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### Unlocking Opportunities: Parkland Study Abroad Program Empowers Students

Learning a fresh language, connecting with individuals from various regions globally, and immersing oneself in a foreign culture are all possibilities accessible to students through the Parkland Study Abroad Program. This initiative provides students with the chance to reside and learn in a foreign nation while earning academic credits. There is a selection of ten countries to choose from, such as Austria, Spain, England, Costa Rica, Italy, and Ireland. Depending on the chosen location, spring, summer, and fall programs are available. Accommodation options vary, ranging from staying with host families to living in dormitories or apartments with other students.

Once students have selected their desired program, they should contact the program coordinator, Jodi Littleton, at least 12 months in advance to allow ample time for completing essential paperwork, paying fees, and submitting the application before the deadline, which typically falls 5-6 months before the program commences.

Advantages of Studying Abroad

Studying abroad offers students the opportunity to acquire a multitude of valuable skills. Littleton emphasizes that students not only learn about the foreign culture but also undergo significant personal growth. She notes, “Students almost always come away with a sense of self-discovery. They realize their inner strength and personal development, which is truly remarkable.”

In today’s ever-evolving world, the ability to engage with individuals from diverse cultures and backgrounds is becoming increasingly essential.

Language Acquisition

While language learning in a traditional classroom setting is valuable, the experience of acquiring a new language while studying abroad is unparalleled. Many host institutions provide language courses, offering students a chance to immerse themselves in the language. Gigi Raila, who participated in the Study Abroad program in Italy during the summer of 2023, opted to take an Italian class offered by her host college out of her eagerness to learn the language. She expressed, “I chose to take the Italian class because I was keen on learning the language.” Studying abroad allows for a complete linguistic immersion, going beyond academic learning to experiencing day-to-day life in a different culture.

Picture Provided By: Madeline Grabacz

First-Hand Exploration

Studying abroad presents an excellent opportunity to explore a country’s unique cuisine, perspectives, and activities. It also offers a firsthand insight into the cultural history through experiential learning. Madeline Garbacz, a second-year student at Parkland who studied in England during the spring of 2023, shared her experience of engaging in history classes that involved visiting castles and museums. She mentioned, “One of the classes primarily comprised field trips to various castles and locations in London, while the other focused on historical comparisons between the U.S. and the U.K.” Furthermore, she highlighted the enriching educational experience of exploring different styles of education and partaking in culturally distinctive courses, such as a culinary class in Italy, where students delved into the regional culinary heritage. The interactive sessions culminated in shared meals, creating a memorable learning environment.

Cultivating Independence and Confidence

Studying abroad not only fosters independence but also enhances self-confidence. For many students, it marks their initial venture into a wholly new environment, necessitating a departure from their comfort zones. Garbacz recalled her experience of traveling to England without her parents, emphasizing the support network provided by the program coordinator, fellow students, and the host family. She stated, “Although it was my first solo journey, the presence of the coordinator and peers made it feel less daunting.” Garbacz further elaborated on how the newfound independence instilled confidence, enabling her to embark on solo travels, such as a spontaneous day trip to Zurich during her time in Italy. She acknowledged, “Studying abroad equipped me with the courage to undertake such experiences, fostering personal growth and resilience.”

Fostering Cultural Understanding

Reflecting on her cultural immersion, Raila emphasized the empathy and appreciation cultivated towards individuals navigating unfamiliar territories, akin to those who relocate to the United States. She remarked, “My experience instilled a profound respect not only for the culture I studied but for diverse cultures in general.” The exposure to international students furthered her commitment to fostering inclusivity and support within multicultural settings. Similarly, the introspective nature of studying abroad facilitates profound self-discovery, as echoed by Littleton, who observed students’ enhanced self-awareness and resilience post-program.

Picture Provided By: Madeline Grabacz

Enhanced Career Prospects

The holistic development and diverse skill set acquired through studying abroad significantly enhance one’s employability. Madeline underscored the value of navigating cultural disparities, problem-solving independently, and fostering interpersonal relationships as skills highly sought after by employers. She noted, “These competencies are invaluable and transcend conventional academic learning, making study abroad experiences a compelling addition to one’s resume.” Both students attest to the transformative impact of studying abroad, advocating its merits as a unique and enriching endeavor that not only broadens academic horizons but also nurtures personal growth.

In conclusion, the profound impact of studying abroad extends beyond academic realms, offering a transformative journey of self-discovery and cultural immersion. Embracing the challenges and opportunities presented by international study programs not only enriches one’s educational experience but also fosters lifelong friendships and invaluable life lessons. As Madeline aptly reflects, “Every experience, regardless of its outcome, contributes to personal growth and learning. Embrace the journey wholeheartedly.”

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