Towson University Student Loretta Grant reads a study abroad catalog.
As Loretta Grant pulled up to the airport her heart started to pound with overwhelming emotions of anticipation, anxiety, and fear. In that moment the reality of traveling out of the country for the first time became real, and as she cried she hugged her father goodbye seconds before she’d embark on her first journey abroad on her own.
Loretta Grant, a Towson University senior, had the opportunity to accomplished her longtime dream of leaving the country to explore the Dominican culture first-hand, study Dominican healthcare, and converse with Dominican locals all while studying abroad through Towson University.
Towson University offers different study abroad programs, and a wide range of destinations where students can study both outside and inside of the United States. Grant chose a Towson University Faculty-led program which can be taken as a mini-semester over spring break, summer break, or winter break. This specific program allows the student group to be accompanied by a Towson University faculty member. Prices vary on country.
Grant, a Nursing Major, spent two and a half weeks abroad at the end of her sophomore year, observing hospital practices and taking courses on the Dominican Republic’s healthcare system. She also had the opportunity to experience Dominican culture by attending fun events, visiting cool attractions, and living with a host family.
Grant recalls her decision at first to travel abroad as “exciting, but scary,” noting that it was her first time out of the country.
“Having a Spanish background helped,” Grant, who is fluent in the language says. She was able to converse with locals and meet interesting people. “If I didn’t speak Spanish might be definitely more challenging, might have been more homesick or frustrated.”
Abroad, Grant had the chance to embark on many fun activities. She said there was a “fun festival with music and dancing” she got to attend. She also got to visit the Ecolodge and see cool caves, and explore the city through a fun scavenger hunt.
While there, Grant studied in Dominican Republic hospitals “They’re big on traditional medicine versus a hospital. We did a lot of observations,” she says,“some of us were allowed to see small procedures, they let us into the NICU.” When asked about the workload Grant replied, “We had assignments but it was a more relaxed atmosphere.”
Grant said the idea behind traveling abroad is “to open your perspective and build cultural competency.” She says the experience helped her “better understand individuals.”
“I think it just taught me to be more grateful too the whole experience.” Grant was able to gain insight on what poverty in another country is like.“Seeing things first hand is more powerful than just watching those commercials on tv it becomes more real when your there, and when you know people from there. I learned about my own entitlement.”
As Grant said, studying abroad did help her adopt a new perspective. “I converted to Christianity.” Grant was able to find a church family in the Dominican Republic. “I really started to dedicate myself to god.” Grant comes from a religious family, but before traveling she wasn’t religious herself.
Towson University’s study abroad specialist, Kelsey Sobecki.
Kelsey Sobecki, Towson University’s Study Abroad Specialist, agrees that these programs are life changing for students. “I’ve been working in Study Abroad now for almost 5 years, and I worked directly with students. The changes that you see from students when they arrive to when they depart it’s definitely kind of mind blowing,” she says. “You see students grow not only personally but also academically and they get a much more culturally aware perspective on the world.”
It’s been almost 3 years since Grant has converted.“They made me feel really welcome in a place that was unfamiliar.” She even said they drove her to her return flight home.
“People were more open, more friendly,” Grant says. “More likely you can talk to someone randomly and strike up a conversation with them.”
While studying abroad “I earned 6 credits during my studying abroad program”. Grants trip abroad cost about $5,000 for two-and-a-half weeks and two courses. “I was able to condense my experience, and be in a place where I could learn cultural diversity
Study Abroad office at Towson University.
Grant recommends studying abroad to those interested. She says at Towson you can apply to go anywhere. Towson can also partner with other study abroad programs, “If we don’t have a program ourselves, you can petition to go on that program and get Towson credit” she says.
“Just thinking about career, there’s so many doors to be open. Jobs will look at students coming out of college with International experience” Grant says.
With international networking Sobecki says it allows for career opportunities abroad. “Career wise they’re so many options for them. Having an abroad experience on your resume definitely makes you stand out.” She also says it’s really important for students to be able to talk about their experience abroad in a way that makes them stand out to employers.
Towson also offers specific scholarships for students looking to study abroad. Grant says there are also “priority scholarships for underrepresented countries like Greece, Czech Republic, China, Ecuador, and Morocco.”
“We really need more students to study abroad, particularly males, people of color,” Grant says. She includes that department is looking for people who have a focus in “math and sciences” as well.
Grant says, “Once you awaken the travel beast, you can’t really stop.”
Grant described how there’s nothing like traveling abroad. “My favorite part was probably just being somewhere completely different than what you are used to,” Grant says, “I wish I could’ve stayed longer.”
Sobecki praises Grant on maintaining her abroad relationships. “Relationship building being able to have friends in different countries, have connections in different countries, and depending on the program even, they’re able to network with companies or with other employers abroad.”
“Now I’ve met people. I’ve begun relationships. I still have friends, and people I know from the Dominican Republic,” Grant says. “Overall, I wouldn’t trade that experience at all.”
For more study abroad information check out https://www.towson.edu/academics/international/abroad/index.html