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Travel vs Study Abroad - What's the Difference?

[From the March 2010 Miami University Study Abroad Newsletter]

It's a great thing to be able to travel and see the world. But what sets it apart from study abroad?

First of all, the study aspect is the first thing to take into account. Study abroad has an academic component to it. It's a great opportunity to take the classes you would have done in Oxford, and transfer them to a new setting where you may get more out of the experience. You could take an art history class that meets every week in the museum, or practice your language skills as soon as you leave the classroom where you studied it. It's a great opportunity to live what you're learning and see the practical application of the subjects you're studying in the classroom. When you're a tourist, you may see art, monuments and people without really understanding the story behind them.

Secondly, when you're studying abroad, we want you to get out of the tourist experience and immerse yourself in the culture. If you're spending a semester in another place, you'll have opportunities to meet people, make friends, get involved in your host community, and get to know the culture on a deeper level than you could as a tourist. When tourists meet local people, they usually do so in a service capacity. They meet tour guides, bus drivers, waiters, hotel clerks and other people who are there to serve them. When you're living with a host family, taking classes at a local university, volunteering in your host community or joining a local sports team, you have the opportunity to get to know people as peers, on the same level, and learn more about what they do and why, how they eat, how they celebrate and what their values are.

Sometimes, students come into our office who are more interested in the tourist experience than the academic, culturally-immersive study abroad experience. If you want to spend your summer backpacking around the world, grab your guidebook and go! But if you're looking for a study abroad experience, you know where to find us.