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Letters from Abroad

DJ Arend

Scotland

After 16 hours and three planes, I arrived in Edinburgh, Scotland at about 10am. I hailed a taxi for the University of Edinburgh - my university and my home for the next semester. When I arrived at my dorm, I was ecstatic to find that I would be living not only with English and Scottish students, but other international students from all over the world! I had my own little room which opened into a hallway, with shared bathroom facilities for the other guys on my floor. Most of the students in the dorm were "freshers" (freshmen), but there were a handful of postgraduate students who lived on the top floor, and I ended up spending most of my time with them since they were closer to my age. I quickly got involved with the student-run Bedlam Theatre, helping with all matters behind the scenes, including lights, sound, and set building. I even had the opportunity to be the tech director of a one-act play, written and directed by a friend of mine.

However, extracurricular activities weren't the only things I found fascinating. During my time there I took an international politics course, and it was enlightening to sit in a room with students from all over the world discussing the U.S. invasion of Iraq as a pivotal event of the last decade. Through my study abroad experience, I was able to find more specialized courses in areas that I was interested in, to supplement the things I'm learning at Bethel.

While Bethel had equipped me well to jump into a completely foreign university, I have to admit that by the curriculum I was refreshingly blindsided. Usually those two words aren't used together, so let me explain. At the beginning of each course, we received a syllabus. Standard, except for one thing: in most of my courses, there were several recommended textbooks that covered the course material, but the instructor didn't lecture directly out of any one of them. Except in the math courses, there was little or no homework, and each course was treated somewhat like an independent study with the instructor as a guide. This was very different from most teaching styles in the United States, and took some time to adapt to. Although it was a stretching process, this taught me some new ways of approaching course material which have helped to make me a more flexible and efficient learner.

Sadly, it really is impossible to fit everything I experienced abroad into just a few short paragraphs. Between the friendly people and beautiful old buildings, Edinburgh quickly became one of my new favorite places in the world, and after three months of being there, I truly felt like it had become my home - just as my trip came to an end. This has honestly been one of the most defining experiences of my entire life, and I'm shocked to think that I once assumed it to be impossible. Now, I can't imagine where I would be without it. Bethel continually trains students to be adaptable learners, and studying abroad was a powerful addition to my development as an individual.

Andy Schiemo

China

From all over the United States the twelve of us met in California to embark on our semester in China. For the several hours I spent in LAX, I couldn’t believe I was going to China for over three months with a group of students I had never met before.  We all boarded the plane ready for what turned out to be one of the best semesters of my college experience.

We arrived in Hong Kong, right on the South China Sea, for an orientation week. The adventure began right away! In two words: Awesome and shocking. Packed subway trains, roads, and crosswalks overflowing with people; sights of hanging chickens, and fish squirming around in the marketplaces; sounds of cars, boats and different languages pounded at my eardrum; towering, lit-up skyscrapers touching the clouds; and smells of pollution, fish and sewage permeated the air.  On my first day in Asia, I realized the entire experience was going to radically challenge my perspectives of the world and how I relate it.

I studied at Xiamen University in Southeast China, right on the ocean. There I learned about the complexity of Chinese business relationships, the rapid economic growth that seems to never slow down and how their rise as a communist government affects the people. For fun in Xiamen, I explored the city using my very limited, survival-like language skills by hopping on random buses and getting off where I thought adventure awaited; it often exceeded my expectations.

For my the last month I worked as a marketing intern at a high-end leather gift factory in Xiamen. Some of the tasks I worked on included researching possibilities for the factory to become an original equipment manufacturer and analyzing emails to make communication more efficient and responsive between the office in Texas and Xiamen.

The entire experience enlarged my world and really challenged me to continually look at cultures through different lenses, attempting to step into their shoes instead of staying in mine. I wish I could write all my experiences here, but you truly can’t understand something till you step into it and try yourself - so go away for a semester and experience your own adventure!

Jewel McNair

London, UK - Academic Internship Experience

“Travelling- It Leaves You Speechless, then Turns You Into a Storyteller”. – Ibn Battuta

After months of preparation and excitement, I embarked on my academic internship abroad in London, England in the summer of 2014. I couldn’t believe that I was finally going to be living and working in a country that I have always wanted to visit and explore. As I boarded the plane, I knew that this was going to be an experience of a lifetime.

I arrived in London on a very warm Saturday afternoon and barely had enough time to drop off my luggage before meeting a fellow intern within the same building and heading out to explore the city. I was immediately thrust into the fast paced city life of London and had to learn the vast “tube” system relatively quickly in order to get around. I used the picadilly circus and district lines of the tube quite often to get around and on my first day in London, we decided to explore Chelsea, Chelsea stadium for “football”, and have a pint at a local pub. I wanted to learn, see, and do all things London had to offer, but first, I had to find my way to my internship on Monday.

I boarded the tube around 7:00 am that Monday and took the crowded 45 minute, two stop ride to Beth Cooper Public Relations on other side of town. From the first day at BCPR, everyone embraced me as one of their own and I started to learn every detail of the PR field immediately with no time to waste. My first week at my internship with Beth Cooper Public Relations was a very informative and fast-paced learning experience with a very dynamic work environment. As a communications major and prospective PR/Marketing professional in training, my internship with Beth Cooper Public Relations was a very monumental step towards gaining valuable skills in a different cultural setting. BCPR is a luxury lifestyle PR firm with approximately ten to eleven employees and half of which have multiple accounts that they focus on throughout the day. The majority of BCPR’s clients is travel-centered and includes luxury hotels and airlines. It is a full service consultancy that specializes in travel, real estate, spa, and lifestyle clients that operates in the UK and Ireland. Some of their clients include the Belgraves Thompson Hotels, Qantas Airlines, The Coco Collection, Sunuva, Tante Marie, and Smooth Red.

However, as soon as the work day ended, I spent as much time as possible exploring as much of the city as possible. I even would take my Nikon out for some night photos of the millennium bridge or the London eye. Of course, I had to try my first ever British “Fish and Chips” which just solidified the experience even more. Since I worked Monday – Friday at BCPR, I spent every waking hour after work and the weekends to do things like take a day trip to Brighton, visit Stonehenge and the city of Bath, ride the London Eye, and even see Buckingham Palace and Big Ben. But one of the most memorable moments I had while abroad was going to Wimbledon and my trip to Edinburgh, Scotland.

Through this experience, it helped to create a positive insight and knowledge into the PR field and how to integrate the ideas and qualities of my character into every aspect of my education for a future career in the Communications field. I found these aspects to not only be very interesting but important in the daily functions of BCPR and for the continued efforts with their client base. It was an exciting and new learning experience that helped me grasp the concepts of Public Relations, particularly client-media relationships and how important it is to effectively communicate a client’s brand or service. I was able to see how I would fit into such a dynamic and fast-paced environment on a daily basis, while encountering the many obstacles and triumphs in the world of public relations.

Although this was an amazing experience, it was made possible for me partly because of the assistance of the Benjamin A. Gilman scholarship I won for my academic internship. The Benjamin A. Gilman international scholarship offers a wide range of students, with limited financial means, the ability to further pursue their academic and career oriented goals while discovering cultures and gaining a greater global understanding. International experiences, such as study abroad programs and international internships, help students forge their own academic path and is very crucial in educational and career development. At Bethel University, the Office of Off-Campus Programs/International Studies has been very supportive and collaborative of my ideas geared towards my current follow-on project and internship for the Benjamin A. Gilman international scholarship. Bethel University’s office of Off-campus programs and international studies website has included information regarding study abroad programs and funding, therefore, I want to also help inform both traditional and non-traditional students from various cultural and financial backgrounds that no matter where you are in life, there are options and resources for you to help you make your study abroad dream, a reality.

I also find it is important for there to be a positive representation in International Studies abroad for the traditional student as well as non-traditional students, who do not know the opportunities available for them to study abroad. I think that non-traditional and minority students are highly underrepresented in programs abroad and it is important to encourage them to utilize these opportunities. Many CAPS(College of Adult and Professional Studies) students at Bethel University do not know the scholarship opportunities available to them or cannot fathom that it could be possible in the aspects of funding. I also understand that I may be on the younger spectrum of adult students and that everyone has different lifestyles and responsibilities at home that are specific to their individual, unique lives. However, everyone should be given the opportunity and the available information to expand their professional skills or gain insight and knowledge into their career field with the help of a resource such as the Benjamin A. Gilman international scholarship. The information related to the Gilman scholarship is available on the International studies off campus office webpage for traditional and non-traditional students to access and there are links provided below this article for more detailed information.

My entire international internship experience opened my eyes to the world beyond my front steps and immersed me into a different cultural setting. Every day brought forth new challenges and new adventures that I would have never experienced prior to this internship. With the help of the Benjamin A. Gilman international scholarship, The Intern Group, and my study abroad advisor at Bethel, I was able to take one of my long term dreams and turn them into a reality. And even though I will miss the afternoon teas, the incredible city architecture, the day trips to Wimbledon and Edinburgh, and the massive amounts of diverse food and culture, I will cherish the people I met and shared these incredible experiences with, thus, creating memories to last a lifetime.