Underrepresented: A Call for Men to Study Abroad
Men, it’s time to take a step out of our comfort zones. It’s time to address our fears of unfamiliar environments. What am I referring to? Unfortunately, college men have a stigma toward studying abroad. Each year, only half as many men study abroad as women. For one reason or another, guys tend to be less willing to take a semester away. They place much less significance on the international experiences one can obtain from studying abroad. I’d like to challenge that attitude.
I have become more aware of cultural differences and world issues. I have gained new perspectives on international affairs. When I start looking for a job, I can market all these attributes.Study abroad wasn’t always on my radar. In fact, I had put very little thought into studying abroad until my mother suggested it. As my junior year at Franklin & Marshall College quickly approached, I had no intention of applying to study abroad. My mom pointed out that I might never get an opportunity like this again. But even so it took some time for me to take her suggestion seriously. Ultimately (and thankfully), I followed my mother’s advice. I applied to study at the University of Limerick in Limerick, Ireland through IFSA-Butler. I had my concerns, but once I became acclimated, I had the most amazing four months of my life. So why are guys so reluctant to take the plunge? Allow me to debunk a couple myths.
It will be too hard to make friendsIt is understandable to be apprehensive about study abroad. The thought of having to make new friends can be quite daunting, especially in a foreign country. However, this is one of the biggest misconceptions guys have when deciding whether or not to go. In Ireland, I quickly learned that I had a natural ice-breaker: my nationality. In an environment where my accent was considered exotic, simply opening my mouth made for a great conversation starter. Generally, people were intrigued by my American accent and wanted to hear my story. They were very curious about American culture. It was therefore easier to speak about my experiences with others than I had thought it would be. And I was equally intrigued to hear about the cultures and lifestyles of those around me. That curiosity really helped me integrate. Being different was actually what most helped me to make friends in Ireland, and my concerns turned out to be unfounded.
I won’t be able to graduate on timeThis is another fallacy I came across when talking to my male friends who decided not to study abroad. They believed that spending a semester away from their home institution would jeopardize their ability to graduate on time or interfere with their course of study. Many of my friends are pursuing business, engineering, or math degrees—all majors that have historically been dominated by men. These majors tend to have strict curriculums with limited opportunities for off-campus study. At first I believed this would be an obstacle for me too, as I am pursuing a degree in Economics.
In an environment where my accent was considered exotic, simply opening my mouth made for a great conversation starter.