Category Archives: Study Abroad

How Americans Abroad Celebrate the 4th of July

By Andi Szilagyi from Seattle, WA, USA (Fireworks  Uploaded by X-Weinzar) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

By Andi Szilagyi from Seattle, WA, USA (Fireworks Uploaded by X-Weinzar) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons


That’s Simplified Chinese for: Happy Independence Day! But if you’re studying or living overseas, are there really places to celebrate the 4th of July?


For me, every 4th of July in China started off with the Grateful Dead song “U.S. Blues.” In the evening, a bunch of Americans and their friends from China and other countries around the world would get together to have a cookout and set off fireworks that we’d saved from Chinese New Year (which Chinese people traditionally celebrate with fireworks).

You can read about some ways that Americans abroad celebrate in this article from the International Business Times. And just for kicks, you can also enjoy this BBC guide to the 4th for Brits in the U.S.!

Why Study Abroad: 7 Things Employers Want

“NanjingLu” by original uploader AndrewHorne at en.wikipedia – Transferred from en.wikipedia; transferred to Commons by User:Kafuffle using CommonsHelper. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

While traveling the world and getting a good education are certainly worthwhile activities in their own rights, most people pursue degrees in order to achieve bigger goals in life. Like getting a job, for example. So some students approach the idea of study abroad with this question in mind: Will making this often significant investment help improve my chances in the job market?

The short answer is yes. The long answer is also yes. Here’s why.

The Association of American Colleges & Universities (AACU) commissioned a large survey that questioned employers and recent college graduates about what skills and abilities were most valued in the workplace. Out of the top ten list they came up with, seven are things you learn to do while studying, interning, or living abroad.

8. The ability to apply knowledge and skills in new settings

This really shouldn’t need a lot of explanation, as pretty much everything you do on an everyday basis while in another country falls into this category. Just getting somewhere on public transportation (particularly in a country where English is not the dominant language) challenges students to dust off those map-reading and orienteering skills while also playing memory games with unfamiliar street and place names. Or how about negotiating prices at the market, possibly in a foreign language?

7. The ability to be creative and innovative in solving problems

Time Magazine published a story on this one. It’s really true, though, that experiencing another culture causes you to rethink your most basic assumptions about how things should be done. In any given situation, there are myriad approaches; by seeing people quite different than yourself tackle problems, you can develop a greater sense of the possibilities when faced with a dilemma of your own.

6. An understanding of the global context in which work is now done

Living in China and meeting Chinese factory workers and middlemen, as well as American, Swedish, Turkish, and Brazilian businessmen who source products or materials from them for companies around the world gave me an up-close look at how the global economy works. Seeing how each of these stakeholders was affected by, and dealt with, shifting exchange rates and commodity prices afforded me the opportunity to watch macro- and micro-economic case studies unfold before my eyes.

5. The ability to analyze a problem to develop workable solutions

Here’s the scenario: You’re experiencing persistent stomach discomfort and other intestinal distress. It’s been going on for days, and you begin to suspect it might be something worse than food poisoning. Walk into a hospital where nobody speaks English. You don’t speak the local language. Go.

Like number 8 up there, this ability is developed by the everyday challenges you face when confronted with a language barrier. Even in an English-speaking country, you will encounter a dizzying array of difficulties and decisions, especially when traveling. Example: You are spending a weekend in Edinburgh with three friends, all of whom want to see and do different things, but you only have about 36 hours. How do you make sure everybody is happy at the end of the trip?

4. The ability to think clearly about complex problems

Travel logistics play pretty well into this one, too. So do a lot of the things that have to be done in preparation for spending a significant amount of time abroad, like financial planning, figuring out what to do with your apartment and belongings, possibly dealing with loans and/or scholarships, navigating academic requirements and ensuring that credits will transfer if necessary. Not to mention trying to fit everything you want to bring into what suddenly seems like quite a tiny bit of luggage. There’s also one common piece of advice given to students heading abroad that’s always sounded somewhat difficult: Gather up all the clothes and things you think you’ll need, and then put half of it back. How do you choose which half?

3. The ability to write and speak well

On the AACU list, this is probably the ability that is closest to a natural skill; something that some people just have a talent for. Everyone can learn to do these things well, but some people become merely competent, while others become David Foster Wallace or Barack Obama.

The necessity of removing almost all slang from your speech (even if you are dealing with native English speakers in countries like Jamaica, Scotland or Australia, because they may not understand American slang) is one simple way you begin to improve your speaking abilities. You will also be called upon by your foreign friends and acquaintances to explain the American viewpoint (because you will become the spokesperson for the U.S. government and people, whether you think yourself qualified or not), which can be a pretty daunting task, but one whose demands will sharpen your verbal skills.

In all likelihood, whether it’s required for your classes or not, you will write quite a bit more than usual. You might be blogging, you’ll almost certainly be emailing friends and family quite frequently, and if you really want to capture and cherish your overseas experience, you’ll be making daily entries into a journal.

Writing is much like playing an instrument—the more you do it, the better you’ll get.

1. The ability to work well in teams—especially with people different from yourself

Never in your life will you be exposed to as many people from wildly different backgrounds than yourself as when you study abroad (unless you actually go work in an international city in another country, like London or Shanghai, in which case you’ll probably match it, at least—oh, and by the way, this is something you’ll be far more likely to be able to do if you have previous international experience, like for example studying abroad). The better you can relate to people with different backgrounds than yourself, the easier it is to understand their viewpoint and work with them.

#studyabroadbecause employers value the skills you learn when you study abroad.

Why Study Abroad: Weekend Reading

Okay, yes, I know it’s Wednesday, which by most people’s standards is not the weekend. But during the beautiful Seattle summer, when there are hours and hours of sunlight even after the workday ends, every day feels a little bit weekendish. So if you want to get an early start and spend some time during these sunny afternoons and evenings reading about some of the myriad benefits of studying abroad, nobody could fault you for it.

In “How Studying or Working Abroad Makes You Smarter,” Time quotes one researcher, William Maddux from INSEAD, who writes, “People who have international experience or identify with more than one nationality are better problem solvers and display more creativity, our research suggests. What’s more, we found that people with this international experience are more likely to create new businesses and products and to be promoted.”

Inside Higher Ed reports on a decade-long study of study abroad outcomes at the University System of Georgia (which includes everything from community colleges to research universities) called the GLOSSARI project. Among their many other findings, they report that students who study abroad have slightly higher GPAs and better graduation rates. This, even after controlling for differences in SAT scores and other factors, so if all else is equal, the study abroad students fare better in these areas.

Despite all of this, it is important to remember that to really reap the benefits of studying, interning, or working overseas, you need to immerse yourself in the culture. As with most things, what you get from the experience depends a lot on how much effort you put into it. You don’t want to end up like this: “6-Day Visit to Rural African Village Completely Changes Woman’s Facebook Profile Picture.

One Student’s Experience in Jamaica

For more than ten years running, Shoreline psychology instructor Bob Thompson has been taking students to a rural area in the Blue Mountains to work in local schools and learn about Jamaican life and culture from the community.

Every single person we’ve talked to about this study abroad program has been deeply affected by the lessons they learned about the world and about themselves. We decided to record a brief interview with one of these students so she could share her powerful experience with all of you.

Florence and Siena

Judging by the pictures, this spring quarter has been amazing for the group of students in Florence, Italy (among them one student from Shoreline)!

Siena Church

Last week, the students took a day trip to Siena, a town famed for its historic center (which is a UNESCO World Heritage site, which you must know by now means that we here at IE love it). Pictured above is the Siena Cathedral, which was built about 700 years ago.

Siena Lunch 2They also enjoyed a reportedly delicious meal of pasta with a creamy boar sauce and roasted guinea fowl with potatoes.

But they didn’t just eat amazing food in Italy—they learned how to make it, too. As part of one of their classes. They got credit for making pizza!

Pizza Class

Isn’t that great?

AW80D: London Part 2

All the Pretty Houses London is truly one of the world’s great cities. Its history reaches back about 6,500 years, and today is a center of the arts, global finance, fashion, education—almost everything. It is remarkably diverse, home to people representing countries all around the earth.

A city that draws cultures of the world to it? Where you can experience not only local customs and food, but also those from scores of other countries? That sounds like a great place for a study abroad program.

And that’s exactly why, every other year, Shoreline sends students there. This past fall quarter, two Shoreline students were there. Your next opportunity to follow in Dolphie’s footsteps will be fall quarter 2016. It’s never too early to start planning for your study abroad adventures (especially if you want scholarships): if you’re interested, contact us at!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

(Two things: 1 – AW80D stands for Around the World in 80 Dolphies, wherein we follow the international adventures of Dolphie, mascot of Shoreline Community College; 2 – Credit where credit’s due, so thanks Wikipedia, and if you’d like to see where I got my information, just click the links.)