There are a number of challenges that come with traveling abroad in general, imagine a school. From March 12 to March 20 at SLA Main Campus, nine students caught a plane to Costa Rica. This trip consisted of completing a community service projects in a community where SLA students dug into the grounds of the Bribri community to provide an easier access to electricity and water for the residents of that area.
The language barrier is one of the most obvious of the challenges of studying abroad. Overcoming a language barrier may mean you’re struggling to learn a new language or you simply thought you were fluent, but find you’re unable to understand the strong local accent. Even if you’re studying in a country where you speak the same language, there are other hurdles to clear. For example, slang phrases that are popular or hip will seem strange.
“Initially I was nervous about the language barrier since my ability to speak Spanish is little. Although going there, while using the few words I knew along with new ones that I’ve learned was easier than I thought. The people were very kind and understood, using gestures with us and giving us many smiles.”
On April 13th SLA Center City also hosted an abroad trip to Germany where ten students stayed with a host family for ten days. Unlike Costa Rica, the Germany students, fortunately, get to see their hosts one final time when they fly to the United States in the month of October 2018.
In March of this year, Polish students from Torun to stay with 10 slambassadors, including Junior Eric Valenti, that attend the Science Leadership Academy for one week. “When Marceli arrived from Torun, Poland on his international trip, I was his host family for one week. Sometimes there was a bit of a language barrier, and many of the other students couldn’t understand him, including me.”
It is hard to have a general conversation about simple things with foreign host students is also very difficult to keep up with due to the language barrier. Valenti admits that he himself wasn’t familiar with the communication he had with his host student. in the U.S. Speaking for someone else wasn’t fair to Marceli because he would use very little words to describe his experiences when in reality he wanted to describe so much more but couldn’t.
Your usual ‘support network’ of family and friends will be hundreds if not thousands of miles away. Even if you weren’t previously aware of how important they were, now is when you’ll find out.
Junior Meymey Seng explained, “On the third day of the trip, I started to miss home, since there was no electricity, meaning I was not able to contact home. Although a couple days after we went into the city, I was able to contact my family as a sense of reassurance. At the same time, I knew I didn’t want to leave because you can always miss two places at once.“
This challenge is likely to be felt most especially true for the first few days of studying abroad. But then, you will build up a new support network and after a while of that experience outside of your original environment.
As foreigners, these teens do not know the local culture and its unwritten rules. Mistakes were made, however, according to the students themselves, it was another opportunity to learn from cultural misunderstandings.
Junior Jayla Wright gives her perspective on her experience, “Americans tend to have darker humor than Germans, for example, I said “I want to die” in a sarcastic manner not expecting they’d take it in very serious and personal fashion.
Going to a new environment, even for just a few days, you are in a way forced in a way to fit into the new surroundings in a rushed process. Even “casual violence” is looked at as a forbidden action, for example, laser tag in Germany is not permitted.
Not only will these encounters and newfound knowledge prepare these students for possible future abroad trips, but also for other new experiences with a different area of culture — not necessarily related to school associated trips.
Meymey Seng was among the group of students who have been chosen to attend the 10 day trip to Costa Rica. She gives insight on the difficulties she had with school assignments and projects, “Having to catch up on a lot of work before the trip or even having to do a bunch of work as soon as you come back.”
Meymey admits that even with all of the notes she has received she still found it extremely difficult to keep up with the lessons when she returned. As you can imagine, being present for the lesson is completely different from keeping up with it nearly 4,000 miles away.
No matter how long the trip is, the day before catching that flight back home, you will feel the heaviness of staying forever and not being able to speak the words “goodbye” to those who have made the trip unforgettable despite the barriers.
“Jordan Edelheit, our camp trip coordinator, shared one of her poems during our final moments together, ‘Traveling is not fun because it is a job of many hellos and goodbyes.’ ”