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Worldwide Opportunities at SIU

A landscape of Taipei, Taiwan showing the lush nature outside the booming city
Thomas Tucker

A sea of skyscrapers. Night markets packed with vendors and customers alike. Neon signs filled with the traditional characters of Mandarin Chinese illuminating the streets. This was the life of SIU student Taegan Carpenter.

Carpenter is a junior majoring in anthropology and language, cultures, and international studies with a focus in East Asia. She spent nearly a year in Taipei, Taiwan from August 2022 to July 2023. This was just one of the many different study abroad opportunities that SIU has to offer.

While in Taipei, Carpenter learned how to speak and write in Mandarin Chinese and about the culture of Taiwan. The classes took up 20 hours during the week but she says the workload wasn’t very daunting.

“Think about all the time during your undergrad you are in class. That is already 18 hours per week and you're studying five or six different things. Versus when I was in class doing all the same homework, all the same tests, it’s one class that you are learning all of this in” Carpenter said.

With a less demanding workload also meant more free time. Carpenter utilized this to experience what the country had to offer.

“There would be times I would wake up early in the morning and take the train to the northeastern seaside and go surfing before my classes in the afternoon. That was my life and it was pretty cool” Carpenter said.

The workload wasn’t the only difference that she experienced while overseas. Her apartment didn’t have a kitchen sink, the college did not have any dining halls, and the streets were packed with diverse people unlike in Southern Illinois. Even with all of this, Carpenter says one of the most surprising differences was the quality of 7/11’s.

“The 7/11’s over there are way more functional than the ones we have here. You can buy real, hot food, as well as send mail, get a taxi, pick up mail, and pay your bills. All of those things and more you can do in a 7/11 which is really cool” Carpenter said.

The food and scenery made her trip one she will never forget but her time there was not always easy. Her first couple months across the world, knowing no one, made for a grueling experience.

“The first three or four months, everything was just very uncomfortable. You miss home. The food is weird. When I first got there it was so hot, I was like ‘This is terrible.’ I don’t have any friends, I miss people who speak English. You are just trying to find your footing” Carpenter said.

She says this happens to everyone traveling alone. However, Carpenter says the harder times early on should not keep anyone from studying abroad.

“Once you get there, you will find that you are more resilient than you really are and more creative. You will find ways to make money and sustain yourself and make friends. I would just say go for it” Carpenter said.

Fear can hold many people back but this will also keep them from gaining the benefits. Stephanie Mueller, the Director of the study abroad department at SIU, says there are benefits from studying abroad that will help students beyond their college years.

“It’s a great professional builder for our students. It’s something they can add to their resume. It gives them intercultural experiences, knowledge, and language experience. These are all things that will make them more marketable for future jobs” Mueller said.

She says there is a study abroad trip for everyone. Some trips do require students to be in a specific major but some allow any student at SIU to go. Some of the opportunities include:

  •  Austria: Music History in Salzburg & Classical Music
  • Brazil: Speech- Language Pathology (dental hygiene & medical welcome)
  • England: Empireland - England and its Imperial Pasts
  • France: Business Studies in Grenoble
  • Ireland: Literature, History & Music of a Changing Ireland
  • Italy: Art and Monuments of Ancient Rome
  • Italy: Drawing, Art & Medieval & Renaissance Architecture in Florence
  • Spain: Spanish Language & Culture
  • Spain: Fermentation (open to everyone)

Mueller recommends everyone to consider taking a trip abroad but says they should do some preparation beforehand.
“Do some research on that country including the cost of living there, what does airfare look like there, and are there visa requirements? These are all things that we can help with as well” Mueller said.

The study abroad department not only helps with preparation, but it also helps students find financial aid.

“Also, look up your financial aid. What kind of aid are you receiving? Is it grants, is it scholarships, is it loans? Get a feel for that so when they come into our office we can help and assist in finding out how their financial aid can apply to the study abroad program” Mueller said.

The deadline to apply for the study abroad programs in the summer and fall 2024 semesters is March 1st. To learn more and sign up, visit the study abroad department website.

Ethan Holder is a student contributor for WSIU Public Broadcasting located at Southern Illinois University, Carbondale. Contact WSIU Radio at 618-453-6101 or email wsiunews@wsiu.org
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