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Learning outside the Classroom in Rural Senegal

Guest Blogger: David Silberberg, Program Assistant at the Illinois Study Abroad Office

Study abroad is an opportunity not only to learn in foreign institutions, but also to learn outside the classroom. Taking a step outside your comfort zone into a place unlike anywhere you have been can be a learning experience that cannot be replicated in any school, at home or abroad. When I studied and interned in Senegal for a semester, I realized that while my classes were certainly great, what made the experience invaluable was the time I spent in places that where far different from anything I was accustomed to in the US. The most profound of these experiences was the time I spent with my internship or host family in rural areas–villages that often lacked electricity or running water and usually had no more than a few hundred residents. Coming from suburban Los Angeles and the University of Illinois, this was something I had never encountered. Even for many Senegalese people, this lifestyle is foreign. The World Bank estimates that 43% of the population is urban, with that number becoming larger each year.

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One of the many villages in the area north of the Saloum Delta

For Americans, hearing or seeing pictures of these villages may evoke feelings of disbelief or pity. For some, this is the quintessential image of sub-Saharan poverty–the small village with simple huts and no utilities. However, being able to visit some of these villages and those who live there reveals a far different reality, showing that these conceptions are deeply misguided.

Village life for many is a exactly as they would like it. Everyone works together: farming, raising animals, building houses, taking care of children. Everyone knows their neighbors, and lives are free of the distractions that have come to define our lifestyles. Without television, cell phones, lights to keep us awake all night, car exhaust, noise, and more, life becomes much simpler, but also much more relaxing and, for many, more rewarding.

Who wouldn’t like to spend a while hanging out under that tree?

Several of my host family’s relatives would live in town to go to school and then return to the villages whenever they had a break. My host father would often go spend time (sometimes taking me along) in the village where he was born and where his mother and brother still live. My host brothers often talked about how after they worked in the city and made enough money, they would like to retire and live in a village.

This is not to say that rural life is better than city life. Of course, there are many challenges and issues facing those who live in villages. But what makes life in villages enjoyable is the lack of the things that we cannot imagine living without in our daily lives–TVs, cars, smartphones, computers, etc. Even more, however, is the lack of rent, boring corporate office jobs, mortgages, loans, debt, bills, and the list goes on forever. To sum it all up in one word, rural life is relaxing. Which is something that I think everyone could appreciate, even if it means no iPhones.

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passing through a village on a hot day

Why Study Abroad in Jordan?

Guest Blogger: Crystol Dejohnette, Program Assistant at the Illinois Study Abroad Office

Why Travel to Jordan? Well… if you want to challenge yourself and perspectives during study abroad, Jordan is a great option. The culture is very different from U.S. culture, Jordanians often have very different values than we do, and the country is majority Muslim. With all this difference there is still an element of comfort. Many students find Middle-Eastern culture to be very friendly and hospitable. For example, it’s not uncommon for you to be invited for tea after chatting with a stranger.

Jordan is also a place of great diversity. It’s found in it’s culture, it’s religions, and even it’s geography.

As a majority Sunni Muslim country, Islam and its values are reflected virtually everywhere you go. But Islam is not the only religion practiced there. There is a significant population of Christians as well as a much smaller population of people practicing other religions. Jordan is included in the region known as the Holy Land which features sites that are significant to Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. So when traveling and meeting people in Jordan you’ll soon learn that there is a strong culture of respect for others’ religion and beliefs.

King Abdullah I Mosque

King Abdullah I Mosque

The Altar of the First Byzantine Church

The Altar of the First Byzantine Church

Often called the heart of the Middle East, Jordan has a central location and has seen the rise and falls of some the world’s greatest civilizations and empires.  Because of this it also maintains a very rich historic legacy.

The region that is now the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan was once a part of the Byzantine Empire and many of its remnants can be seen today. In fact, it’s quite easy to find ancient ruins in Jordan. The most popular ones are the city of Philadelphia which is in the capital city of Amman.

Remains of the Temple of Hercules at Philadelphia

Remains of the Temple of Hercules at Philadelphia

Roman Amphitheater in Amman, Jordan

Roman Amphitheater in Amman, Jordan

Other civilizations also flourished under the Romans. One of the most famous one is the Nabatean Kingdom which is responsible for building the city of Petra in the southern region of Jordan. Petra, a city carved out of rock has to be the most glorious site I’ve ever been to! If you go be sure to go early in the day because it’s huge and there is oh so much to explore!

The Treasury in Petra

The Treasury in Petra

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Petra

While in Jordan I was amazed because despite it being in midst of the most politically heated and war-torn regions of the world, it is safe and people there can retain a sense of normalcy in their daily lives. We visited an area in the north of Jordan where you could see the Golan Heights of Israel and very far in distance the border of Syria and it was one of the most peaceful and humbling experiences I had while there.

The Golan Heights

The Golan Heights

We also got a chance to swim in the Dead Sea as well as the Red Sea and each time we were able to see Israel on the other side. At those moments it was hard to imagine that a major conflict was occurring but it was really nice to see people coexist as best they could in light of the situation. I encourage any students interested in learning about the Middle East or Jordan specially to consider studying abroad there. While in Jordan I learned about a region and a society where there’s way more to see than what usually meets the American eye. In Jordan you’ll find a culture that’s rich in history and diversity and is also very eager to meet you!

The 2014 Global 298: Immigration and Intergration Class standing over the Red Sea at sunset

The 2014 Global 298: Immigration and Intergration Class standing over the Red Sea at sunset

Studying Abroad: Debunking the Myths

Guest Blogger: Cristina Valdez, Program Assistant at the Illinois Study Abroad Office

Throughout my time at the University of Illinois, I have encountered a few well-known rumors that relate to the study abroad process. I have heard people often say, “Well, studying abroad is just too expensive,” or the ever-popular, “Study abroad is a blow-off semester,”  and my personal favorite, “I just don’t have time to study abroad.” Those that believe these fallacies do not know of the multitude of resources regarding study abroad that are offered on the Illinois campus. Now, it’s time to shed some light on these topics and put these rumors to rest. I’m here to debunk these popular myths and reassure you that not only is study abroad a unique experience, but also a worthwhile and fruitful investment for your life and your future.

Myth #1: Studying Abroad Is Too Expensive 

It’s no secret that attending a four-year university is an expensive period in a person’s life. Tuition costs are on the rise, and many of us get buried under the pile of student loans after graduation, however studying abroad doesn’t add to this cost — it can actually reduce it. That’s right! Studying abroad can actually SAVE you tuition money. Who would have thought? The Illinois Study Abroad Office offers a myriad of programs that are either comparable or less than a semester or year’s tuition at U of I and similar in academic standards. During my study abroad semester in Uppsala, Sweden, I saved my parents $15,000 in the six months that I was there. These savings were not due to the fact that I was “living frugally,”  because trust me, I went all out, but they were simply because I had found a suitable program for my budget. Overall, my study abroad experience was less than $8,000. You too, can save this much while studying abroad. In addition, not only does the Study Abroad Office offer low-cost programs but they award more than $850,000 in scholarships every year. One in four students gets the I4I scholarship to study abroad. What if you receive financial aid? No problem! in most cases, your financial aid can cover the costs of your study abroad experience. To find out more, visit the financial aid office to discuss, stop by the Resource Room (112 International Studies Building) to get a list of our low-cost program options and to find out about scholarships and financial aid click here.

Myth #2: Studying Abroad Is Just A Blow-Off Semester 

Exciting adventures? Check. Exposure to a different and exciting culture? Check. Major/minor, gen-ed credit? Check. The study abroad programs that the University of Illinois offers have not only been vetted by an academic committee for rigor, but offer courses across all majors and academic disciplines. So not only can you take courses in your major for academic credit, but also electives and general education requirements. Some of the programs are so convenient, that I have known friends and acquaintances who have taken courses abroad and finished an entire minor! There are an array of opportunities which allow you the academic freedom to take the courses that suit your needs. Academics are the most important part of STUDYing abroad, so take advantage of the opportunities offered. Interested in seeing what other students have taken and the type of Illinois credit they’ve received? Check out our Course Approval Database here for more information.

Myth #3: I Don’t Have Time To Study Abroad 

The most popular myth by far, is that of not having enough time to engage in a study abroad experience. As students, we are all busy. From studying for classes, preparing for future careers or internships, working and staying involved on campus some may think that time to go abroad is nonexistent. However, when considering studying abroad, it’s important to note that there are specific programs that can fit your tight schedule. Whether your schedule is extremely constricted, such as that of education majors, or if you have strict on-campus course requirements, there are still opportunities out there for you! The study abroad office offers programs with varying lengths of time. From our Faculty-Led Winter Break and Summer Break options (2-4 weeks), to regular summer programs (4-6 weeks), fall and spring semester options, and academic year programs, rest assured that you can fit studying abroad into your college curriculum. All of these programs offer enriching experiences to help you discover a whole new world (literally!).

So, before you write off studying abroad as an experience you can’t afford, an experience you will not receive academic credit for, or as an experience you won’t have time for, come speak to one of our Program Assistants at the Resource Room (112 International Studies Building). Not only are PAs equipped to provide you with all of the information regarding study abroad programs but also in assisting you in during your search to find one that will most adequately fit your needs. Consider the benefits that studying abroad can offer you! An experience like this is one which you will not find after exiting academia, so take advantage of the future doors it may open and the people you could meet while exploring a new culture or learning a new language. Remember, Illini Go Places! Visit studyabroad.illinois.edu for more information.

Why Studying Abroad Matters — And How It Can Change You

Guest Blogger: Cristina Valdez, Program Assistant at the Illinois Study Abroad Office 

Studying abroad is considered to be one of the most important experiences a student can have in their academic career. Studying abroad provided me with three fundamental things which I wouldn’t have experienced anywhere else. During my study abroad semester in Uppsala, Sweden, I gained new perspectives and embarked on many adventures, befriended people from all over the world and upon my return, it even opened doors for me in my desired career path.

Studying Abroad Makes You A Global Citizen 

Taking on the challenge of immersing yourself in a different country and a different culture is no easy feat. Before I arrived in Sweden I researched the country’s culture and lifestyle and discovered it was significantly different from that of the United States. The divergence of societal gender roles, the importance of coffee (fika) breaks, and the relaxed yet independent academic atmosphere were just a few of the things I had to get used to. But, I welcomed this adjustment and soon enough I was living like a true Swede.

During my time in Uppsala, I engaged in thoughtful and stimulating conversations with my classmates which helped me gain new international perspectives. I discovered the importance of being knowledgable about other countries and their cultures, instead of only focusing on the United States. Of course, I  also taught my peers about my Dominican and American cultures, usually through food and pop culture. Recognizing how extraordinary the world is can help you — and others, see things in a completely different light.

Due to these new discoveries, I became excited about exploring Sweden and Europe as a whole. While in Europe, I traveled to 10 different countries and I had some of the most memorable adventures of my life. While on a trip to Swedish Lapland, which is above the Arctic Circle, I went dogsledding and snowmobiling in the frozen tundra, visited the ice hotel in Jukkasjärvi, saw the Norwegian Fjords, visited a Sami reindeer farm, went for a dip in a frozen lake and saw the Northern Lights. And that was just on one excursion. These are things I would have never dreamed of doing, but because I chose to embark on the adventure that is studying abroad, I now have a myriad of stories to tell about these one-of-a-kind experiences.

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Studying Abroad Connects You with People From All Over The World 

One of my most cherished achievements from my study abroad semester are the relationships I formed with the people I studied with. Uppsala University boasts one of the most populous student exchange programs in Sweden and welcomes 300+ exchange students per semester from all over the world. In those six months, I befriended people from Germany, Austria, the Netherlands, Morocco, Belgium, Singapore, Australia, Peru, the United States, Canada, France, Sweden and many other countries. Not only did these people become my friends, but they became my study abroad family. We laughed together, traveled together, cooked together and sled down snowy hills together. We got to know each other on a deeper level because we were all embarking on this international adventure together. As a group, we developed an unbreakable bond. These connections would have been unattainable to me if I hadn’t studied abroad.

Though we are unable to see each other as frequently as we used to, we Skype regularly, chat through Facebook and WhatsApp, and visit each other whenever we get the chance! It’s the people that make the experience and they have impacted me significantly because of the time we spent together in Uppsala.

Just think, of all the people you could meet while on study abroad…

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Studying Abroad Can Open New Doors In Your Desired Career 

As a political science and communication double major, culture and international relations are of special interest to me. While searching for summer internships last fall in the field of international affairs, I began to consider how I would convey my study abroad experience on my internship applications. First, I added it to the top of my resume and included a couple of bullet points about the courses I took. While writing the essays for my applications, I knew that I had to express how I had been transformed by studying abroad and how it helped shape me academically, professionally and most of all; personally. I discussed my experience in Sweden, my travels, and how learning about different cultures and their politics from my peers deepened my interest in international affairs. I firmly believe that this part of my application is what set me apart from other candidates and it’s what can set you apart when applying to your dream job or internship. Studying abroad not only demonstrates adaptability, but it shows employers that you can work successfully in a diverse environment and that you can be challenged by the unknown and still succeed.

Just like that, study abroad helped me land my DREAM internship at the United Nations in New York City.

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So, why aren’t you taking advantage of this great opportunity? Illini Go Places! The Study Abroad Office provides over 400 programs in 60+ countries, and I just know there’s one out there for you. Pay a visit to the Resource Room (112 International Studies Building) this week, chat with a Program Assistant and discover how you, too can be transformed by studying abroad in more ways than one!

Keep Your Memories Clear: Curating Your Time Abroad

Guest Blogger: Matt Boyce, Program Assistant at the Illinois Study Abroad Office

Try to imagine yourself in five years… Maybe you’re working on completing a graduate degree; maybe you’re working a desk job in a office building; or maybe you’re volunteering for a cause that you care about. Regardless of what the future holds for you, you are out to dinner and traveling comes up in conversation, so naturally you talk about the AMAZING study abroad experience you had in college. When suddenly you realize something, all of those amazing memories that were once crystal clear are now a little fuzzy in your head.

Though some memories will stick with you forever, there are other details that might fade with time. What was that cute foreigner’s name you randomly had dinner with in Brussels? What was the name of that holiday that you celebrated in Tokyo that you had never heard of before? What was the name of that awesome beach you found on your weekend trip in Costa Rica? And if you’re anything like me – a detail oriented individual who probably drinks too much coffee and has an unnatural desire to get things right – this can drive you crazy.

Fortunately, as I learned, there are many easy ways to curate your time abroad making it easier to remember your experiences. Here’s a short list of simple ways you can undertake to keep your memories organized and alive long after you’re back home:

Blog or Journal

If you are blessed with a skilled pen, use it! You may remember small details of your weekend trip to Florence a month later, but in a year, the name of that awesome hole in the wall restaurant where you had a steak the size of your head (Buca dell’ Orafo in case anyone is wondering.. I would HIGHLY recommend it) might elude you. Whether it be in a personal journal or a study abroad blog, write it all down when it’s fresh in your head. Everything. Like, every last detail. It will help make your stories more interesting, your memories more fond, and the smiles that are a result that much bigger. It is worth the extra time and if anything else it gives you an excuse to sit at a cafe and soak in the culture and environment while probably enjoying something delicious.

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My favorite journaling spot from when I studied in South Caicos.

Start a Postcard Collection

This option is best if you plan on studying somewhere where you will also be doing a lot of traveling on your own. The idea is simple: you buy a postcard from every country or city you visit, date it, and write your favorite memories on the back (restaurants you ate at, sights you saw, people you met, etc). At the end of your trip you put the postcards in chronological order, punch a hole (or 2) in the corner, and tie them together. You’ll be left with a little book filled with cool pictures and fun memories.

Social Media

Social media has made it very easy to document your adventures and provides a dynamic space to share your story. The one thing to be cautious of is not being glued to your computer. Still, it is an easy option to thoughtfully engage your online community and friends, while making memories for yourself. Whether it be a recurring hashtag on Twitter (#LessonsLearnedinItaly or #AussieAdventures), starting a “Picture of the Day” album on Facebook (where you take and post a picture everyday with a little description of the picture), or unleashing the inner model in you and taking a picture of yourself doing the same pose (jumping into the air, a tribute to your sorority or fraternity, or with a certain artifact, the options really are endless. Whatever makes it memorable and meaningful for you is the best!

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When traveling in Europe, a friend and I took pictures of our feet in every location we visited.

Make an Awesome Video

This one takes some dedication and computer skills, but the end result is something that you will not only enjoy, but so will your family and friends. There are a number of devices out now from phones to GoPro cameras that make capturing videos easy, so throughout your time abroad, take as many short videos as you can. Think Ceilidh bands in an Irish pub, friends haggling with vendors in a Moroccan market, playing soccer with children in Quito, or even just footage of your plane touching down. You can use programs like iMovie (if you have a Mac), Adobe, or apps like Pinnacle Studio to edit them and create a masterpiece!

Start a Collection

This is probably the easiest way to physically keep your experiences with you because you’ll end up with a bunch of little mementos and tokens. Decide what you want to curate and stick with it. There are the “classics” like shot glasses, spoons, or pins but also a variety of other options, whether it be seashells from beaches you visit, currencies, bottle caps, or even sport jerseys. You can amass a collection of items that will bring back fond memories well after you arrive back home. One of my favorite collection ideas came from a friend who found a cool looking glass bottle and then layered sand or dirt from all of the places he visited (the finished product was pretty cool looking). The one thing I would caution is that collections can get big fast and nobody likes those overweight baggage fees.

How have you preserved your study abroad memories if you’ve been abroad? Or, if you’re going abroad soon, how do you plan to record your memories? Let us know in the comments section!

Oh the Places You’ll Go with SAO (Study Abroad Office)!

Guest Blogger: Alicia Daniels, Program Assistant at the Illinois Study Abroad Office 

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A student’s view of one of the gorgeous beaches of Australia

Next to the return of the coveted Pumpkin Spice Lattes at Starbucks, acceptance letter season for the winter break 2014 and spring 2015 semester study abroad programs is my favorite time of year! The September 15, 2014 deadline has passed and many of our exceptional applicants have been eagerly opening their e-mails to find congratulatory messages of their acceptance to their study abroad program of choice!

But what about those of us who recently found out about the incredible opportunities at the study abroad office but missed the deadline to go abroad this year? Lucky for you the Study Abroad Office is all about making sure every interested student has the opportunity to go abroad and gain a well-rounded education. There are several exceptional programs that have extended their deadlines in faculty-led programs for Winter Break 2014-15 or Summer of 2015.

Winter Break 2014-15:

Rehabilitation 199: Rehabilitation in Hong Kong and Taiwan. Extended Application Deadline: September 29

Advertising 399/500: Advertising Across Borders – Consumerism in the Dominican Republic. Extended Application Deadline: September 29

Anthropology 445: Primate Behavior, Ecology, Ecosystem Sustainability and Conservation in Costa Rica. Extended Application Deadline: October 1

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Students enjoying the delicious offerings of the rainforest in Costa Rica!

For students who prefer the summer term for study abroad, there plenty of additional options for faculty-led courses abroad:

Summer 2015:

Advertising 399: Branding Italian Cuisine: Rome. Application Deadline: October 29, 2015

English 274/African American Studies 298: Literature & Society: Slavery and Identity in Benin. (The English 274 section counts for Gen Ed credit!) Application Deadline: December 1

Programs with a February 1, 2015 Deadline:

Global Studies 298: Conflict and Post-Conflict Resolution, Cyprus
Art History 460: Introduction to Museology: Paris
Media & Cinema Studies 364: Food Networks: Media, Technology & Sustainability in Sweden
Education Policy 590 SAX: Refugees and Education in the Mediterranean, Malta & Sicily

Please check the SAO website (www.studyabroad.illinois.edu) to view more available programs and find your home away from home today!

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Students enjoying a crisp fall morning in front of Notre Dame in Paris, France.

Plan for a Life of Travel: Explorers Travel Program for Alumni

Guest Blogger: Alissa Dappas

After studying abroad or spending any time overseas, it’s safe to say that most travelers come back home itching topack up once again and head out for another adventure.  I know this is certainly my situation.  I have now been back in the United States for nearly a year, and I daydream constantly of the next places I want to visit and explore.

Sorrento-LemonFarm_98548f0c606a_300dpi Although I (like most people) desire to travel again, it has become apparent that planning an overseas educational trip in an organized and well-budgeted way is easier said than done.  With graduation approaching and no time left to study abroad for a second time, I thought my chances to travel in an educational type setting were long gone.  Fortunately, I’ve recently learned about an opportunity for University of Illinois alumni that allows you to travel with fellow Illinois graduates, and like study abroad, learn something about the places you travel to. Through the University of Illinois Alumni Association Explorers Travel Program, you can relive aspects of your study abroad experience in new locations, or for those of you have not studied abroad before, now is your chance to take your Illini pride overseas!

See What you can cook up, traveling with fellow alumns

See What you can cook up, traveling with fellow alumni

As the graduation date approaches, I’m sure most seniors are constantly being asked, “So what’s next?” As terrifying as this question may be, there are different ways to go about giving an answer. Of course, the expected answers explain a summary of an upcoming job placement or potentially attending graduate school. As exciting as these things may be, don’t forget to talk about grander plans. IMG_0298-1What else will you do with your life post college years? Travel, perhaps? As an Illinois graduate, the Explorers alumni tour program is perfect for you! There is no certain age to participate, you can convince your friends to go with you while meeting fellow University of Illiniois alumni, the planning is done for you and prices are very reasonable. With diverse location options (Europe, Asia, Africa and more!), programs that offer educational components (recommended reading lists, guest lectures, professional tour guides, etc.), and comfortable stays in 4-5 star hotels, it will feel like an adult version of studying abroad. With 50-60 trips a year, there is something for everyone. Listed below are just a few examples of some upcoming travels! For more information, please visit http://www.uiaa.org/explorers/.

  • Croatia’s Adriatic Coast

o   Educational themes: Contemporary Croatia, Seafaring History, and Epicurean Croatia o   Dates: June 2nd-14th o   Cost: starting at $3,695

  • Ireland

o   Educational themes: Irish music and Dance, the history of Ireland and County Clare, Irish Seanchai, and Finding Your Irish Roots o   Dates: June 22nd-July 2nd o   Cost: starting at $3,295

  • Paris Immersion Program

o   Educational themes: Paris and its art, architecture, culture, cuisine, and history o   Dates: August 20th-September 4th o   Cost: starting at $3,995

  • Undiscovered Apulia, Italy

o   Educational themes: Italy’s Deep South, Lecce and Ostuni’s Architectural History, and Italy and Apulia today o   Dates: September 23rd-October 1st o   Cost: starting at $2,395

  • Machu Picchu

o   Educational themes: History and traditions of the Peruvian Andes, from Cusco to the Sacred Valley, and finally Machu Picchu o   Dates: November 1st-6th o   Cost: starting at $2,995

 

Ambassador Program Now Accepting Volunteers

Ambassador Program Description 2013-14

 

2Ambassador Program Description 2013-14

Alumnus Takes a Hike-Across Armenia

Thinking about going abroad after graduation? Consider joining the Peace Corps! Read about Tom Cyrs’ own experiences as he went from a University of Illinois graduate to a Peace Corps Volunteer trekking across Armenia.

Guest Article: Tom H. Cyrs, Illinois Alumnus (photos courtesy of Tom Cyrs) 

In summer of 2012, I had the chance to hike roughly 270 kilometers across the mountainous southern region of Armenia, see gorgeous landscapes, pass through small, remote villages with welcoming inhabitants, and engage hundreds of youth along the way with health and environmental lessons. The best part was I got to call this work.

I joined the U.S. Peace Corps in Armenia as a Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) volunteer in June 2011. At the time, I didn’t know much of what to expect from the experience, just that the idea of working as a volunteer abroad and serving my country seemed like it would be both exciting and fulfilling. One of the few bits of information I had about Armenia before hopping on a plane was that it was mountainous, and that hiking was beautiful in that part of the world. So yes, I packed my hiking boots, but at the time I would not have imagined that cross-country hiking excursion would be a viable way to do my job and raise awareness for issues plaguing the country.

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Soon after arriving in Armenia though, during our first few weeks as Peace Corps Trainees (PCTs), it became clear that there would be a great deal of room for flexibility and creativity in how we could work as volunteers. All Peace Corps volunteers (PCVs) have their “primary” sectors of work, such as teaching English at schools or working with local NGOs, but all PCVs become involved in “secondary” work as well. It’s these secondary projects—which run the gamut from regional and local poetry recitation contests to tree planting—that often end up becoming at least as, or sometimes even more fulfilling than the volunteers’ primary duties. As my fellow trainees and I sat through a seminar on the current volunteer projects in Armenia, one project in particular, called “Border 2 Border,” sparked the interest of me and a few friends.

That summer, a group of 12 volunteers had hiked in two teams from Armenia’s northern and southern borders. During the hike they had stopped in 11 different communities to give children basic lessons on health and nutrition. Thus the volunteers managed to teach and also raise awareness in a very visible and grassroots manner as they hiked the entire span of the country. A group of us fell in love with the project and its concept, and decided to head it up for its second year running. We spent the winter months planning, contacting the communities and partners we would be working with, and raising awareness about the project. We also added curriculum for environmental lessons to the project, since pollution and lack of general environmental knowledge had been another issue that troubled us in the communities we worked in.

After all the planning, test runs of lessons, and a fair amount of physical training, summer arrived and with it the big hike. In the three weeks that we hiked across Armenia, we successfully managed to walk a collective 590 kilometers and finally meet up in the central town of Yeghegnadzor. Together we taught in a total of 18 towns and villages and reached over 750 Armenian children aged 10 to 18 with lessons on eating healthy, exercising, avoiding smoking and drinking excessively, and protecting the environment. The true fun of the project had been in the hike itself, the beauty of the country we were able to see, the countless warm-hearted strangers we met, and in working with the 75 community partners along the way who were mainly local teachers, students, and NGO workers.

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A project like Border 2 Border is sort of a microcosm of the whole two-year long Peace Corps experience. You meet lots of new people, learn to adapt and be flexible in your surroundings, work closely with and rely on people who initially are complete strangers to you, and have many awkward encounters with people wondering why in the world you are doing what you are doing. A variety of skills came into play to make the hike and the lessons of Border 2 Border a success, namely speaking a foreign language, leadership, working well within a group, and being an effective communicator.

I was a journalism major at the University of Illinois, class of 2010, and it’s probably a stretch to say that classes on AP Style, news writing, and interviewing directly prepared me for the Peace Corps. I can definitely say, however, that other aspects of my education have served me very well here in Armenia. I picked up skills like how to engage new people and communicate well from my professors in the College of Media and from internship opportunities that the campus provided. The ability to pick up a foreign language and communicate effectively I owe in large part to my experience in a University of Illinois study abroad program in Granada, Spain.

In general, I feel that having attended such a culturally and ethnically diverse university, with ample courses to take and activities that help enrich one’s global awareness, has really helped me become a more worldly and culturally sensitive individual. Whether I’m hiking long distances and promoting community health, teaching English to students at the village school, or just sipping coffee with my neighbors and catching up, I believe that the well-rounded liberal arts education I received at Illinois has gone a long way in preparing me for this experience.

To view the original article, please visit: http://ilint.illinois.edu/iir/Spring2013/online/armenia.html

National and International Scholarships Program Looking for 2013-2014 Applicants

National and Intl Scholarships

 “I remember being intimidated by the process and doubtful of my chance for success. Fortunately, my graduate mentor strongly encouraged me to apply and emphasized the benefit and learning opportunity of working through the application, regardless of the outcome.” 

The National and International Scholarships Office is looking for freshmen who are just beginning to work in a research lab, to seniors who want to teach English abroad after graduation as possible applicants to 12 different prestigious scholarships. Due to the international focus that some of these scholarships take, study abroad returnees are encouraged to apply!

Having helped to award nine new Gilman scholars this year in addition to 12 new Fulbright scholars (among other scholarships), the Office of National and International Scholarships is dedicated to assisting students in finding the right opportunities to compete on the national stage. They can help you unlock your potential, learn about yourself, and become more competitive for prestigious scholarships by assisting you through the application process. They will work with you to present your best attributes to each of the 12 prestigious scholarship opportunities. Students are encouraged to make an appointment as soon as possible to discuss these opportunities.

Interested students should demonstrate:

  • How and why a particular course of study, research, or internship will enhance their career goals
  • A considerable degree of maturity, self-reliance, self-discipline, and resourcefulness
  • Initiative, drive, and a willingness to see things through to the end
  • The potential to become leaders, opinion formers, and decision makers
  • Strong preparation for the proposed course of study or research
  • An outstanding track record of non-academic involvement
  • A commitment to the community
  • An intellectually well-rounded and broad set of interests
  • An outward-looking disposition and engaging personality
  • Critical thinking skills
  • Potential to put the experience to good use
  • Potential to act as an ambassador and positive representative for the scholarship awarded