Amadeu Goncalves is a man of action. One day he decided he was tired of the drudgery of his day-to-day life and needed to get away. So he did.
Goncalves, an international relations major, is one of the hundreds of Sacramento State students who study abroad every semester, according to study abroad adviser Janis Silvers.
His destination was Guadalajara, Mexico, a location that holds a strong significance for this Sac State junior.
With his Mexican-American heritage, Goncalves was used to hearing about Mexico from his grandmother, but the stories can’t hold a candle to the real thing, he said.
“You always experience more being in the culture,” Goncalves said.
His stay in Mexico spanned two semesters, and he said if he could change one thing about his trip, he would have stayed longer.
Although he enjoyed his stay, it was no picnic. The classes he took his first semester were taught mostly in Spanish, which posed a slight problem.
“I was still trying to learn the language,” he said, “It was hard.”
Eventually, he overcame the language barrier, and he learned even more than just what was taught in his classes.
While he was in school, he met other foreign exchange students from countries such as Korea, Japan, Spain, Austria, the Netherlands and France. He was able to experience how many different people view Americans firsthand.
“It opened my eyes as to what a lot of people think of us Americans as a whole,” Goncalves said.
Lost in Translation
While some people are spontaneous and don’t like to plan, there are some who like to live with a little more structure. Senior Brian Berry is one of these people.
After much preparation, he decided to spend two semesters somewhere relevant to his major. Tokyo seemed like a logical choice to complement his Asian studies major, and he liked it so much that he decided to stay for 11 months instead of the scheduled nine and one half months.
The trip also impacted him so much that he decided to double major in Asian studies and the Japanese language.
Although Berry’s home for these 11 months was one of the most populous cities on earth, he was prepared for the massive crowds.
“It actually wasn’t as crowded as I expected it to be,” Berry said, explaining that while trains were packed elbow-to-elbow in the morning hours, they calmed down considerably after rush hour and were bearable.
In Japan, Berry packed in a variety of activities. He joined a Judo club, traveled the country for three and one half months and participated in a historical documentary play about the victims of the atomic bomb that hit Hiroshima during World War II.
Berry said one of his professors took note of him after a speech he gave during a debate contest, even though he ended up losing. The professor approached him about a part in the play, which eventually received a considerable amount of attention. Berry was even part of a TV interview.
Berry studied in Japan without reaching into his own pockets. At an estimated total cost of $23,000, the Study Abroad Program with Japan is the most expensive Sac State offers.
However, Berry covered the entire cost with scholarships, and he didn’t exactly put a lot of thought into his application strategies for the awards.
“I just signed up for everything,” he said, adding that it was a big surprise to hear that he was offered so many scholarships.
Although he may not have had much difficulty acquiring the money to get to Japan, his stay there was a challenging one.
“It’s not an easy trip,” Berry said, citing language barriers, confusing cities and the responsibilities of being mostly on his own, “You have to know if you’re ready for it.”
The main reason more students don’t study overseas is “they think it costs too much,” Silvers said. This belief may not be entirely accurate.
“The benefit is that [participants] remain students at Sac State, so they pay the same Sac State registration fees,” Silvers said, although she said some programs will cost a considerable amount more than a semester in Sacramento.
“Some cities cost more than others,” she said, citing higher European exchange rates, airfare and costs for food and housing.
Some of the financial pressures can be alleviated through various scholarships, Silvers said, explaining that the governments of some countries, such as Japan and China, will give scholarships to some U.S. students willing to study in their countries.
Although many students who participated in these programs can probably attest to their difficulty, there are many benefits to studying abroad, Silvers said.
“The benefits to students are really overwhelming,” she said. “It gives you an edge on other students,” Silvers said. She added that studying abroad looks great on a resumé.