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8 posts from October 2015

The Acculturation Model: A Study of Reverse Culture Shock

Our November Alumni of the Month, Elaine Capella, studied abroad with CIEE in Brussels, Belgium in 2013 through CIEE’s Business, Communication, + Culture Program. She also spent three semesters studying in Australia. For her thesis at Oregon State University, Elaine researched the concept of reverse culture shock – the process of returning back to your home country after time spent abroad. In her thesis, Elaine argues that a study abroad experience doesn’t end at the reintegration phase, and she proposes a new model of cross-cultural adjustment. We asked her about her research, and how it relates to her own experience abroad.  Elaine1

CIEE: Why did you decide to study reverse culture shock for your thesis?

Elaine Capella: I decided to study reverse culture shock for two reasons. The first came from my own personal experience after returning home from 2 years spent abroad (1 semester in Belgium, and 3 semesters in Australia). The second reason came through my search to make sense of that experience. After discovering that the resources available to returnees were limited (and quite frankly, very outdated), I became inspired to create my own transitional tool for those who experience reverse culture shock.

CIEE: What was your own personal experience with reverse culture shock?

EC:  The shock of returning home proved to be very difficult for me. Even though I was returning home to my family, friends, and familiar surroundings, I was still confused and felt lonely because no one really understood or could relate to my experience abroad. Apart from that, I had to readjust back to the American academic system, in addition to catching up with the lives of my family and friends. Mainly, returning home was difficult because I was not the same person who left. I had a new identity. I had become more outspoken, independent, confident, and mature. In that, my views concerning many things such as politics, language, cuisine, and cultural/societal norms, had changed.

“Even though I was returning home to my family, friends, and familiar surroundings, I was still confused and felt lonely because no one really understood or could relate to my experience abroad.”

Elaine4

CIEE: What was the main finding/theory of your thesis?

EC: The main finding/theory of my thesis is the model I created, which I titled “The Acculturation Model” (inspired by the term “acculturation” itself). In my thesis, I analyze what the popular, prior models of culture shock/reverse culture shock illustrate, and I argue that a study abroad experience doesn’t end at the “reintegration” stage, but rather progresses into a journey to a new identity. In many senses, the terms ‘re-entry’, ‘reintegration’, and ‘re-assimilation’ have a definition that stresses the process of “returning back,” which I believe is deceptive. Study abroad students are not in fact on that sort of linear path, but continue to progress in life as they acquire more and more knowledge and grow in their beliefs and ideas.  Elaine3

 CIEE: How did your research on study abroad fit into your academic life/field of study?

EC: Since I double majored in Cultural Anthropology and International Studies, the subject of reverse culture shock fit into my studies very well. What I find really important is the fact that my thesis topic is not limited to study abroad students. My research can also be applied to many other groups such as tourists, immigrants, missionaries, those who work internationally, etc.

Study abroad students are not in fact on that sort of linear path, but continue to progress in life as they acquire more and more knowledge and grow in their beliefs and ideas.

CIEE: How do you think study abroad programs could improve their program model to help students through the reverse culture shock process?

EC: I think study abroad programs could improve their program model to assist students experiencing reverse culture shock by highlighting the model I created. The Acculturation Model stands apart from the previous models in that it acts as a base for each individual to rationalize their experience and track their transitional path on their own terms, rather than trying to fit their experience into a strict precedent that limits individuality and does not cater to their unique experience. The Acculturation Model highlights this journey to a new identity without the linear aspect of time. Therefore, forced ‘reintegration’ isn’t the forefront of what students should be striving for, but instead, it is the comfort of embracing one’s new identity.

Culture, Adventure, & Intellect: CIEE in Berlin, Germany

If you follow CIEE news and events, you may have noticed our recent obsession with Berlin, Germany. This fall, we launched our brand-new Global Institute in Kreuzberg, one of Berlin’s most exciting districts.

Over 200 students arrived in Berlin this fall for the inaugural semester of the CIEE Global Institute. Our new Global Institute challenges the traditional concept of student living-learning design: what used to be an old factory for car radio buttons has been transformed into a multi-purpose academic facility, including a student residence that Fast Company Design calls the ‘nicest dorms ever.’ Our Global Institute has received praise from Slate, ArchDaily, I Like Architecture, and more. 

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Photo via Slate.com (by Chris Mosier. Courtesy of Macro Sea)

Meanwhile, CIEE is preparing for our annual conference in Berlin this November. As we focus on ways to reimagine the field of international education, it was a natural fit to choose Berlin as our conference location, a city known for reinvention and innovation.

CIEE has facilitated programs for U.S.-German exchange for many years. Our U.S.-German exchange programs include:

So, what’s the appeal of Berlin? We asked a few of our study abroad alumni to tell us, in their own words, why they chose to study in Germany. Here’s what they had to say:

A city of culture, adventure, history, diversity and intellect

“I studied in Berlin, Germany with CIEE after declaring a German major at my home university. I felt like it would be an awakening adventure, because as they say, Berlin is never Berlin. Berlin is a city of culture, adventure, history, diversity, and intellect: something I felt my small town home in the Midwestern U.S. lacked. Through CIEE, I met some of the best friends I have ever had. It's been almost three years, and I still communicate regularly with my CIEE friends."Niki Kennedy (1)

“Because of my awesome experience abroad, I volunteer frequently with the Missouri State University Study Away office, discussing Berlin, Study Away, and international travel. After graduation in 2014, I was selected as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant for Hamburg, Germany. While Hamburg is a special place, I always say there is a hole in my heart shaped like Berlin. I truly believe CIEE in Berlin shaped me as a person, gave me language skills I didn't know I could achieve, and set me up with the encouragement I needed to grow into the person I am.”

    - Niki Lynn Kennedy, CIEE Study Abroad in Berlin, Spring 2013

I got to learn about the field of architectureJohn Zach Fields (3)

Photo Credit: Zach Fields

“I studied Urban Architecture and Design in Berlin, Germany in the spring of 2015. Saying I loved it would be an understatement. I fell in love with the city of Berlin, and no matter where I traveled I couldn't find another city that I liked better. In my home university, I study Environmental Sciences but eventually plan to pursue a Masters in Architecture, which is why I chose the program. Not only did I study environmental aspects, but I also got to learn about the field of architecture. I was able to study the Spree River which runs through the center of Berlin, and my studio was located right on the riverfront! Now I am applying to graduate schools and my professor in Germany is even serving as a reference for me. I do plan to return to Germany for an internship, a job, or just to visit the friends I made along the way. Maybe I could even work at the new study center! Then I could really share my share my experience with the brand new students. For now I'll have to wait, and to any student traveling abroad: Viel Gluck.”

    - Zach Fields, CIEE Study Abroad in Berlin, Spring 2015

I made friends from all over the world

“I chose Berlin because I knew that if something went wrong, I had family friends that lived near Munich. I loved the fact that the water was so clean and you could get everywhere by taking the U-bahn. For people who live in areas were public transportation is non-existent, it’s a big change and a new experience. I did not know what to expect,, and was very surprised by the number of international students that attended the school. Back in the United States, I have always lacked the opportunity to work with international students, because my small university does not have a large program for study abroad. I made friends from all over the world, not just Berlin, and that was probably my favorite part of going to Berlin."Elizabeth Brock (1)

Photo credit: Elizabeth Brock

“Having returned to the States almost two months ago, I am now participating in my school’s growing study abroad program. I am attending a conference and will be talking about CIEE and Berlin at an upcoming study abroad fair. I am very excited to share my experience with other students in an area and a school where few students feel like they have the opportunity to study abroad.”

    - Elizabeth, CIEE Study Abroad in Berlin, Spring 2015

Studying abroad made me more confident and assertiveIMG_6964

"Studying abroad in Berlin not only exposed me to a new culture, language, people, and environment, but it also helped me become more sure about myself in a number of ways. Through experiences like living with host family, learning German for the first time and traveling throughout the city, country, and continent, I became more confident about myself and my abilities. I fell head over heels for my new home and absorbed as much of it as I could.

I was able to assist in the restoration of a mural on the East Side Gallery (the longest remaining stretch of the Berlin Wall), become close with my host mother over daily cups of jasmine tea, and talk to locals and residents, who quickly became friends, about their experiences living within the city that history shaped and still creates today. Because of my time in Germany, my ability to learn a new language has grown, and I am continuing with German. I also have caught the travel bug more than ever and plan to travel as much as I can. Studying abroad made me more confident and assertive, while also opening my world to a whole new set of experiences."

    - Sarah Lucas, CIEE Study Abroad in Berlin, Spring 2015

#myCIEEstory: Katrina Boratko, Study Abroad & Teach Abroad Alum

Photo - Katrina with Mamas

For our new series, #myCIEEstory, we asked CIEE alumni Katrina Boratko to share how her CIEE program has impacted her life. Katrina participated in CIEE Study Abroad in Senegal and Teach Abroad in Thailand, and she now works at a San Francisco-based nonprofit, Mama Hope. 

 

Rude Ravens, Giant Rats, and Unappreciative Seagulls

By William Stone

CIEE Study Abroad in Perth, Australia, Spring 1997

Animals with accents? I didn't believe it. That was something I expected to find in Looney Tunes (a la Pepe Le Pew) and Disney cartoons, not during my semester abroad at CIEE’s Study Center at Murdoch University. There I was, however, in Perth, Western Australia, and there they were, crows with Australian accents.

I was exhausted for the first two weeks after my arrival in Australia. This was partly due to my not being able to sleep, too excited at being in a new and exotic land. To a lesser degree it was the natural result of my having just completed a thirty hour journey (from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to Perth, including short stopovers to refuel and change planes in Frankfurt, Germany and Singapore); I was still jet-lagged, and I was trying to adjust to a 13-hour time difference. The blame, however, primarily fell on the Australian crow.

The Northwest Excursion Trip_Western Australia_photo by William Stone

Photo credit for all photos: William Stone

There are actually several types of crow that live in Western Australia. However, only two species can be found in the south-western region, and of these two only the Australian Raven (Corvus coronoides) is common in Perth.

They were ravens, plain and simple. Yet what was this sound they made? Where was the soft "caw" that wouldn't disrupt my slumber?

I didn't notice the raven at first. I arrived in the early evening and was so grateful for a bed in which to sleep that I collapsed almost immediately, confident that I would not awaken until mid-day. At 5:02 in the morning, however, I sat bolt upright, my heart thumping. I was confused. Dreams still clouded my thoughts as a wet sleep-film did my eyes. I had no idea why I was awake. Then I heard the sound—awful, pitiful. The noise reminded me of a crying infant. Some people have likened it to the call of lamb at the slaughterhouse, but that thought is too gruesome for my liking.

I cautiously crept over to the window and peered out from behind the blinds toward the trees across the way. Two shadowy bodies, even darker than the slate sky and black bark framing them, perched on the branches, singing their terrible duet. As my eyes adjusted to the gloom, the specters solidified and their figures took form. They were ravens, plain and simple. Yet what was this sound they made? Where was the soft "caw" that wouldn't disrupt my slumber?

Uluru_AKA Ayer's Rock_The Northern Territory_photo by William Stone

In a subsequent conversation with a group of Australians I was amused to learn that they were just as bewildered as I upon encountering foreign crow calls. One Australian related her long-held theory that the 1994 Brandon Lee film, The Crow, was flawed and contained a sound byte of a seagull rather than an actual crow.  

Two weeks passed. Everything was starting to feel a bit more familiar. After all, on the surface Australia very closely resembles the United States—fast food restaurants such as McDonald's and KFC are plentiful, American movies fill the screens of the cinemas, and everyone speaks English, albeit slightly different than the one that I grew up speaking. Finally I was able to sleep past five A.M. I was just getting accustomed to the idea of animals with accents when I was introduced to a new concept: ravens with different regional dialects.

Just off the coast, twenty minutes by ferry, lies Rottnest Island. Besides its quaint coves, pristine beaches, and turquoise waters, the island is best known for its cutest inhabitants, quokkas (kwok-uhs).

These small, docile marsupials lent the island its name. The first Europeans to explore the region mistook the quokkas for giant rats, thus naming the island Rat's Nest. Later the name evolved into "Rottnest." It was here that I took a short camping trip, and here that I first heard the Rottnest ravens.

These birds, though the same species I had encountered on the mainland, had a slight variation to their call. Instead of sounding like crying babies, these crows made a noise more reminiscent of a four-letter expletive. "FAWK! FAWK!" I walked around with an amused grin on my face for the next two days.

William Stone in the Porongurup Mountain Range, Western Australia

Stone in the Porongurup Mountain Range in Western Australia. 

When I returned to the Australian mainland from Rottnest, I was hungry so I stopped off at a popular fish ‘n chips shop in the port city of Fremantle, Western Australia. Outside the shop was a sign that read: Please don't feed the seagulls, or they will S.O.Y. (i.e., S**t On You). It was that sign that gave me the idea to write this post.

My time participating in CIEE’s study abroad program has given me ample opportunities to “examine some leaves.”

I found it hilarious and mentioned it to my Australian friends. Their universal response surprised me. To paraphrase, I was told in a no nonsense fashion that that was good advice. Seagulls are dirty and they may carry disease. Possibly true, but didn't my friends appreciate why that sign was funny? They did, but that was a secondary reaction. Clearly, though Australians and Americans share some things in common, we are not the same. Not surprising considering that Americans from different parts of our own country (say the Deep South and New York City) are not the same. This reminded me of something that hadn't been articulated or taught to me, but a truth that I had nonetheless picked up from an ethnography course at Johns Hopkins: the native may see the forest, while the visitor sees the trees, but only together can they possibly hope to see the leaves.

My time participating in CIEE’s study abroad program has given me ample opportunities to “examine some leaves.” It was there at Murdoch University in 1997 that I met my first “tour guide,” now wife, Tammy—the Australian flatmate of one of my fellow CIEE participants.

William Stone with wife, Tammy_Perth Zoo, Western Australia

 William Stone with his wife, Tammy, at the Perth Zoo.

 In an interesting role reversal to my Australian avian encounter, when Tammy first moved to the U.S. with me, I noticed her scanning the sky with a perplexed look on her face. “What are you doing?” I asked. “I’m trying to find the helicopter. It sounds like it’s right on top of us,” she explained. The helicopter was actually a cacophony of summertime cicadas. “Your insects sound so strange!” she uttered. “It’s like they have accents!”

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William Stone participated in CIEE’s study abroad program at Murdoch University in Perth, Australia in 1997. He is a graduate of Johns Hopkins University and he has spent most of his nearly 17-year career in healthcare in diverse roles, including journal editor and journalist, clinical trial patient recruitment & retention project manager, health literacy and readability consultant, and marketing executive. Currently he serves as the Director of Content Strategy for Sommer Consulting, a market research firm that uses advanced linguistics-based persuasion and behavior-change methods to transform human attitudes, patterns, and decisions.

Celebrating 50 Years in Japan: Anniversary Event

This fall, CIEE celebrated the 50th anniversary of U.S.-Japanese exchange programs. CIEE staff, partners, and alumni gathered in Tokyo, Japan to commemorate this milestone in CIEE history. 

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At the event, CIEE announced the creation of the CIEE Japan 50-Year Anniversary Scholarship: Summer Study Around the World. This newly created scholarship will be awarded to 50 Japanese students to study abroad on CIEE summer programs in more than 40 countries. 

CIEEJ Scholarship

U.S. Ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy (3rd from left) and CIEE staff participate in a traditional Japanese sake barrel breaking ceremony at the event. 

Adam and Prof. Katsu

CIEE Executive Director of Programs, Adam Rubin (left) with CIEE Japan Professor Katsu.Scott,-Alumni---Partners---Resized-for-web CIEE alumni and partners spoke at the event. 

View all photos from the CIEE Japan 50th Anniversary Event on the CIEE Facebook page

Alumni Update - October 2015

October-Update---Blog-Image

NEWS THIS MONTH

New Leadership for International Exchange and Study Abroad Programs

We're excited to announce two new executive vice presidents at CIEE: Meghann Curtis, executive vice president of international exchange programs, and Maritheresa Frain, Ph.D., executive vice president of study abroad. Curtis comes to CIEE from the U.S. Department of State, where she served as deputy assistant secretary for educational and cultural affairs. Frain has over 20 years of experience in international education, including more than 15 years with CIEE; she previously served as vice president of academic affairs, as well as the center director of the CIEE Study Center in Seville, Spain. 

New Global Institutes in Berlin and London

Study abroad students have started classes in our inaugural semester of the CIEE Open Campus Program in our Global Institute sites in Berlin and London. Students are the first of many who will have unmatched flexibility in designing their own study abroad programs in two of the world's most exciting cities. Learn more about our Global Institutes.
Photo: The CIEE Global Institute in Berlin, as featured in the Slate.com design blog 

How International Exchange Contributes to Career Readiness: 8 Studies

In September, we highlighted ways to utilize your CIEE experience in your professional career through our CIEE Alumni Career Month series. We conducted alumni interviews, published a brand-new career resources page, and held virtual networking events for alumni around the world. We're not the only ones who understand the value of an international education: check out this post from the Institute of International Education to read eight studies that show a direct impact of study abroad on student success, graduation rates, creativity, and more. 

UPCOMING EVENTS

The CIEE Alumni Local Chapter leaders are planning a variety of events around the world, including picnics, networking events, cultural activities, entrepreneurship forums, and more. Check out the events page to see if there's an upcoming event near you! 

PROGRAM SPOTLIGHT: HYDERABAD, INDIA

"I chose to study in India not because I had any prior knowledge or interest in Indian culture, but because I wanted to push the boundaries of my comfort zone. And that's exactly what I got - a country that's beautiful, shocking, and completely different than anything I had ever experienced before."
- Dan, CIEE Study Abroad in Hyderabad, Spring 2012
We're asking CIEE alumni to tell us why they chose the location of their program. Read what six CIEE Study Abroad in Hyderabad, India alums had to say, or send us you own response about your time abroad. 

ALUM OF THE MONTH 

Andrew Farrand, CIEE Study Abroad in Amman, Jordan, Fall 2005
 
CIEE Study Abroad alum Andrew Farrand was curious to know how the lives of his fellow CIEE study abroad participants had been changed by their experience in Amman, Jordan. On the 10th anniversary of his CIEE program, Andrew contacted his fellow alumni with a survey, and published a summary of their responses, reflections, and favorite memories. Andrew is currently living in Algiers, Algeria, where be manages employment programs for university students and works as a consultant, translator, writer, and photographer. Do you have a story to share about your CIEE experience? Email alumni@ciee.org.

@CIEEALUMNI 

This month, we're celebrating over 20,000 members in the CIEE Alumni Global Network LinkedIn group! Join fellow alumni in the group to discuss your experience, share resources, and seek mentorship opportunities. 
Don't forget to update your information to receive important communications and alumni news from CIEE. 

Jordan 2005: Looking Back a Decade Later

October Alum of the Month: Andrew Farrand

CIEE Study Abroad in Amman, Jordan, Fall 2005

Andrew-Farrand-IbnIbnBattuta-ABOUT-collageA proud Baltimore native, Andrew Farrand was a rising junior in Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service when he shipped off to Syria to spend the summer of 2005 studying Arabic, before joining CIEE's study abroad program next door in Jordan that same fall. Despite its outwardly western appearances, Jordan proved to be a challenging destination for Andrew and many of his 26 fellow participants. The collective experience of overcoming cultural shocks, daily frustrations, and linguistic misunderstandings brought the group closer together, however, and Andrew and many from his cohort have kept in contact over the ensuing decade, even as they all applied the lessons learned through their Jordan experiences differently.

Andrew has continued to use the knowledge of Arabic language and culture he refined in Jordan in his professional career, working and living in recent years in Morocco and Algeria on a variety of international development programs. He currently lives in Algiers, Algeria, where he manages employment programs for university students and works as a consultant, translator, writer, and photographer. A passionate writer, Andrew has maintained his travel blog, Ibn Ibn Battuta (the name refers to the famous Moroccan traveler who traversed much of the known world in the 14th century) since 2004, including throughout his adventures in Jordan. 

Curious to know how the lives of his fellow CIEE study abroad participants had been marked by their respective Jordan experiences, on the 10th anniversary of the group's arrival he contacted the other members with a survey, and published this review of their responses, reflections, and favorite memories.  Here is a summary of what Andrew found, in his own words:

Jordan1

Credit for all photos: Andrew Farrand

"I cannot put it simply enough: Jordan shaped me into the man I am today. Those few months would later lead to me finding my religion, my profession, my wife, and personal happiness. A semester well spent."

Taylor, a Chicago-born journalist living in Amman, Jordan, wrote those words last week in response to a survey I sent to 26 fellow CIEE alumni.

Exactly ten years earlier, almost to the very day, Taylor, I, and the rest of that same group—then just skittish college students—had been sitting awkwardly in the continental breakfast bar of an Amman hotel, sizing each other up out the corners of our eyes during a crash course in Jordanian culture, all the while eagerly awaiting our host family assignments and the start of Arabic classes a few days later.

All of us came to Jordan from different backgrounds, shared several intense months together and, for the most part, went our separate ways. As the 10-year anniversary of our arrival in Jordan approached, I was curious to know where we all ended up. And while it can be fun to play "Where Are They Now?", another question intrigued me even more: How did those few months in the Middle East shape our lives?

To mark the anniversary, I invited my companions in Jordan to help me answer that question. I sent them a brief survey, and received responses from over half the group. This exercise—while far from scientific—revealed a range of experiences even more formative, varied, and fascinating than I had imagined.

PART I. BEFORE JORDAN

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Our widely varying backgrounds—be it regional, political, religious, socioeconomic, racial, or otherwise—had been evident even back in 2005, despite everyone's best post-adolescent efforts to appear "normal". A decade later, in a written survey, the true range is more apparent. Our group hailed from across the US, from Appalachia to San Francisco, lower to middle to upper class, and included a mix of Christians, plus Jewish, Muslim, Baha'i, and atheist members. We were jockish and bookish, naive and worldly, gay and straight, ultra-liberal and ultra-conservative, to say nothing of the intangible cultural differences.

Why were we there? Everyone seemed to have come to Jordan searching for something they couldn't find back home. "I did not have many experiences beyond my own worldview and mindset," says Matt from Maine. "It was a point in my life where I was questioning my faith, whom I wanted to become and what I wanted to do with my life," says Jessica, who hailed from Philadelphia. "One thing was for sure—I was obsessed with learning languages and was on a mission to get exposed to as many different people and cultures as I could, as I knew it was the time of my life to have the opportunity to do that." Many talk of wanting to leave behind what they knew back home. "I'd always dreamed of escaping Kentucky," says Lindsay (forever known to our group simply as "Kentucky"), "and the scholarship I received to go to Jordan was the first real opportunity to do that."

PART II. DURING JORDAN

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What was that experience like for all of us, uprooted from all that was familiar back in the United States, thrust into the homes of traditional Jordanian families, into Arabic classes, and into long field trips through the desert?

Unsurprisingly, experiences varied widely. Few rated their overall experience negatively, though equally few offered universal praise. When I asked what words my companions would use to describe their time in Jordan, "eye-opening", "enlightening", "life-changing", "fascinating", and "challenging" recurred frequently. (Tom wrote one word: "magical." Ten years later, it's often still hard to tell when he's joking and when he's not.)

A question about "particularly funny, influential, or memorable moments" brought forth a flood of rosy recollections. Floating in the Dead Sea, camping in the southern desert with the Bedouins, idyllic Friday lunches with the host family, reading and sipping tea at Books@Cafe, playing in the university soccer league, praying together with fellow Americans over Thanksgiving dinner, even "eating Kinder Bueno about every day and getting really fat."

When I asked what words my companions would use to describe their time in Jordan, "eye-opening", "enlightening", "life-changing", "fascinating", and "challenging" recurred frequently.

On the less rosy side, many mentioned the hotel bombings that marred that fall in Amman.

My companions' reflections on the many months we all spent in Jordan point to how each person's experience was not only unique, but also incredibly varied, with extreme highs and lows. One theme, however, was present throughout: We weren't in Kansas anymore. This place was different, and it would mark us all for years to come.

PART III. AFTER JORDAN

Since the end of our study abroad days, we have all spent years processing the experience. Many felt—and answered—the pull to return to the Arab world. Taylor returned to Jordan, David moved to Yemen, Austin studied in Syria, Mariam completed a Fulbright scholarship in Egypt and Lindsey did the same in Kuwait. Others chose life paths that did not lead them back to the Arab world, but describe their Jordan experience as formative all the same, albeit perhaps in less immediately visible ways. For Tom, it was "one of those visceral experiences that added texture to my education." Morgan, who today teaches in a bilingual school in San Francisco, found that Jordan gave him "a lot of insights on how the life of an exchange student is, which is valuable for an ESL teacher.” 

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Those of us who stayed in the region, or at least who keep coming back, have our own relationships with our time in Jordan. A journalist working in the region says of it, "You can't put a price on language, culture, experiences, and relationships made during that time. It made me a better journalist." Indeed, many centered their career on the skills they developed in Jordan, like Austin from Georgia, who says that his entire post-graduation career has required the use of Arabic language and cultural skills." Mariam credits her time in Jordan for pushing her to pursue a Ph.D. in anthropology on the region, and for making her strong enough to withstand the challenges of her Fulbright months in Egypt.

"an absolutely crucial juncture both in understanding more about the world at large and forming my identity as a global citizen"

Whether it was time with host families or with fellow American students, Arabic classes or desert sunsets, Ramadan fasting or chocolate bingeing, inner struggles with faith or public adoption of new identities, everyone who responded to the survey ascribes important life changes to their months in Jordan. For Jess, Jordan is "a huge part of who I am." For David, it was "my first time traveling alone... it forced me to be self-sufficient." For Austin, "an absolutely crucial juncture both in understanding more about the world at large and forming my identity as a global citizen." For another member of our group, it was a learning experience that taught "how different and similar other parts of the world are to each other, and also how crucial travel is for a life well lived."

A decade ago, we arrived naive, and left perhaps a little less so. We had come in search of someplace new and different, and we had found it.

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This post was originally published on Andrew’s blog and was edited for the CIEE alumni website; read the full post here

Why Study Abroad in Hyderabad, India?

Ask an Alum: Why Study Abroad in Hyderabad, India? 

There are many decisions that go into studying abroad: when should you go abroad, and for how long? For many students, however, the most difficult decision is choosing where to go.

CIEE has study abroad programs in more than 60 cities and 40 countries, and each program offers a unique set of cultural experiences and course offerings. We’re asking alumni of CIEE study abroad programs to tell us about how the decided on their study abroad location, and to reflect on their decision-making process.

Today, we’re highlighting responses from alumni of our Hyderabad, India program:

Any person who wishes to understand humanity cannot do so until they have visited a place like India 

Jack-Hernandez-Man-Woman-Photos

Photo Credit: Jack Hernandez

India has more people than all of Europe combined; more languages and more alphabets practiced daily within it than most countries (and perhaps most continents); vast biological and geographical variation; numerous religions, dishes, modes of transportation, clothing norms, and overall culture; that it is easy to conclude that India is one of the most diverse countries in the world. That being said, I cannot speak of India in general terms. It would be an injustice to say that I could predicate my experiences in the country accurately with only a couple of sentences. However, I can say that I saw, heard, tasted, smelled, and felt things that I had not experienced before, and that any person who wishes to understand humanity cannot do so until they have visited a place like India.

        - Jack, CIEE Study Abroad in Hyderabad, Fall 2014

Once you've been to India, you'll have the confidence to go anywhere

When people asked why I chose India for my study abroad, I could never help but respond, "why not?"  It had always seemed like such an amazing place in all the National Geographic magazines I flipped through as a kid, and struggled more to find a reason not to go.  

Martha Tate

Martha Tate in Varanasi, a city a few miles north of Hyderabad

India is the most dynamic, intense, fantastically overwhelming places in the world, but I was too afraid to travel there alone.  Being able to experience India through the safety of the CIEE program and the University in Hyderabad was the perfect way to find my footing on what turned out to be the most influential adventure of my life.  Every breath I took in that country taught me more than any classroom ever has, and launched me into an intense expedition of the rest of the world post-graduation.  Once you've been to India, you'll have the confidence to go anywhere.  After scouring Europe, living for a year and half in China, and exploring most of Southeast Asia, India continues to be the most incredible country I've had the opportunity to visit.  No one visits India and returns unchanged.  I would recommend it to anyone with an open mind, a spirit for adventure, and a desire to find out who they really are."

        - Martha, CIEE Study Abroad in Hyderabad, Spring 2009

To completely lift me from my Western comfort zone

Mary Kenney (2)

Photo: Mary (center) tries her hand at charming a cobra in Jaipur. 

I knew I wanted to go to India because I wanted my study abroad experience to completely lift me from my Western comfort zone. And it certainly did! I was definitely stretched to many of my limits in India, but I wouldn't hesitate to say that it's made me a stronger, more empathetic and open-minded person. India is a place of rich history, rich colors, and people who are rich in spirit.

Mary Kenney (1)

Photo: Mary traveled with CIEE friends to the Golden Triangle during her last three weeks in India. 

Let me give you anecdote that sums up my time there. One day, I was cranky and unpleasant: the buses were running late; I'd twisted my ankle walking; a thousand other tiny things. I took a rickshaw home, and I shared it with a family of three. The little girl sitting on her mother's lap touched my arm and smiled at me, and her mother was so happy that I smiled back that she spent the rest of the ride braiding my hair with flowers she had in a sack on her arm. It was hard not to be in love with India.

        - Mary, CIEE Study Abroad in Hyderabad, Spring 2013

Jack Hernandez-2-Building

Photo credit: Jack Hernandez, Fall 2014

Beautiful, shocking, and completely different than anything I had ever experienced

I chose to study in India not because I had any prior knowledge or any real interest in Indian culture, but because I wanted to push the boundaries of my comfort zone. And that's exactly what I got - a country that's beautiful, shocking, and completely different than anything I had ever experienced before. Through my own adventures and the great courses offered by CIEE, I developed a fascination with Indian culture and the conclusion of my semester left me hungry for more. The CIEE staff is a great bunch, and I was so happy that they had my back. I still miss them and chat via Facebook now and then just to say hi. With Hyderabad as a base, I was able to affordably travel all over the country on weekends, from the luscious backwaters of Kerala to the holy Ganges in Varanasi. I experienced a million new sights, sounds, and smells, and I can say it was the most transformative semester during my college career. 

        - Dan, CIEE Study Abroad in Hyderabad, Spring 2012

Living in India made me appreciate the beauty in complexity

Jack Hernandez

Photo credit: Jack Hernandez, Fall 2014

I love India because it would be easy to hate it. It is easy to shudder at the clamor, the dust, and the poverty. But to only focus on these aspects is to ignore the infinite beauty and complexity that make India so incredible. When we all first arrived in Hyderabad, it was hard to not feel dizzy and overwhelmed, but the endless support and encouragement from the CIEE staff not only helped us find our way, but also inspired us to explore the fascinating culture we were immersed in. With CIEE’s support, we realized that the true beauty of India is not the peaceful yoginis and stereotypical snake charmers in the exotified images Westerners so commonly think of, and neither is it the poverty and dirt we are so quick to point out. Rather, it is how these two worlds co-exist—the temples and the slums, the dust brown roads and the rainbow saris and scarves, the sequins and jewels that bedazzle the hems of the all-black burqas. The spiritual murmur of India runs beneath even the busiest of cities. Living in India made me appreciate the beauty in complexity, in contradictions, and the infinite vastness of the world. I am still so impressed by CIEE’s genuine desire to enrich students’ lives by helping them explore the world.

        - Selena, CIEE Study Abroad in Hyderabad, Fall 2013

I wanted to go somewhere that I knew nothing about 

I chose Hyderabad because I wanted to go somewhere that I knew nothing about. CIEE Hyderabad challenged me to learn more about the world, myself, and the assumptions we carry around with us. Over the course of the semester most of the ideas I had in my head about India were completely flipped on their head - which is a marker of an incredible experience! Today I live in Hyderabad with my husband. I am finishing up my PhD in sociocultural anthropology and my research takes place in Hyderabad. I have grown to love this city, its history, and its people immensely over the last decade. 

        - Kate, CIEE Study Abroad in Hyderabad, Fall 2006

My semester in Hyderabad was a perfect launch into a future career of research and exploration 

CIEE 3

Photo credit: Emily Schueller

I have been fascinated with India since I was a child, so I jumped at the opportunity to study abroad in India with CIEE! I loved living in Hyderabad and having access to so many diverse people, places, and way of life. I could spend an afternoon exploring old palaces and then meet a friend at a gleaming new mall for dinner. I learned so much about India, its people, and even myself by studying abroad, and with CIEE, I always had guidance and help when I needed it. Through studying abroad, I became comfortable with handling myself in India, and I have returned to India twice through research and language study fellowships. My semester in Hyderabad was a perfect launch into a future career of research and exploration in India. It truly was an eye-opening and life-altering opportunity.

        - Emily, CIEE Study Abroad in Hyderabad, Spring 2013

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About Hyderabad: Hyderabad, known as the City of Pearls, is the fourth-largest cosmopolitan city in India and is at the heart of India’s rapidly developing global economy. The city, once ruled by bejeweled Nizams from opulent palaces, is now a global hub for biotechnology, animation, information technology, amazing food, and a travel destination for domestic travelers looking to absorb its unique architecture and art. The city is a mix of construction, music, clothing shops, traffic, food bazaars, department stores, global businesses, and urban sprawl. It is the capital of the southern state of Telangana and embodies the juxtapositions of old and new, north and south, Hindu and Muslim. It’s home to offices for Microsoft, Google, and other tech giants – and also to ruins of the magnificent 13th-century Golconda Fort and iconic Charminar monument in the Old City.

Learn more about CIEE’s study abroad programs in Hyderabad here.