What to Do If Studying Abroad is Not For You

So what if you are an unconventional student – or not even a student – and don’t have time, funds, effort, etc. to study abroad? There are still many solutions open to you to immerse yourself in another culture!

Become involved with the international students at your school or community. Most colleges – and even high schools – in the United States today have international students present. If you do not know how to contact any, stop by your school’s student affairs office to discuss with them how to become more interculturally involved on your campus. There may even be an intercultural dorm or club.

Some cities, such as Monroe, Michigan, have student exchange programs that are geared towards short-term visits with an emphasis on culture rather than academics. As a 2006 participant, when I went abroad for the first time at age 16 – and without family, I can honestly say that there is great potential for how large of an effect such programs can have. A great place to start searching to see if your city or hometown has a sister city program is on your city’s official website – or by searching through Sister Cities International at: http://www.sister-cities.org/

There are often clubs and organizations that are more geared towards professionals with interests in international affairs. In Oskaloosa, Iowa, for example, there is a Kiwanis chapter and a People to People organization – which recently established a partnership connection with Kigali, Rwanda with a long-term goal of sending students and professionals between the two cities. Organizations like these not only enable intercultural learning but often also provide opportunities for international travel.

Finally, there is always the opportunity to do international service. However, it is important, just like when trying to determine what is the right study abroad program for you, to know what you want out of a service program. Many people want a program that fits within a certain time frame (often whatever vacation time allows) while others want a faith related experience. As with all abroad opportunities, it is important to do your research and plan ahead to reap the most out of your “once in a life-time” experience.