"Sunday evening Mass in the Notre Dame Cathedral inspires both reverence and introspection. It is impossible to stand in this grand cathedral looking up at its careful craftsmanship without contemplating recent personal decisions or whispering quiet prayers."
Thus began Claire Moncla's international education experience for the spring semester. Some may still call it "study abroad," but thanks to Baylor's programs, a journey across the globe doesn't always have to seem so far.
When your passport is actually your syllabus, you know you are in for a grand adventure. Baylor offers a number of international experiences for course credit. The programs are often known as "Baylor in Spain" or "Baylor in Great Britain." The program Claire chose, "Baylor in Maastrict, allowed her to travel extensively throughout Europe.
Study abroad programs were once marred by tons of paperwork, visas, passports, expenses, a lack of structure and safety concerns. Now, international experiences are more accessible and safer than ever. The Office of International Education houses many programs that offer structure while allowing students to have an experience all their own.
"No matter what your concentration or major is, you will learn something from studying abroad," says Claire, a major in professional writing with a minor in journalism. "There are so many areas that you can learn in: different teachers, classes, landscape, modes of travel, food, leisure activities. Every day is a lesson. If nothing else, you will learn how to live and communicate with people that are dissimilar from you in race, culture, and religious practice -- which will be a valuable skill when thrown into the work world with a wide range of people and opinions. Every penny is worth these experiences."
This particular program offered few language barriers. "I wanted to go to a place where I would be surrounded by a totally different culture and still be able speak English. In Maastricht, you learn simple Dutch in order to shop and travel, but many of the people speak English as well."
Benefits of the international experience are far-reaching. When Claire hits the job market, she's got strong material for a resume and interview. "I think having lived and studied in another country gives me invaluable experience that you cannot glean in the U.S. I am a more confident, independent and resourceful person for living so far away from anything comfortable and familiar. Also, understanding and experiencing different cultures makes me a valuable asset as a writer because it gives a world-view instead of only an American perspective.
Intrigued? Thinking about it? While abroad, Claire took some time to write about her experiences. From architecture and traditions to landscape and heritage, Claire was able to embrace and appreciate cultural differences while realizing that other peoples and other traditions really aren't so different from our own. Perhaps in the middle of it all, she was able to see that people are people no matter where one is and maybe studying afar really isn't so far away after all.
Read Claire's essays on her time in Europe:
Sunday Mass in the Notre Dame Cathedral
Bonnefanten: The Building That Connects Past With Present
Carnival in Maastricht