Student panelists share ups, downs of studying abroad

International Student Panel - International Education Week

International students share tips on how to be a success while studying abroad.

By Chrystian Tejedor

Leaving home for college can be tough. Some students don’t know what to expect. Others go in wide-eyed with excitement. Add traveling abroad to the mix, however, and things seem to get trickier.

But according to some international students, fearlessness just might be the key to finishing your degree in a foreign country.

“When people decide they want to study abroad they get a little scared,” said international business major Nicole Acosta. “You think it’s going to be difficult, or those people are so smart, or that there’s too much competition. As you meet more people, stereotypes are broken and walls come down and you realize how alike you are.”

Acosta and fellow international students Cecilia Hernandez and Nadia Malouli, all of whom are international dual degree students, will guide fellow students on Thursday through the ups and downs of teaching and learning around the world.

Their panel discussion, scheduled for 2 p.m. – 3 p.m. in GC 316 is sponsored by the Office of Global Learning and the College of Business Office of International Affairs and Projects. It is part of a dozen activities scheduled for FIU’s International Education Week, which runs through Friday.

Aside from interacting with people from different cultures, that sense of fearlessness must extend to the classroom, Acosta said. Even though she was familiar with FIU professors from the classes they taught at Santo Domingo’s Universidad Iberoamericana (UNIBE), taking a full-fledged class on campus felt different.

“In the Dominican Republic, classes are really small and the teaching methods are more personal. If professors see you need help, they will ask you more questions to see if you understand the material,” she said. “Here, it’s more independent. Since it’s a big class you don’t have that one-on-one experience.”

It’s not that classes are a lot harder, said Hernandez, the fellow panelist and graduate student from Uruguay who expects to graduate in the spring with a Master of International Business.

“It’s intense here,” said Hernandez, 30. “You have to be open-minded. Talk to everyone you can. If you have to present a paper on a country, someone from your class can be a big help. I met a classmate from Brazil and he really helped me a lot on a paper on that I needed to submit for class.”

Adjusting to the different academic environment can be a challenge, agreed Malouli, 23, the third panelist.

International Student Panel - International Education Week 2014

International Students Nicole Acosta (left) and Nadia Malouli (right) share tips on studying abroad.

“You have to open your mind to every culture and every different way of working.” said Malouli, a Master of International Business student from France. “They’re going to guide you much more in France than they do here. In France, we have many more hours in class compared to the US even in master’s programs. Half the semester might be dedicated to team projects and although the professor won’t always lecture, the professor might be there to help you.”

The best advice they have to fellow international students or to those looking to study abroad? Don’t be afraid to talk to people; get involved; and do your research.

“In the Dominican Republic, you don’t have that diversity in culture,” Acosta said. “Here you see people from around the world. It’s a much better experience because you see those different people in your classes or in clubs.”

Said Hernandez: “Before you decide to do this, research the opportunity you have available. Not just the university, but the city where you plan to stay. Sometimes it can be more difficult for you.”

Is studying abroad worth it?

“In my business school in France almost all the students go abroad for at least a semester or for a one year exchange program,” adds Malouli, who hosted international students in France. “Even though it could be challenging sometimes, everyone I knew loved the experience.”

The Office of Global Learning also is sponsoring FIU’s fourth annual Global Engagement Fair in the GC Pit, on Friday. For a complete list of International Education Week events, click here.

For more pictures, visit the College of Business’s Office of International Affairs & Studies Facebook page.

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