Internships, Research, and Service-Learning
Some study abroad programs offer students the opportunity to complete credit-bearing internships, research, or service-learning projects. Additionally, some students choose to supplement their academic coursework with volunteer internships abroad. Through these hands-on learning experiences, students develop a wide range of intercultural and professional skills that translate back to Evanston and beyond.
"In Jordan, I worked in the editorial department for an NGO that seeks to build peace between communities by using sports, arts etc. I published a blog once a week and interview volunteers of the program to show the work being done and help the organization get more visibility. I also studied abroad in Morocco, where I interviewed black women from Sub Saharan Africa about their experiences in Morocco and wrote about how color blindness hid the rampant discrimination against them. Studying abroad taught me to put my trust in complete strangers and that one must stand up for others, even if everyone else is silent."
"My project detailed the effects of colonialism and capitalism on Viet Nam's food map. I enjoyed this experience the most because it allowed me the freedom to travel throughout the country and interview people across different sociopolitical lines. Studying abroad allowed me to learn more about myself and the world around me. It gave me a greater sense of understanding my powers and privileges as an American, while also challenging my own domesticated opinions of the world. I believe that I am a more thoughtful, critical and understanding human being because of it."
"I don't want to epitomize the 'study abroad changed me' cliché, but my study abroad experience in Scotland/working in the Scottish Parliament truly changed my life. It gave me a much-needed break from the grind of Northwestern, it exposed me to a political system that still values decorum and cross-party friendships, it gave me confidence in my existing abilities and helped me to develop new ones. I CANNOT emphasize how formative this experience has been for my outlook on life and politics and education. It was an absolute dream, and I hope to find a way to go back."
"I was able to intern and research at Asiye eTafuleni, and it was the most life changing experience ever. I am absolutely dedicated to their mission and hope to do something in transformative architecture, infrastructure, and/or city planning because of them! Asiye eTafuleni is an NGO in Durban, South Africa that is focused on working with informal traders to change policy and build lasting structures in Warwick Triangle. Studying the political transformation of South Africa in Durban was an amazing experience. I loved it so much I am going back with my family this summer to show them everything I did and introduce them to my lovely homestay family."
"I had a fashion consulting and event management firm internship in this program. My internship experience and my interactions with the teachers at the IFE center are the most positive aspects of this program. I felt very integrated at my internship site and my boss really challenged me to the same tasks as the full-time employees. In addition, the teachers and staff at IFE are always very warm hearted and nice to each student. They are always there to support each student."
Different study abroad programs offer different types of housing, which can be something to consider when choosing a program. To help you compare the various options, Northwestern students reflect on their housing experiences abroad.
"My homestay with a large family in Amman, Jordan was integral to gaining a deeper cultural experience during my study abroad experience. My family was a source of help for homework, regular community meals, and cultural wisdom that would have been impossible to find elsewhere. In between raising several children and cooking for ten, they found time in their routine to encourage my linguistic growth and cultural appreciation. Adapting to and learning from their lifestyle enabled me to feel like a part of the community, which was one of my ultimate goals for studying abroad."
"In my Northwestern program, I stayed with other Northwestern students in a college dormitory in Barcelona. I enjoyed the autonomy afforded to me by living in a college dormitory as opposed to a home-stay. That being said, I did have to be more intentional and direct about seeking friendships and connections with locals, as I didn't have a host (and thus immediate) connection to Spanish locals!"
"While studying abroad in Korea, I stayed in a goshiwon, which is basically a very small room that either includes a bathroom or has a communal one for the floor, because it was extremely inexpensive and very convenient for its location near campus. Staying at a goshiwon allowed me to meet people from all over the world and get tips on where to shop and places to go. I was also responsible for cooking my own meals, which has its own challenges, especially since many Korean homes do not have ovens and other appliances that are more common in America."
"It was not easy trying to find an apartment in Paris, especially with all the specific details we had in mind. We were trying to look for a reasonably priced apartment within walking distance from our school. We used Airbnb, and it was nice at first since we could look through the images and amenities. However, it’s important to keep in mind that hosts can cancel your booking if something comes up – which can get pretty stressful if you have to find another apartment last-minute. In terms of living on our own, it was nice because we could use the kitchen freely and explore things like farmers markets and local supermarkets."
"I like to think I had the best of both worlds: I lived in a Kollegium, which is a Danish dorm, full time with other Danish and international college students but I also had a visiting host family. This meant that I was able to experience the whole spectrum of cultural immersion from cooking in our shared kitchen with my Danish floor mates to visiting the zoo with my two younger host sisters. I developed an incredible group of friends while also having the support of the most welcoming, caring, and loving host family whenever I felt unsure or stressed."
"As we moved around Australia, we were in a new housing situation every few days, from ritzy, suite-style apartments in Sydney to old, ‘summer camp style’ cabins in the Daintree Rainforest. Living together the entire experience, we grew very close over our time there. All our travel and ‘unique’ housing led us to become a group of twenty best friends on the adventure of a lifetime."
From language courses to homestays, local friends, and other cultural immersion, students learn or improve language skills while abroad in a variety of ways. Northwestern students share how learning language affected their study abroad experience and offer advice for future study abroad students.
"While studying in Bolivia, I improved my Spanish through a homestay, Spanish language courses, courses taught in Spanish, and immersion. Knowing Spanish made it easier to travel and interact with local people and to participate in and understand Bolivian society. After study abroad, I have continued to take language courses and engage in conversation groups. I encourage future study abroad students to dive in, abandon the internalized belief that your self worth is your intelligence and your intelligence is how you speak, lean into the discomfort and put yourself out there!"
"While studying in Morocco, I improved my Arabic through a homestay, friends, and my courses. Learning a language helped me make friends, made it easier to travel, and helpe dme understand the culture. Even speaking in broken Darija made people very willing to engage in conversation adn try to help me learn. After study abroad, I'm still taking Arabic classes, and I FaceTime my friends in Morocco and converse in Darija. If you are starting at the beginning level, you don't have to prepare before, but it will put you miles ahead if you do. Especially for Arabic, learning the alphabet beforehand goes a long way."
"I learned German through a beginner German course and Rosetta Stone, and improved while abroad thorugh a conversation partner and immersion. Learning German gave me a perspective on the most common phrases each country uses and made me think about how different cultures have constructed their languages. Back in Evanston, I am taking LING 250, and German pronunciation seems more contingent with IPA pronunciations than English. I encourage students to be comfortable being uncomfortable! It is such a fantastic opportunity to learn a language in a country in which it is the official language. I learned the language of my host country significantly faster than my second language I learned in high school because I was so immersed in the culture."
"I developed my Spanish while studying abroad through courses, a homestay, and an internship. Learning Spanish helped me engage with and understand the culture on a deeper level and allowed me to be more confident engaging with the country as a whole. I was able to count courses to multiple of my degrees, not just Spanish, and I was able to be confident applying to bilingual professional opportunities. There is literally no reason why you should not take advantage of learning the language of where you are studying; you will have no better time to be fully immersed and have the same opportunities to use the language and engage with the culture than during study abroad."
"I feel like I got a much better understanding of Danish culture through my Danish language course and living with a host family. It was really rewarding to be able to start picking up certain words when people spoke and having the ability to read signs at the store and around the city. Because I was surrounded by the language, I felt like I had a much more genuine and rewarding experience by learning it. To students considering learning a language while studying abroad, I would say do it!!!! On one hand it’s really fun, because the expectation isn’t that you become fluent in 3 months. Instead, you’re able to pick up on the little things that make your abroad experience all the richer."
"My Italian improved through immersion, courses, and Italian roommates. Learning Italian helped me understand the culture, form a closer connection with abroad family, gain a deeper understanding of how language functions in the world, and develop compassion for those learning a new language. It also made it marginally easier to travel because I understood the structure of the languages in some of the countries that I visited so I was able to decode them. When I returned to campus, I continued to take language courses, added an Italian minor, and used it on my resume and in job interviews. To future study abroad students, I would say know that it isn't easy but with some hard work it is possible, there will be some days when you can't seem to make a coherent sentence no matter how hard you try but there are others where you can speak for days on end without stopping. By the end I was mixing Italian words into my English without realizing which kind of blew my mind."
"In Barcelona, I learned Spanish through courses and immersion, and knowing Spanish made it easier to travel, find my way around, order off menus, communicate with people, and understand the culture. I was also able to complete my Spanish minor while studying abroad. In my opinion, study abroad and immersion is THE best way to learn and improve your language, so if language is something you want to work on, I cannot recommend study abroad enough."