Study abroad student: James Patton

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The idea of studying abroad has probably crossed every student’s mind once or twice. Study abroad programs are a great way to expand one’s future while also earning credit towards the completion of one’s academic program. Western Carolina University offers many programs all over the world in places that include Argentina, Australia, England, Japan and even South Africa. Gaining international experience and exposure is what studying abroad is all about.

Western Carolina junior, James Patton, has spent his last two summers studying abroad. Patton is a sports management major who one day hopes to coach his own soccer team. His study abroad destinations include Germany, England and Holland. Patton decided to go overseas because, as he put it, “studying abroad has always been a dream.”

Patton’s experience abroad entailed attending business meetings and going to different sporting events. He admitted to not having any difficulty adjusting. Contrary to popular belief, one does not need to be able to speak a foreign language to be able to study abroad. Countries like England, Ireland and Australia are English-speaking, and when you study abroad in places like Finland, Denmark, Sweden and Germany, there are courses taught in English for English-speaking students.

Studying abroad is more than what the name suggests. Students that study abroad don’t just go to class, and when asked about his favorite moment from his trip overseas, Patton said, “Going to my first professional soccer match.”

Studying abroad allows students to interact with new people of different cultures. It may also help students strengthen their communication skills. When going abroad, students gain the opportunity to travel around to nearby countries and popular sights.

It also allows for personal growth. Studying abroad provides the opportunity for students to experience different cultures and see things that they may not be able to see in the states. Patton said that what he learned most about himself on the trip was, “I’m good at adjusting to different cultures.”

The Office of International Programs and Services created a list of top reasons to study abroad. This list includes obtaining college credit while you travel, helping to build a resume, the ability to take courses overseas in various majors, traveling the world, helping get students accepted into graduate school and, of course, the opportunity to learn a new language.

The office also debunked the myth of studying abroad being too expensive. One of the popular ways a student can afford to study abroad is by doing exchange programs where they essentially trade places with a student from a foreign institution, then pay the cost of tuition, room, and board at Western Carolina. In that situation, the only thing the student would have to purchase would be a plane ticket.

Another way that study abroad is affordable is by the law that Western Carolina must allow students to use their federal financial aid for study abroad. Most state financial aid and some scholarship money can be used as well.

Patton said that he would study abroad again and that you should “Definitely go!” You can make the decision to study overseas after you have completed your first year at Western Carolina. In your sophomore year, you can go abroad in some programs, as well as your junior and senior years. Don’t forget that there are many ways you can study abroad and still graduate on time. It’s never too late!