The beauty of the Ole Miss campus is incomparable, but that doesn’t mean Rebels can’t spend their semesters in places equally as beautiful all over the world. The University of Mississippi offers a study abroad program with a wealth of partner universities to give students a chance to broaden their horizons and immerse themselves in other cultures.
“Studying abroad gives students the opportunity to live in an entirely different culture, which exposes them to new ideas, challenges, people and places,” said Blair McElroy, UM senior international officer and director of study abroad. “Students return to Ole Miss having gained self-awareness and global awareness, which encourages them to participate and contribute positively to society both locally and globally.”
Summer is the most popular term for students to study abroad, with many options, from language programs and summer schools to international internships. In summer 2019, 367 students studied abroad. Over the entire 2018 academic year, 678 students studied abroad from a variety of majors on campus.
One Ole Miss student, Elijah Moen, a junior Chinese major from Oxford, took Chinese flagship classes at Taipei University through the International Chinese Language Program for nine weeks this summer. Moen lived in an apartment with four other ICLP students and one ICLP faculty member. He did not spend all nine weeks studying, however, and took some time to let off some steam.
“During the first three weeks, there were overnight weekend trips set up by ICLP that students had to sign up for well in advance,” Moen said. “After that, we would go out most weekends to see Taipei at night. I went to the southern end of Taiwan with a friend, and we spent two days there exploring Kaohsiung as well as a few small islands off the coast of Taiwan.”
Moen said he enjoyed his time abroad, but there were some days when homesickness took over.
“For the most part, it has been a blast! There were obviously a few days where I was tired and would’ve much rather been back in the U.S., but I feel like that is a pretty standard occurrence when studying abroad,” he said.
Students enrolled in the study abroad program pay the same tuition at the partner university as in Oxford. The study abroad office also offers numerous scholarships that lessen the financial burden on students who are worried about being able to afford the experience.
A $100 application fee is required, but if circumstances arise that prevent the student from attending the program, such as a program cancellation or wait-list, the money will be refunded or applied to another program of study.
The study abroad website includes cost calculators to help students get a more accurate reading of how much they’ll be spending.
Austin Parker, a junior hailing from Tupelo, studied in Salerno, Italy, for four weeks. Parker stayed with a host family and a few roommates in an apartment. He said he went on many excursions to local tourist attractions and attended seminars on Italian culture to expand his knowledge. He also learned how to cook authentic Italian cuisine.
“The experience was a lot of fun,” Parker said. “It taught me so much about Italian culture and the Italian language. I grew in my ability to hear and speak Italian as well as my understanding of different cultures. I highly recommend studying abroad. It was a great way to meet new people and experience a different culture as well as teach me the importance in understanding different cultures and ways of living.”
The study abroad office advises students to go through its database of programs and compile a list of countries and programs they would like to attend. Students must then attend a Study Abroad 101 session with peer advisers to answer any general questions they might have.
The office is located in 318 Martindale, and the Study Abroad 101 time slots will be offered Mondays and Tuesdays during the fall semester. Students must then attend a meeting with an adviser who will answer any remaining questions and assist with the application process. The office advises that students research financial aid and scholarship opportunities. Requirements for the study abroad experience depend on the program to which a student is applying.
Senior Morgan Buompastore, from Hoover, Alabama, studied at the University of Cádiz in Cádiz, Spain, for four weeks.
“The class I took abroad was an intensive Spanish course for which I earned SPAN 398,” Buompastore said. “It was essentially a 6-hour intensive language program where we studied the Spanish language and focused on some of the history and culture of Spain, especially the Andalusía region, which is where we spent the entirety of our program.”
Her host family was strictly Spanish-speaking, which Buompastore said helped her learn the language.
Buompastore broke up her study sessions with day trips throughout Spain. The excursions ranged from visiting wineries to taking in Flamenco shows.
“We went to Sevilla and Ronda,” she said. “While in both places, we were able to see more about the history and culture of Spain as well as popular culture. For example, in Sevilla we went to a castle where ‘Game of Thrones’ was filmed and a cathedral where we saw the burial site of Christopher Columbus. In Ronda we went to a bullfighting museum, as Ronda is the birthplace of modern bullfighting.”
Ashlynn Principe, who graduated from Ole Miss in May, was a junior international studies student when she studied abroad in Bilbao, Spain. She was there for four and a half months and studied through the International Spanish Center (CIDE) at the University of Deusto. Principe did not stay in an apartment with friends like Moen did.
“I lived with a host family in their apartment in the city,” Principe said. “It was two brothers, one my age going to my university and another older one, and the mom. The brothers spoke English very well, which helped when there was an emergency or anything, but the mom only spoke Spanish. Probably the sweetest people on the planet, and they can all cook like nobody’s business.”
Get out of your comfort zone – it’s worth it
Moen, Parker, Buompastore and Principe all said the people who provided support and resources abroad were always happy to help and extremely accommodating. From program directors to host mothers, the students felt they were taken care of and received help with any problems they came across.
Principe had many experiences while abroad and fully took advantage of all the attractions and excursions Spain had to offer.
“One weekend some friends and I hiked to San Juan de Gaztelugatxe where they filmed Dragonstone for ‘Game of Thrones,’” she said. “The two biggest excursions were the day trip to southern France — the part that is still considered Basque Country — and a weekend to Madrid.”
Principe describes studying abroad as “one of the best experiences of [her] life.” She encourages students to get out of their comfort zone and try the program out.
“There will be plenty of ups and definitely some downs, but even thinking back on the more challenging parts of my time abroad, it was well worth it. It can be scary, especially if you’re going to live in another country for a long time without knowing a single person there at first, like I did, but it was worth it.
“Even now after graduating, I’m thankful for the experience because I’m about to move across the country, alone, to a place I’ve never been before for a second time. But this time I’m not as worried because I’ve done it before,” she said.
Kerrigan Herret is a senior journalism major at the University of Mississippi.