The Orion

Discussing the study abroad program

Michelle Manera

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I chose to study abroad through the University Study Abroad Consortium (USAC) because of the program’s affordability and vast number of locations.

This week I interviewed Kirby Swickard, Chico State’s coordinator for USAC. When Swickard attended Chico State she chose to study in New Zealand.

Thanks to an internship and friendships gained abroad she has returned there, as well as neighboring Australia, since that fateful semester.

“When you come back home, you’re going to have friends all over the world with free places to stay,” Swickard said.That’s the way to do it. If you want to become a professional traveler this is how you make friends everywhere.”

Choosing an English-speaking country is something Swickard and I have in common, so she was able to warn and delight me with mistakes one can make, even in an English-speaking country.

In other countries “biscuits and gravy” roughly translates to “cookies covered in brown gravy,” and a commonly used word like “fanny” translates to “vagina.” However, USAC applicants are encouraged from the start to anticipate making mistakes and getting embarrassed.

At least they turn into some of the best stories.

Swickard also introduced me to the “Three A’s”: be autonomous, take action and embrace ambiguity. These aren’t just tools you need but they are also rewards from the experience.

They interconnect to encourage active independence, which is a concept rarely seen in abundance and never taken lightly.

Fear is definitely a part of study abroad, especially if independence is a new experience for you. I have never traveled out of California without my parents, let alone the country. However, studying abroad is one of the best opportunities to travel.

“I have to go somewhere at least once a year,” Swickard said. “Travel is definitely a hobby. It’s an expensive hobby, but I don’t mind spending my money on stuff like that.”

If money is an issue to you, just remember that almost every student to study abroad dealt with the same issue.

“There are programs for everybody, no matter what financial situation they might be in,” Swickard said.It just depends honestly on how open the student is and how much energy and effort they want to put into it.”

Important information about USAC can be found on their website.

Michelle Manera can be reached at [email protected] or michelle_manera on Twitter.

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Discussing the study abroad program