Out of Their Comfort Zone: Sonoma State Students Gain Unique Perspectives While Studying Abroad

tarastudyabroad.jpegTara Bailey lived for 12 months in Tuebingen, Germany as a business marketing major with a minor in German.

Jenna Tantillo, a Sonoma State global studies and Spanish major, spent her senior year studying abroad in Santiago, Chile, reinforcing her Spanish language skills and taking in the local culture.

"I knew that if I didn't go abroad I probably would be struggling with learning Spanish for my entire life and that's a goal I really wanted to accomplish," she said reflecting upon her time abroad.

Coming to Sonoma State as a freshmen, she welcomed the opportunity to get away from the campus for a year, "not only learn a language but immerse myself in a different language community to get a different perspective of my home country and of the world by experiencing it from a different point of view," she said.

Through the program, Tantillo said that she considers herself to be fluent in Spanish, meaning she accomplished her primary goal in going abroad. She now works in the study abroad office on campus, sharing her experience with students interested in the program.

Through CSU International Programs (IP), students at all California State Universities are able to study in various countries, partnering with universities abroad. Program requirements vary from place to place, but students from all majors are encouraged to apply and find a program that suits their curriculum needs.

According to the CSU website, studying abroad can enhance education by adding new perspectives to studies, allowing students to see things from another point of view. It can help develop self-awareness by leaving the familiar behind to encounter different people and places. Living and learning in another country helps students gain an understanding of that culture.

Sonoma State is ranked second among the 23 campuses in applicants to the international program, second only to San Francisco State University.

"We do have a lot of applicants," Marisa Thigpen, Coordinator of International Services said. "We also have a pretty high acceptance rate, we've been about 95 percent acceptance rate in the many years I have been here."

"Employers nowadays are looking for students who can push themselves and show proven adaptability, proven strength to go beyond the American system, push themselves out of their comfort zone."

More than 60 students were accepted into the international program as of March. These students come from different majors and are going to a variety of countries based on their academic needs.

Sophomore communications major, Estibaliz Romeo recently found out she was accepted into the program and will be studying communications at Uppsala University in Sweden.

Romeo said she was literally shaking with excitement when she was told she would be spending a year in Sweden and the first thing she did was call her family. "I started to cry in excitement and was screaming in the phone because I couldn't control myself and was on Cloud 9 for the whole week," she said.

The program serves the needs of students in over 100 designated academic majors and is affiliated with more than 70 recognized universities and institutions of higher education in 18 countries. Students can travel to Germany, Australia, Italy, Japan, Korea, and The United Kingdom to name a few.

Thigpen works with SSU applicants to find the right program for them as far as their major and overall program goals. Many students who apply do so to be immersed in another language and culture.

After acceptance to the program, SSU students do not simply get on a plane and go. There is a pre-departure phase in the study abroad experiences that helps prepare students for their trip. Part of this is connecting new applicants with program alumni, other students who have studied abroad, as well as international students.

Studying abroad also helps students stand out in a competitive job market. "Employers nowadays are looking for students who can push themselves and show proven adaptability, proven strength to go beyond the American system, push themselves out of their comfort zone," Thigpen said.

"It's a certain kind of student, I think, that can rise to the occasion. Has the maturity, the drive, the inquisitiveness, the kind of adventurous spirit," Thigpen said. "I think they should all should go abroad but not everybody is going to have that support from family or all the different maturity and things like that to do it, but I think it would benefit all students if they did...."

- Sarah Dowling

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