Monday, June 22, 2009

I am proud to say that when I went abroad, I made it home without even starting a single civil war.

If there is one thing I'm wholly in favor of, it's study abroad programs for high school students and college students.

After all, I studied abroad, and I learned many valuable things, things like "If you don't want to get grossed out, don't ask what, exactly, you're eating," and "When people say the water is safe, they're lying."

If I hadn't been so busy learning those things, and also reinforcing the stereotype of the Dumb, Loud, American, I would also have learned things about other cultures by immersing myself in them, and learned languages fluently by speaking them constantly just to get around, and become a better-rounded, more open-minded person -- that's the kind of thing study abroad programs do. For people who are not me.

And now, anyone can study abroad for a semester or a year -- they just have to sign up for a program through Carpe Diem, a site I found while checking out my legal options for shipping The Boy away for a while. (Don't tell Sweetie! It's a surprise for her.)

Carpe Diem sends kids on study abroad programs for 3 months to a year, in places like Central America, Australia, India, South America, and Africa. But they don't just put students into that country and turn them loose -- these are programs designed to help kids study, and help kids actually learn about a country. Carpe Diem (which has been operating, with its partners, since 1978) strives to keep kids safe but also put them into the actual country. So your kids don't go to Cancun or some resort town. They travel to the remote areas of host countries outside of tourist traps, balancing trips to those sites with more "Americanized" areas in the country.

The program says that it believes that "self-awareness, like a muscle, grows best if you can alternatively expand and contract." So they let students learn gradually -- and apply that learning without becoming overwhelmed.

They even help offer financial aid - not only can you get regular student loans for this, but you can also get some help and scholarships through Carpe Diem itself.

Studying abroad will improve and broaden any student's education. It's a once-in-a-lifetime chance to submerge a young mind into a totally new culture and expose him or her to wonderful and exotic languages, customs, people, and countries. It will enrich anyone's life, and if you are a high school senior or college student, or know one, you should check this out.

Just remember: they're lying about the water.

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