TCU Daily Skiff Orientation Issue 2004
Frog Fountain
Study abroad promises to fill gap in your college life

By Braden Howell
Skiff Staff

There is life outside the “Bubble.”

The “Bubble” is actually what students refer to as the “TCU Bubble.” One could describe it is the immediate area surrounding the TCU campus, but it is not so much a physical place as it is a way of life.

Despite being located in Fort Worth, the “TCU Bubble” is separated from the community by invisible barriers. It houses privileged students, who know they are privileged and whose motto is usually, “You can retake a class, but you can’t relive a party.”

However, some students choose to experience college life away from the TCU campus. Many students who participate in study abroad programs each semester find out that life in a foreign country bares hardly any resemblance to life inside the “TCU Bubble.”

With language barriers to cross and different cultures to adapt to, there are many things a student must be prepared to do in order to have an enjoyable study abroad experience. Nevertheless, as junior photography major David Johnson said, the most important thing is to leave the TCU style of life behind.

“Come with an open mind,” said Johnson, who is studying in Florence. “You will see things Texas doesn’t offer. And plus, it really sucks when you’re out somewhere and you hear some stuck up American talking about how the USA is so much better.”

Living in a different country means adjusting to a different lifestyle, and for almost all students studying abroad, transportation without a car is an entirely new concept.

“Pack your walking shoes, because you will walk practically everywhere,” Johnson said. “Which is great, because I’ve lost all the freshman beer weight I put on.”

While walking everywhere is a welcomed change, living in a country that has an entirely different language may take a little longer to get used to. Cecilia Lang, a junior international marketing and Spanish major studying in Seville, Spain, suggests that even if you are familiar with the language of the country you are living in, you should research some popular phrases of the people before you go.

“I can speak Spanish pretty well because my mom is from Lima, Peru, but there are definitely some things they say that I should have known before I came,” said Lang. “One day I was in a store looking at some clothes and it was really warm, so I just made a comment to one of the ladies and said, ‘estoy caliente,’ which is supposed to mean ‘I’m a little hot.’

“Little did I know that here, that term means, 'I am horny.' No wonder she looked at me strange,” Lang said.

In addition to trying to overcome the language barrier, Johnson said it is a good idea to travel abroad any chance you get and to do things you never thought you could because you will “shock the hell out of yourself.”

For some students studying in London, a popular TCU study abroad location, the opportunity to do something to “shock the hell out of” them actually came about while they were traveling.

Adam Carson, a junior marketing major studying in London, said he and his friends traveled to Scotland and went to Loch Ness, where they learned a Scottish tradition that requires skinny dipping in the freezing water which, Carson said, is just above the temperature to avoid hypothermia if you jump in and get out and immediately re-clothe. Carson jumped at the chance to “shock the hell out of” himself. Literally.

“Me and this guy from Pennsylvania put down some whiskey and decided we wanted in the club and did it while being photographed by girls that walked down with us,” Carson said. “It was a memory for a lifetime because when you go under you're not sure if you're heart is still beating or not. The tour guide and other locals assured us that they had all done it and we were in no danger or I would have never taken the dive.”

When not trying to do the outrageous, Carson said study abroad students, especially those who will study in London, need to be careful with their finances. In the current market, he said you get about one British pound for about 2 dollars, so when you have to nearly double the price of everything that is already expensive, it cuts down on your purchases.

Of course, you have to hang on to your money in order to spend it, and Johnson said one of the biggest problems in Italy is pick-pocketers. He said students who will be going abroad need to know that they should not carry all their money around with them at all times, keep all money in their front pockets and keep all personal items extremely close to their bodies.

And he speaks from experience.

In Florence he was having a conversation with a man he had just met, when all of the sudden the man punched him in the stomach and tried to steal his bracelet. The man was shocked when Johnson retaliated, and after a brief scuffle and plenty of yelling, he said the man finally decided to run off, unsuccessful. Johnson was glowing.

“I was taking out crime in Florence one pick-pocket at a time,” Johnson said.

Apparently, the people of Venice had yet to hear of Johnson’s crime-stopping ability. Or maybe they just didn’t care.

“I was at Carnevale (in Venice) taking pictures, and when I walked out of the square I noticed my small silver phone was gone,” Johnson said. “I really could do nothing but just laugh and say ‘stuff happens.’”

No matter where a student chooses to study abroad, it will be a different culture and different lifestyle to adapt to, but Johnson has a short list of do’s and don’ts.

“Travel! If you’re studying in one city, spend every weekend out of town. Every place has something different to offer,” Johnson said. “Don’t stay in your flat the whole time, and don’t sleep. Get out there and meet people. Community living is new to most Americans, and no, it is not like living in dorms.

“And most importantly, don’t waste all your time being wasted! Europeans don’t booze like typical college students, and believe me, site-seeing hung-over is not fun.”

Although there is much to take into consideration, study abroad students say that there is no better opportunity to grow as a person and learn about the world, as well as yourself. After all, living abroad offers students the many things the “TCU Bubble” does not.

“For any students contemplating studying abroad, all I can say is ‘do it,’” Lang said. “You definitely go through a little culture shock, but I think it’s good to get out of the “TCU Bubble” and experience something different for a bit. Besides, it makes you realize what little things you take for granted, and makes your college experience so much better.”

For students who choose to study abroad, the college experience would not be complete without a semester away from the “TCU Bubble.”
Study abroad photoStudy abroad photo
Special to The Skiff
Study abroad programs allow students to see the sights and experience the culture of a variety of cities and countries around the world.
TCU Daily Skiff ©2004
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