center, it’s knowing that they want the best for me. They’re going to do whatever they can, and what’s in their power, to get whatever I need, and I reach my goals.
[DC]: That’s all for this week. To provide feedback and to enter to win a limited edition Honors Program long sleeve t-shirt, visit honors.uconn.edu/podcast where the code word is GLOBAL.