Jays Abroad Blog
Welcome to the Jays Abroad Blog! Here you'll find a diverse collection of articles covering the international experiences of Creighton study abroad students past and present, tips and tricks, and information about programs.
This blog is maintained by the Creighton Study Abroad team. Articles are written by staff, GEO Peer Ambassadors, and study abroad alumni. To learn more about Creighton Study Abroad, visit creighton.edu/geo/studyabroad
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Are you interested in exploring the extensive programs that ISEP offers? We interviewed Abby, a junior Studio Art and French major, who went to southern France in Fall 2022 to give her experiences working with ISEP.
Abby had taken French since middle school and going into college she knew she wanted to either pursue a French major or minor especially, so she’d be able to study abroad. Having that background in French then gave her useful tools for when she studied in France.
“I would say like having my background I was definitely well prepared, and I felt like I could survive. I think the main thing that I noticed a big improvement on was actually like hearing the language and being surrounded by it all the time. And being like forced to rely on that. And yeah, I guess just the kind of input and then thinking on the spot and being able to respond.”
Before her semester abroad, Abby looked at the Jays Abroad Portal at the different programs offered through Creighton. She decided on an ISEP program because she knew she wanted a program focused on language learning and immersion in France.
I was in Aix-en-Provence, France, in the south of France. I had been to Paris and northern France in high school, so I wanted to explore the south. It was really beautiful, and it was like half an hour from the Mediterranean coast, so we went to the beach a few times and that was really nice. And I just loved the weather; it was pretty good to be over there.
Also, since I’m an art major, I knew there had been a lot of artists in the south of France, and that was kind of a good area for that, so that was another reason I was kind of drawn to that area. And it was cool to just live there and see some of that influence.
As Abby is an art major, I was interested to see if she was able to take any art courses abroad. I also was curious about whether her art had taken any inspiration from living in France.
“I did one art history seminar which was really cool because it was all focused on French artists. And I, of course, you know visited a ton of French museums and that kind of thing. I didn’t make a ton of art while I was over there. I was just super busy doing other stuff, but I think it has influenced the kind of art I make now. It’s been a good inspiration.”
Whether you are an art major, you’re interested in fashion, you want to really immerse in a language, etc., ISEP offers so many unique programs that can be a great option for students. When I asked her what she’d tell students considering an ISEP program, this is what she had to say:
“I think it was good for me, it definitely put me even more outside of my comfort zone because I was the only person from Creighton. There were a few other American students from the Midwest…we kind of became a group. But that definitely put me more outside of my comfort zone and in a good way. It helped me grow even more. Like I guess that’s just something to consider if you’re considering. I think it’s good to just explore all of your options. This was a good program for me because I wanted to do something focused on language, and all of my classes were in French. But don’t count out the ISEP programs.”
We finally touched on Abby’s biggest takeaways from her study abroad experience.
“I guess my biggest like takeaway, was I did a ton of solo weekend trips. That was like my biggest takeaway and I think the best thing that I did. The first few weeks that I was there I kind of stayed in the area and explored the region and got to know like local people and then did a few trips with friends. And then I knew that I wanted to like take advantage of where I was and do a bunch of travel and other people didn’t necessarily want to do that, so I was like I’ll just to it by myself. And it was actually really really good for me. I think everyone should do that.”
- Written by Peer Ambassador: Angelea
Are you interested in experiencing life at the University of Sydney, a large university with courses for almost all majors in a coastal city known for its vibrant way of life and idyllic destination? We talked with junior psychology student, Agoum, to understand more about her time there.
Part of the reason Agoum wanted to study abroad in Australia was because she had family near Sydney who were able to provide a good support system. She spoke highly of them and talked about what it was like to have them on her semester abroad.
It was so convenient. I had only been to Australia once prior to study abroad, but it was when I went with my mom, and we just stayed at her aunt’s house the entire time. We didn’t really get to explore, so to be on your own…[and] have your cousins there that know the city, it was great. It was just really, really convenient and they know Sydney, so they were able to help me out, such as how the train station works, what station you have to get off at, etc.
When she wasn’t traveling with her family, she was attending courses at the University of Sydney.
They have a tutorial for every class you take. I took four classes. I only had exams in three of my classes. I took a class, I think it was French 5, it was my favorite class, but it was also the hardest class I have ever taken in my life. I didn’t take a language placement exam. They just looked at my transcripts and just said “oh, well we think you’d be good for French 5”, and the entire class was in French…It was hard, but it was probably my favorite class. The professor was very understanding, she’s from France too, so that’s also what made it easier.
And while you, the reader, may not personally have family in Australia there are a number of ways to meet people starting with your roommates. The University of Sydney has the option for both same gender and mixed gender housing options. While Agoum was more comfortable with a same gender apartment, this is a very normalized practice that is popular for many students attending the university. Additionally, beyond her FIVE roommates that she was able to meet, she said that one of the best ways she met other people was through a Nature Club she joined!
“There was like this nature club, it wasn’t called a nature club, I cannot remember the specific name, but every week they would take students who were in the club to like different nature spots around Sydney, and if you were a student who could join at a discounted price…So that’s where I met a lot of people was through there. I think there would be like 10-15 people per trip, and you could just sign up. Most of the time you would see the same people.”
With the Australian grading system, she was given a lot of time to explore Sydney. And while she did say the transportation was clean and efficient, she took the time to walk and take everything in around her to meet locals.
“…they are very, very friendly like here in the Midwest you say “yeah people in the Midwest are friendly “but Australians are like extremely friendly. And I would also say my days were really simple I only had two classes a day and then I would go to the Australian Starbucks like all the way in downtown Sydney and just sit there for hours. It was also good because I got a lot of walking in.” People say it is a driving city, but I really don’t think it is. You can only drive so far in Sydney, and once you reach downtown, you’re stuck like you have to walk. So most people just walk or they take the train because the train is so convenient, but not a lot of people drive.
But yeah, the walking was really good for me to be able to be outside, that was one thing I loved…I went to get my ear piercing and there was a park I had to walk through to get to the piercing shop. I think it was called Hyde park, and ever since that first day…I went to that park almost every week. It was so nice, there was no playground so there were no kids, it was just a really nice park.
But fair warning, bring an umbrella when walking because as Agoum said:
“…it rains and when it rains it pours”.
We concluded the interview by discussing a few tips for life over there. As an island, this will be a more expensive place to live, so budget and budget well before heading over. Consider when you want to go as well because the seasons are flipped from the United States (i.e., our summer is their winter). But once you’re there?
“I would say like the time flies by so quickly I would really like take advantage of all the free time you have because there you only take maybe two classes a day and then like an hour or two hours depending on what class you’re taking so you have the rest of the day to do whatever. I would really take advantage of it especially because everything in Australia closes at 6pm. They really enjoy that work life balance, so get in there while you can because at 6 o’clock you won’t be able to do anything after that…”
As an American, I just thought I could go to Walmart at 10:30pm but everything closes at 5, 6 so manage your time well. But definitely explore. Sydney is so big and there are so many things to see there. Like now that I’m back I wish I would’ve seen this and seen that…and the Opera house is not that big. They make it look so big in pictures, but it’s beautiful inside like the shows were nice. I saw the Phantom of the Opera right before they ended it, very very nice.
Are you a CCAS student interested in Spanish? A semester in the Galápagos may be the place for you!
Imagine: you’re a College of Arts and Sciences student scrolling the Jays Abroad Portal. You may be wondering where you’d like to go that would fulfill your degree requirements. Then, you stumble across the semester-long Creighton in the Galápagos program. What would that program look like though…we interviewed with student, Julian Garcia to find out.
Julian is a junior at Creighton studying Biology on the Pre-Med track with minors in both Environmental Sciences and Music. Julian knew he wanted to go to the Galápagos since high school due to an influential teacher of his that ran a two-week program there. However, Julian was unable to go due to COVID-19. At the time Julian started college, he viewed going to the Galápagos as a separate experience from studying abroad until a few of his friends considered going abroad. He then decided to go to the Jays Abroad Portal and found the semester in the Galápagos program…after that the rest is history.
We began by talking about how the program’s courses and course structure compared to a traditional semester at Creighton.
“A lot of my classes were focused on Biology – there are different academic tracks, but mine was focused on Ecology, Evolution and Conservation. The courses I took showed how Ecology, Evolution, and Conservation are linked and how everything in the environment affects each other. A lot of my coursework was hands on in the field, observing and making sense of ecological mechanisms. My classes were in modules, and every three weeks was its own class. It was a lot more field work than I’ve ever experienced, but also a good mix of lecture and coursework.”
For students looking for a different track. There are three other program focuses:
- Marine Ecology
- People, Politics, and the Environment
- Sustainable Tourism Track
These are all available on the Jays Abroad Portal under the Creighton in the Galapagos page! In this program, you will study a semester through the Universidad San Francisco de Quito (USFQ)!
Can you tell me how these courses fit into your four-year plan?
“These courses aren’t Pre-Med requirements, but they are still science, so they will be recognized by most all med schools. I did take a few summer and winter classes so I was able to do a full semester of biology while abroad. Because I took physics over the summer, I was able to go abroad junior year first semester – I recommend doing that if possible. When I was making my four-year plan as a sophomore, there were many biology classes I wanted to take. This program gave me my ecological biology fix, as well as completing many of my major requirements, and I am more than happy that I had that experience. Now I can get back to focusing on Pre-Med.”
While on this program students live in both Ecuador and the Galapagos. You also live with a host family to help integrate into the culture and better learn the Spanish language. Julian gave insight into his experiences with living with a host family.
“I had two host families – one in Ecuador and the other in the Galapagos. I was on mainland Ecuador for 7 weeks. There, my host mom spoke no English, so I had to learn Spanish to communicate with her. At first, I used a lot of Google translate, but I quickly picked it up. It was seeing a different way of life – going to the grocery store, seeing the family dynamic. I’m Hispanic so I grew up with a bit of experience with that dynamic, but it was still interesting to have those experiences with a different family, especially in a foreign language and country.
In the Galapagos I had a different host family. They had a three-year-old child and lived with more family members which was cool. They offered me lunch even though they weren’t required to, and my host dad spoke quite a bit of English. My host dad would practice his English and then I would respond in Spanish. It was such a great way to work on improving both our language skills!”
For Julian, this experience changed him in a few ways:
“It allowed me to walk downtown and notice more bird species than I ever would’ve before, and I could take note of different plant species that I see. I felt moved from the experience because it was so meaningful, and I want to see if I can combine what I learned with my Pre-Med track. I am noticing that ecology is a system which is similar to how the human body is a system, as well as society. It serves as an analogy and allows me to connect things in a way I wasn’t able to before. Another thing we looked at is how people impact the environment, hence it was another way to stay conscious as to how individuals make an impact in different ways.”
I asked for any advice he would give to students considering the program:
“Really soak in the moment. It goes by fast…really appreciate the moment, especially with how the classes are structured. You only have three weeks in each class. For example, the first theory class was to observe, so we went to see the main tropical environments and ecosystems. We went to the Amazon Basin for a week (take advantage of the time there). There was an early morning hike and at the time I was really tired and wanted the extra sleep, so I didn’t go but looking back, I wish I would’ve done it.”
Any closing thoughts?
“I really liked all the hikes and the different ecosystems, and I especially liked getting to know the people in my program. You see them every day for four months. We were a tight group and its awesome knowing people from all over the country and the world. Honestly, I consider the people the best. I learned so much from the people there.”
Written by GEO Peer Ambassador: Angelea Baumberger
Are you a student with a desire to experience life in a city and explore the South Korean culture? Then, the Creighton in South Korea program may be a great fit for you!
Sogang University is a Jesuit institution partnered with Creighton that is located in the beautiful city of Seoul, South Korea. It offers a unique experience for students interested in learning about a new culture, trying delicious food, and utilizing some of the best public transportation in the world; all while furthering your education at Sogang University. To highlight her experiences in Seoul and give advice to students considering a semester in South Korea, Creighton student Natasha agreed to share all about her semester abroad! Natasha is a sophomore at Creighton, studying biochemistry, on the pre-dental track. She went abroad during the Fall of 2022. A majority of the courses Natasha enrolled in were Magis CORE, and elective credit.
We began our conversation by talking about how she initially became interested in South Korea.
“I think I’ve known I’ve wanted to go to South Korea for a while. It was a combination of a couple factors. One, I had a lot of Korean friends in high school who got me pretty interested in what it’s like in South Korea and they weren’t afraid to share everything about it. [Two] I got really invested in K-Pop…I [also] knew I wanted to go to Asia because my dad is from Thailand. I knew Creighton didn’t have a program to Thailand, and I knew the most about South Korea, so I wanted to go there.”
Attending a Jesuit institution abroad provided a similar experience to that of Creighton’s. She mentioned one great experience she had was with one of her teachers who was a Jesuit Priest.
“He taught a Methods and Religious studies seminar that I took, and I would honestly say that’s the most interesting class I’ve taken outside my major…like my entire time in college because he was really open about it…[and] it wasn’t theology based at all, so it was really nice to take a religious class that focused on looking about what religion is and not just “Here’s our religion. Learn it”.
Detailing the course structure, Natasha mentioned she only had class three days a week. The course structure was primarily based on a midterm and a final exam, which allowed her time to explore the city as she spend less time on weekly homework. She said that one of her favorite parts of living in this fast-paced city was the transportation. She mentioned that unlike Omaha, you don’t need a car to get around the city, which allowed her to easily travel to different places.
“I took a five-day, day trip to Busan which is the southeastern beach area of South Korea. I also took a day trip to Nami Island in the fall which has these really pretty leaves…it was just really nice to enjoy nature after being in the city for a while and that was [only] an hour or two away. Yeah, so kudos to them for having good transportation!”
Upon arriving in Seoul there was a learning curve for her that she felt was important to mention.
“A lot of people know a decent bit of English, but Korean is still a very different language, and everybody uses it. Most people don’t talk it [English]. I knew some people who came there knowing Korean, but it took a little time just getting used to Korean as their main form of communication. And for me I only knew the alphabet just a little, so I could read it but not understand it very well. I did take a Korean language class while I was there, and that improved my skills a lot! It really helped me in getting comfortable because by the end of the semester I was able to order food in Korean…even hold a basic conversation!
You are going to a foreign country, and you can’t expect them to speak English for you, so it would be nicer if you at least tried to speak their language. I know anytime I tried to speak Korean, the locals appreciated that you’re taking the time to learn.”
Living in Seoul and being a major K-Pop fan, Natasha got to go to K-Pop concerts which had a cutthroat registration process.
I went to three K-Pop concerts while I was there. Let me tell you, the tickets for some of those big groups are “life or death” you know. They sell out in two minutes! I went to a PC café because they have the really good setups and you just sit there, have the time on the screen, and you have to wait. You have your credit card information ready and it’s really fast, so I luckily got a back row ticket for an Ateez concert. It was a little stressful, but the concert was so worth it.
I concluded the interview by asking Natasha if she had any advice for students wanting to participate in this experience. Her tips were centered around preparation before you arrive to Seoul and included listing the places you want to go, establishing a good budget, and trying to learn Korean beforehand, if possible. She also said that once students arrive in South Korea, they should try to explore as much as possible and be open to new things.
“Don’t be afraid to go out and do stuff. I’m kind of shy sometimes and it’s kind of scary to go out, meet people, and try new things. At least for the international students, we all in the same boat and we are all there to go to different places and meet new people, so you might as well go with random people and make new friends. We had a giant group chat of all the international students and sometimes somebody would be like “Does anybody want to go do “xyz” with me?”. Saying “YEAH” was a really big step for me, but it paid off and I made really good friends while I was there.
Saying yes and going outside her comfort zone allowed her to meet people from all over the world and experience the fun exciting night life that South Korea has to offer, such as Karaoke! Her openness also gave her the opportunity to try the local food…which YUM!
“[The] food was amazing…and a lot of it’s mostly locally run. I know while I was there, I made a promise to myself to try all the Korean food even though I’m notorious for being a “little picky”. I tried it all and it was so good.”
Natasha also listened to many blogs before she left to help her learn more about transportation and places she may want to visit. To help you out, we included a few of them that she feels assisted with her transition.
Written by GEO Peer Ambassador: Angelea Baumberger
Here is an excerpt from my interview with Chantal Portes.
Can you introduce yourself? Tell us where you’re from and what you’re studying.
My name is Chantal Portes and I’m from the Dominican Republic. I'm a senior majoring in Environmental Science.
What inspired you to study abroad?
Well, I just wanted to experience other cultures because I know sustainability is different in every country. At first I looked at Sweden, but because of COVID-19, I ended up going to Scotland. I really wanted to immerse myself in another culture and understand their perspective on sustainability.
Why did you decide to study abroad when you're already studying abroad as an international student?
That's a good question. I always wanted to travel and I love meeting new people. I love getting to know new places.
So a lot of international students don't think that they can study abroad because they're already abroad. What was the process like for you getting ready to study abroad?
Oh, it was very easy. The advisors in the GEO are really helpful as well as the peer advisors. They help you through the whole process and it was really easy. I didn't have to do a lot of work other than the visa application, which was a little bit stressful. I let Lucy Hancock, the International Student Services Coordinator, know that I was going abroad, but the Study Abroad Advisor helped me with everything.
How did you decide to go to Scotland?
Like I said, I was going to Sweden but then it got canceled. But my advisor Kelly told me there was another really cool sustainability program at the Dumfries campus of the University of Glasgow, Scotland which is another city, an hour from Glasgow.
Were you worried or nervous about anything before going abroad?
I was not! I was ready. I was so ready. Well, at first when I was on my way to Dumfries for the first time, my flight was to Glasgow and then I needed to take a taxi from the airport then a bus to Dumfries and then another taxi to the residence halls and I was nervous. I didn't have a phone number. I didn't have Wi-Fi. So I was really nervous. But when I got to the airport, everyone was so helpful. I just asked people like, hey can I make a call? Can I call a taxi or something? And they were really helpful. Scottish people are the most friendly people I've ever met in my life. They are amazing!
Can you tell me a favorite story or highlight from the semester?
Oh my god. Okay, I have so many! So okay, I'll never forget this. The first night I got to the resident hall. I met all my flatmates and then I went to my room and I was like oh my gosh, I'm by myself, like that's when everything hit me like, I'm in another country by myself. I don't have any friends, I don't know anyone, this is really scary and I don't know what to do. And I was like, okay just go to class tomorrow and try to walk around and breathe and relax. And then that same day, two people from the residence hall knocked on my door and they were like, hey, do you want to go out with us? The whole residence hall is going to play pool and we wanted to invite you. They just knocked on my door, they didn't even know me and they were like yeah come with us. And so I went with like 20 people to go play pool, and that's how I met everyone. After that, I just clicked with the whole group and that’s how I made my friends. It was like right away. It took me one day.
Was there anything that you struggled with during your time abroad?
Just not understanding the Scottish accent sometimes. Especially professors or local people. For example, I used to take taxis to different places around the area and I couldn't understand what they were saying. I felt so bad because I was like I want to talk to you but I don't know what you are saying.
Could they understand you?
Yes. And also what was really funny is that they referred to me as the American. And I was like I'm not American! I'm from the Dominican Republic and I'm studying abroad in the United States! And they’d just go, she's from Nebraska! Yeah, they didn't think of me as Dominican because I had the American accent and vocabulary. For many people, I was the first person they had met and talked to who had an American accent and vocabulary- even though I do technically have a Dominican accent.
What advice would you give to any other international students or people who share like the same identities as you who are looking to study abroad?
Don't worry about the whole process or the application because the GEO will help you through everything. Also, just do it. Studying abroad is such an amazing experience. And even if you're already studying abroad, going somewhere else can help you grow even more and open your mind to experience new cultures. That's the best. At first, when I was going to Scotland. I was like, I'm gonna miss out on everything at Creighton, like all the games and all my friends and at first I was so worried about it - but I don't regret going to Scotland. It was the best thing I've ever done.
On August 28, 2019, I set out on the journey of a lifetime — a year abroad in Bologna, Italy.
I didn’t know what exactly was going to happen the moment I stepped out of that plane, but what I did know was that I chose a program that incorporated both my love for social justice and the opportunity to immerse myself in a new culture more than ever before.
The streets of Bologna, marked with elaborate graffiti and the tip tapping of every street walker, are few of the wonderful aspects that draw one’s heart to the capital of the Emilia-Romagna region. Its portico-lined streets and red-tinted architecture create an atmosphere for students that make you feel at home. Creighton in Italy - Bologna, Fall 2019 alumna Stella Michalowski recalls:
"Compared to other places in Italy, like Rome and Florence, Bologna was a hidden gem. There were little to no tourists which made the town seem so wholesome and real. Bologna is Italy’s best kept secret! The town has so much hidden history to it. It was such an authentic, life changing experience overall."
Everyday, students who study at the Spring Hill College Italy Center get to experience the beauty of Bologna as they walk to campus, grabbing a cappuccino and crostini or croissant along the way. The Italian professors guiding each class recount their own lived experiences and perspectives, allowing for immersive and well-rounded courses that truly open your eyes and mind to the ever changing world around us. Outside of classes, the city of Bologna offers so many opportunities to attend live concerts, film streaming events, art museums, markets, and local shop pop-ups. Even more so, Bologna is the best place to get lost.
In the Spring 2020 semester, Creighton in Italy - Bologna alumna Emma Slattery remembers:
"My favorite part about studying in Bologna was being able to wander the city with my free time and immerse myself in the culture…"