Studying It All in while Studying Abroad

One of the major reasons why I wanted to study abroad was to get different insights and open up my mind to a better understanding of the world. I have experienced a lot so far and with only a month left before my program officially ends, I reflect back and notice all the progress that I have made. When planning on studying abroad, it might be that your main focus is on having new experiences that are vastly different from everyday life but a major reason why there is apprehension about studying abroad could be due to the idea that there won’t be classes that relate to your major or it is not certain if you can get into the classes because there’s only a limited amount of space. It can be intimidating not knowing whether your credits from studying abroad will transfer or if studying abroad was “worth it”.  While all of these may be true and a major reason for disregarding studying abroad, this could be a way to open your mind into ideas and thoughts that you might not have necessarily been able to be a part of otherwise.

I am majoring in Psychology with a concentration in Psychobiology and in my program, the East and Central European Studies (ECES), there are not any classes offered in biology. Additionally, I was not even sure that some of the psychology classes will transfer over to my core requirements (which I still don’t know about). I realized that I have electives that need to be filled so studying abroad is a great way to fulfill those requirements. The main point that I want to get across is that studying abroad in a different country offers classes that wouldn’t normally be given at your home university. For instance, I’m taking classes like Introduction to the Philosophy of Psychiatry which is such a unique topic that I am enjoying because it relates the discipline of philosophy directly with psychology. It has opened my mind to really thinking about mental illness and the moral implications that is happening in our society in regards to treating it. Other classes of mine that I am taking this semester include Language, Culture and Social Cognition, Psycholinguistics, and Selected Topics in Social Psychology: Soft Skills.

In my Soft Skills class, we are learning about different techniques in regards to social psychology that you can actually use in everyday life which I find myself using. We focus on topics like Social Perception and Stereotyping, Effective Communication Principles, Coaching, Assertiveness and Manipulation Recognition, Resolving Conflicts, Authenticity and Values, Presentation Skills, Stress Management, etc. We even had a class that focused on Creativity in which we went to a cafe and painted mugs to relax and get our creativity flowing and showed each other what we were inspired by.

In Psycholinguistics, I’ve learned that Prague was actually the center of an influential group of linguists, philologists and literary critics called the Prague Linguistic Circle which had a substantial influence in the theory of standard language and of language cultivation. It’s really cool to be studying this topic in the center of where so many famous theorists like Saussure and Chomsky contemplated ideas.

In Language, Culture and Social Cognition, we give presentations of what we want to present on that relates to class of course but it could be on anything such as relating to our own experiences about what it is we are talking about in class. We have a trip planned to go to the Prague Zoo so we can observe the animals and see how they communicate and compare that to how humans communicate.

While I am in classes that focus more on psychology, there are other classes that can open you up to the culture of Prague and the Czech Republic like Czech Art and Architecture that a lot of the students in my program have told me that they enjoy. There is even a photography class where you get to do you own work and learn about famous Czech Photographers that have their own unique styles.

All of the classes that I am taking this semester are structured differently from the classes I have back home because these classes focus more on our individual experiences and relating to what we learn in class.  The classes are more discussion based and focus more on what your opinion is of something and working through why that might be the case. Additionally, there is more emphasis on presentations, essays and participating in class discussion. While these seem more daunting, it actually has been helping me grow in areas that I’ve struggled with as a student. I find that I am speaking up more in my classes and I’m more actively involved with the class discussion. Furthermore, These classes teach about different things that may not necessarily be offered at my home university, so it opens your mind to topics that you might not be introduced to or have ever thought about before. The differences in teaching style and objectives gets you to think in different ways that makes you a more versatile student.

Don’t limit your thinking and think, “Oh I’ll never be able to study abroad because it doesn’t fulfill anything.” Look into it! It may or it may not! But there are so many programs that could offer classes for you major. Also, don’t be discouraged because a class that you never would take in your home university, could be the best class you’ve ever taken if you just studied abroad.

Alyssa, a psychology major with a concentration in psychobiology, is excited to spend the semester in Prague, Czech Republic. In the hopes of adventure, she wants to meet new people, learn a new language, try new foods, and travel whenever she gets the chance. She can't wait to experience the culture of a different place!

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