By Linda Phan
When the opportunity surfaced to study abroad for a summer in South Africa, I wanted to be a part of it. South Africa is a country that is still transitioning from decades of segregation. Although apartheid may have ended over 20 years ago, the feeling of division is still there. I was curious to know how racism affected people in this climate of change and how their experiences compared to my own. My research has provided this understanding.
The extensive research commitment and in-depth experience I gained on this study abroad trip have helped me in building my resume and will enhance employment opportunities. I believe that conducting research on a topic that is relevant to my own life helped me better relate to the people I interviewed. The research project I did in South Africa provided an optimum experience for me. I was able to interact with residents, faculty, and students from there. I was also able to build professional relationships that will create opportunities for networking in the future.
The decision to apply for the study abroad program was not easy. The cost to travel abroad was out of my budget. Fortunately, here at CSUSB, there are many grants and scholarships available that students can apply for. Like many other students, I almost overlooked these opportunities. The Gilman Scholarship, along with financial aid, scholarships from the President and the Dean of Social and Behavioral Sciences, plus two other grants from the Associated Students, Incorporated and Office of Student Research, enabled me to study abroad and pay a grand total of $303.98 out of pocket. I only had to pay extra for my personal expenses and meals. This trip was only made possible from these scholarships.
I have enriched my education, experienced a change in myself, and hope to instill change in others through the research I conducted. It has strengthened my skills for communicating with people of different backgrounds that I could not have had achieved from studying only within the United States.
I think it is important that students gain a global perspective because it instills an appreciation for other cultures. Studying abroad is safe and a must for students to have this type of experience in order to enhance the value of their degree. It is key that they understand the importance of breaking out of the daily academic routine. They will experience benefits that go beyond the classroom by being able to implement what we are learning in a lecture in the real world.