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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

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Home Away From Home

On a crawl that spanned six pubs and two bars in less than nine hours, Gregory Cohen, a Stony Brook University graduate student, knew he had made the right decision in going to London over winter recess. Head spinning, bleary-eyed, and hungry, Cohen headed back to his hotel and, like most hung-over students, awoke early to study Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales the next morning.

In the last ten years, the total number of United States students studying abroad has jumped from 99,448 to 241,791. Universities across the nation advocated for study abroad programs, urging students to experience another culture before they become too bogged down by their major. Once a major is declared, students may have a hard time going abroad, and still meeting all the necessary graduation requirements.

On a three-week study abroad program in London last January, Cohen, a self-described introvert, decided it was time to let loose. Cohen confessed the pub crawl and drinking marathon was not something he would generally do, especially in the United States. ‘Even if people judged me, I knew I would never see them again, and I knew I would probably only be there once so I shouldn’t restrict myself,’ said Cohen, who admitted that he had had never had alcohol before he was 20.

Cohen said the pubs called his name more than a few times during his stay, but he was adamant that partying was not his main reason for the trip. Wanting to travel and experience a city outside his comfort zone, Cohen said the pub crawl was the only time he ever really partied in London. Every other experience was educational. ‘What we learned there, we could’ve learned anywhere,’ said Cohen, ‘but we could never have experienced it. We read Oliver Twist, and then toured the sites mentioned in the book. We read all kinds of other poets, and went to museums, and saw the works that inspired them to write. It was a much deeper level of learning.’

Brian Kelly, a recruiter for Morgan Stanley, is a huge proponent of study abroad programs. While he was enrolled at Pittsburgh University, Kelly studied in Madrid for six weeks, and lived with a host family. He found the experience to be rewarding in two ways: His fluency in Spanish improved drastically, and he met a group of people, students and strangers, with whom he still keeps in contact. Although Kelly said he would like to say studying abroad was solely educational, he added that, ‘Study abroad is a ton of fun. I partied a lot and met a ton of amazing people. But it is not only about the partying, at least not for most people.’

Quickly switching from nostalgia for his college years to his current purpose, Kelly said he finds that studying abroad has a greater meaning to him now. When hiring students, he looks for the whole package. ‘The more quality experiences you have on your resume, the better,’ he said. ‘Study abroad particularly demonstrates a level of independence and risk taking.’

From a recruiting perspective, Kelly finds that studying abroad sets a resume apart from the rest. ‘The business world is as global as ever, and many companies are sending people abroad. I go to Montreal almost every week. I have friends right now who are working for United States companies in Dublin, London, Hong Kong and Prague.’ He added that a person who studies abroad is generally self-motivated, a quality most companies are looking for.

William Arens, the dean of International Academic Programs at Stony Brook University, urges students to study abroad in their sophomore year if possible. ‘You’re investing in yourself,’ said Arens. ‘At the basic level, study abroad makes you competitive. At the top level it makes you unique.’

Amparo Abel-Bay, a senior at Stony Brook University, had an experience opposite to Gregory Cohen’s. Abel-Bay visited Ghana this past January, to learn about different cultures while looking at career options abroad. Her time there was nothing like a party. ‘My most memorable experience was visiting an orphanage, the Christ Faith Foster home,’ said Abel-Bay. ‘I was able to play hand games, and spend time with the children. They just wanted to be held, and speak with our group. They all wanted to take pictures with us, and our group donated clothes, toys, and personal products to them.’ Abel-Bay sees the anthropological aspect as the highlight of her trip. She committed herself to study, in lieu of partying, but also added that she felt unsafe leaving the campus late in the evening.

While Abel-Bay was studying, Cohen could be found eating salsa at an Irish pub in the middle of London’s Chinatown. ‘London has some nationality-confusion,’ said Cohen.

Gregory Pomeroy, a sophomore, studied in Madagascar during the fall of 2008. Much like Abel-Bay and Cohen, he found the trip to be the most rewarding, interactive learning experience he has ever had. The experience had a profound effect on the way he sees the world ,and has forced him to open his mind. ‘I was molded by the media to believe that Africa was an uncivilized, unsafe area to live,’ said Pomeroy. ‘By being able to live in the country and culture for three months, I learned that my previous idea of the place was completely wrong. On the very first day, I realized the country was filled with wonderful people who were, like us, trying to build relationships with the people that they did not know, to learn about the other cultures of the world.’

Although the cost of studying abroad is high, usually about $5,000, Gregory Cohen said he found that the sites, and the culture, outweigh the price tag. ‘Life is a lot like prostitution,’ said Cohen with a grin. ‘The best things cost the most .’

Besides paying thousands of dollars and drinking enough to thoroughly damage his liver, Cohen said his biggest regret of the trip was simple–dancing with the ugly girl. ‘Another nine hours of pub crawling wouldn’t erase it from my mind,’ Cohen said, cringing as he remembered. ‘Imagine how ugly she is if I, nine hours under the influence, still recognized she was a beast.’

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