All posts by mitchellmf2

Final Post

In taking Maximizing Your Study Abroad, I have learned a lot about the ins and outs of studying abroad. This class has helped me understand what I am looking for in a study abroad program and what programs and additional resources are available to me as a student at VCU. Through the course of the class, my plans for studying abroad have changed and evolved a lot. Originally, I wanted to studying in an English-speaking country, but when I learned more about the advantages of learning a language abroad, I decided to look into studying in Russia. Through additional research, I decided that Russia was not for me and that studying in Spain would be more beneficial to me academically and personally.

One of the most beneficial assignments that we did in Maximizing Your Study Abroad was going to talk to our advisors about an academic plan for studying abroad. I met with my advisor, Amanda Burby and talked with her about when the best time for me to study abroad is. I am a pre-nursing major and hope to get into the VCU nursing program next fall. Ms. Burby told me that as a nursing student it is very difficult to study abroad, because VCU only accepts nursing credits from their own nursing school. She told me that if I wanted to study abroad during an academic semester, I should plan to study abroad next fall. I did not like this idea, because I want to be very well adjusted in my academics at VCU before I switch to a whole new university and country. In the nursing plan of study, the courses I would be taking next fall are not nursing specific, so it is more likely that the credits would transfer from a foreign university. Ms. Burby also suggested to me that I could study abroad over the summer if I am not ready to go abroad next fall.

My discussion with Ms. Burby really changed my study abroad plans. Prior to meeting with Ms. Burby, I really wanted to study in Russia for a semester and learn the language, but after talking with Ms. Burby, I realized that that might not be the most realistic plan. Now, I am thinking about a summer program that Ms. Burby suggested to me that is specific for nursing students. The program is hosted in Spain and is very popular among VCU nursing students. The program is held in Cordoba, which borders a river in the south of Spain. I have looked at a few photos from Cordoba and it is breathtakingly beautiful.

The name of the program is VCU Summer: Nursing in Spain. The program is open only to VCU nursing students, so if I decide to apply to it, I will be traveling with my colleges. This may be very beneficial to me, because if I am being honest with myself, traveling to a foreign country where I do not know anyone at all could be too overwhelming for me. The program is open to juniors and seniors in the nursing program, so I will have plenty of time to become adjusted in my academics before going abroad. I think I will apply to the program for the summer before my junior year. The Nursing in Spain class is very inexpensive in comparison to other study abroad options. The program class charges VCU tuition, so I will be able to use my financial aid and scholarship money to offset the cost. The only other expenses associated with the program are a $250 fee and airfare. Room and board are included in the tuition, so the cost of living for the program will be even less expensive than living in Richmond. The class offered through the program is called International Comparison of Nursing Education and Clinical Care. The goal of the class is to compare and contrast the nature of nursing in Spain and the United States. It is a one credit class that includes 30 clinical hours. I think this class will be very interesting and also useful when applying to jobs once I graduate with my Bachelors of Science in Nursing.

An international perspective is useful in any job, but especially in nursing. In knowledge that I gained in class as well as in my interview with Laura Benn, I have learned that employers really like employees who have studied abroad. It adds diversity of knowledge to the workplace as well as something interesting to talk about in a job interview. Ms. Benn told me that as a nurse it is important to be culturally sensitive and aware. I grew up in a culturally diverse area, but studying abroad will help increase my cultural awareness. In addition to looking good to employers, I hope to learn some medical Spanish in my time in Spain. There are a lot of people in America who speak Spanish as their first language and speak only minimal English. For many of these people, their English language skills do not extend to medical terminology. Therefor, it is important for medical professionals to speak medical Spanish in order to communicate with their patients.

In addition to coursework, I hope to travel in Spain. The University of Cordoba is only two hours from Madrid, 45 minutes from Seville, and one hour from Malaga. Cordoba and all of these cities are historic European cities with beautiful architecture. I do not think that I will have the time or money to extensively travel in Europe during my time studying abroad, so it is great that Cordoba is so close to other cities in which I can explore.

Maximizing Your Study Abroad has aided in personalizing my study abroad plan. Planning to study abroad was initially very overwhelming to me. I did not know where to start or how to go about looking for programs. After taking this class, I feel that I have a solid study abroad plan and that I will easily be able to execute this plan. I am very excited about the opportunities ahead of me.

Week 5: Mock Scholarship Application Essay

Part 1:

All of my life I have dreamed of becoming a nurse. I am currently thinking of specializing in the emergency room or operating room. People come to the emergency and operating rooms from all walks of life and from a variety of cultures. What makes a nurse’s job challenging is communicating with people from different cultures and communicating with people who speak different languages. I want to learn a Critical Language so that I can communicate with patients who have limited English language skills.

I want to study abroad in Russia through a Partnership Exchange that my university, Virginia Commonwealth University, has with St. Petersburg State University in St. Petersburg, Russia. This program will improve my Russian language skills, because I will be taking all of my classes in Russian and be living with Russian students for a full semester. This will be a full immersion experience for me. While this is a huge advantage to the program I have chosen, it also poses a challenge to me. I currently have few Russian language skills, and only a rudimentary understanding of Russian culture. I am prepared to overcome this challenge, however. My university provides Rosetta Stone language learning programs for all university students. I plan to learn more Russian through the Rosetta Stone and do independent research on Russian culture and history. I feel that these steps will help me learn enough Russian to get by.

I believe that this program will enhance my academic experience and provide me with skills necessary to excel in my future career. After completing an academic semester in Russia, I will be able to speak a high level of the  Russian language and will have a strong understanding of Russian culture.


Part 2:

To promote the Gilman Scholarship, I plan to create a newsletter that my university’s nursing school will send to all of the nursing students. In the newsletter I will discuss my experience abroad and how I think that studying abroad will influence my career as a nurse. Nursing students are among the minority of students who choose to study abroad, and my newsletter will encourage nursing students to study abroad to enhance their communication skills and personal growth

Cultural Identities Case Study

The cultural factor at play here is respect of women and perception of women. Morocco is an Islamic state, and women are expected to dress conservatively and women in Morocco often wear hijabs. American women are much less conservative in the way they dress and may be perceived as promiscuous by Moroccan men who are not used to the American style of dress. There is a lot more discrimination against women in Morocco and women are not as respected as they are in America, so it is not surprising that the student is being sexually harassed.

The student should talk to her host family about the issue but if she continues to feel unsafe, she should contact the Moroccan police or the US Embassy. Her host family can give the student advice on how to avoid people and situations that can be threatening.

To cope with the current situation, the student should walk home with friends and travel in groups. She should also learn which areas and streets to avoid. She may want to alter her style of dress to be more conservative in accordance to the cultural norm in Morocco.

Week 9: Ethical Global Engagement

Before reading and watching the texts on global volunteering, I thought that volunteering globally was very important and helpful to foreign communities. I thought that volunteering was volunteering and that it was all good. I never considered how different types of volunteering could have different levels of impact or how volunteering could even be harmful for the people you are trying to help. I found the article “To Get into Harvard, Go to Hatti” very thought provoking. I realized that it is true that many students go on extravagant mission trips for the sake of writing a story about it in their college essays. I remember in high school wishing that I had gone over seas so that I could have a profound volunteer experience to write about and impress colleges with. I do not believe that this type of volunteering is helpful, because the volunteer is going through the motions of what they should do without actually caring about the people they are “helping.” The people being helped can easily see through the facade and know that they are not being helped, but are being exploited. I was shocked when watching the video that shows the good and bad to volunteering abroad. I feel that voluntourism can do more harm than good, especially in the case of helping orphans. There should be more information provided to volunteers demonstrating to them the impact of their abandoning has on children. I believe that if people were more aware of this impact, fewer people would volunteer internationally for programs that cause more harm than good.


Over Thanksgiving break, I went to with my family to visit my grandmother in Nashville. She asked about school and I told her about Introduction to Study Abroad. My grandmother never went to college and she has always wanted to travel abroad. She thought the idea of spending a semester studying abroad would be an amazing thing to do. She was very excited about all of the traveling opportunities that would be available to me if I chose to study in Europe. She was concerned, however, because she thought studying abroad was expensive. I told her that that was a common misconception and that I could study abroad for even less than I pay to study at VCU. She was thrilled to hear this and she told me to send her lots of postcards from Europe!

Week 11: Global Education

Part 1:  I think that international students feel isolated from American students because Americans are polite, yet distant. In the videos, the Israeli student thought that all Americans were fake because they would ask how you are doing and not actually care. He did not understand that extensions of compassion were actually just social norms meant to demonstrate politeness, rather than caring. There is an international student from Spain in one of my classes. He is on the tennis team, but he seems to mainly spend time with other Spanish students on the team. He never talks about spending time with American friends. I think that a lot of domestic students at VCU do not understand the difficulty of students who study abroad. To be honest, I never thought of studying abroad as potentially challenging socially until I took this class. I think that VCU could do a better job of informing domestic students that international students face a lot of challenges and that you should reach out to them, because they may be shy.

Part 2: In high school, I had a French teacher who had moved from France to Texas. She experienced major culture shock. She even remembered seeing telephone wires above ground and wondering if she was in a third world country. I expect to experience culture shock wherever I end up studying. All cultures are different. I grew up in northern Virginia, and even the differences in my hometown’s culture and Richmond’s culture are profound. I thought that the international student’s take on the “American Phrasebook” was funny. I had never thought about how as Americans, we say one thing, but mean another. I understand how this may be very confusing for an international student. From what the international student was saying, it seemed that many other cultures are much more direct. They say what they mean, not what is culturally acceptable.

Part 3: I think that study away experiences can be just as fulfilling as study abroad experiences, based on your goals. For some, getting out of their comfort zone and learning about a new culture is the goal. For these people, studying away can be a more cost-effective alternative. In high school, my mom was a part of a study away exchange program. She said that she learned a lot without spending a lot. Other students have goals of learning about a specific culture or a specific language. For these students studying abroad is more effective. While America can provide a global learning experience, there is no substitute for a full emersion experience in the country of interest.

Part 4: I believe that there is a balance that can be struck between allowing international students into American universities and aiding first-generation college students and low-income students into universities. From my own experience, I have learned a lot from international students from my short time at VCU. I feel that they have taught in ways that I could not have learned from a classroom professors. From my own experience, I see little downside of admitting international students into American universities.

Professional Interview

I interviewed Nurse Laura Benn for my professional interview assignment. Laura’s daughter is studying abroad currently, so Laura is very excited about the opportunity to study abroad. Laura told me that studying abroad would be helpful in any job because it provides the opportunity for personal growth and independence (these characteristics will transfer to the workplace). America is geographically isolated, so it is important for students to seek out study abroad opportunities in order to be competitive in a global job market. Laura said that communication and flexibility are key to being a good nurse. She believes these things could be practiced and pushed to your personal limits by studying abroad. Laura sees patients from many backgrounds and nationalities. She told me that she interacts with patients based on their culture as not to offend them and to comply with how they prefer to receive health care.

On a more global, broad view, nursing is very global. You may think of your nursing staff and healthcare services as local and personalized, but the medical world is very globally connected. For example, the majority of surgical equipment used in American hospitals comes from Germany. As a nurse, Laura could become involved in politics relating to healthcare. To do this, it would be helpful to understand how other countries’ health care systems work. Studying abroad would help understand this.

Week 10: Danger of a Single Story

As a middle class, white college student, people expect me to be fairly closed minded about the world and how others live. My background is the “single story” held against me. People think that because I have a certain level of privilege that I can’t empathize with the problems and suffering of others or understand what makes us different. I know that there are people out there who are different than me. I am not racist because I am white, and I am not homophobic because I am straight. I take classes like World Religions and Study Abroad to increase my understanding of diversity and learn how to be more inclusive. I want to study abroad to appreciate and celebrate differences between people and cultures rather than to polarize and discriminate against them. I hope and expect my study abroad experience will make me more culturally aware and that people will recognize and see this in me.

I met my roommate in high school and she seemed like almost every South Asian woman I had ever met: hardworking, family oriented, and wealthy. She told me that her father and mother moved to America for better opportunities and I assumed she meant that her father came here to become a heart surgeon and her mother a computer wizard. What I have learned recently, though is that her father is an entrepreneur, who never went to college and her mother is a stay-at-home-mom. The only entrepreneurs and stay-at-home-moms I had ever known were white and I was surprised to learn that this is what her parents did. My single story of South Asians was that they were usually doctors or worked in information technology.

Week 10: Intercultural Development

I think that I am at Stage 4 (acceptance) of intercultural development. I grew up in northern Virginia, which is a very diverse area. Given this, I have had many opportunities  to improve my intercultural development and I do not feel threatened by the differences of others. I am a little apprehensive about changing my own behavior to adopt to another culture. I have a very strong American identity and I don’t feel comfortable changing my identity.

Week 7: Existing Knowledge and Questions About Host Country/Culture

Part 1: Most of the knowledge I have about Russia is informed by American perspective on Russia. The information is very biased, because of political tension with Russia. I have never been there, but I know two women who immigrated from Russia. They each have family in Russia, and thus have close connection to Russian culture and the country in general. They have a negative view of Russia though. Unlike most Russian citizens, they dislike the Russian political system and leadership. I have never studied Russian culture, history, or language, so the only information I have about Russia is biased information.

There are many stereotypes about Russia. One of the stereotypes is that the people, especially the women, are very tough and intimidating. I don’t know if I believe this, but I hope that it is not true. Another is that Russians are alcoholics. I actually researched this topic, and BBC blames alcohol, specifically vodka, for Russia’s high rate of early death (before age 55). The most intimidating stereotype to me is that Russian people are unhappy. This concerns me because I don’t want to go to a foreign country to find myself surrounded by unhappy people.

I am considering taking a Russian language class at VCU before going to Russia. There is a lot of famous Russian literature I could read, such as A Hero of Our Time. An online news source I could start reading is “Expatica”. This paper is based in Moscow and is published in English.

Part 2:

How can I stay safe in Russia?  What is the exchange rate between US and Russian currency?  What languages and dialects are spoken in Russia?  Are there any unintuitive things that are offensive in Russian culture?  Is eye contact respectful or disrespectful?  What is the weather like in Russia?  Are there any rules or laws I should be aware of?  How do Russians view foreigners?  How inviting are the police?  How many people will speak English?