Soap Box

Don’t hold back  in language studies

Alan Thompson


While many Augustana students spend time in clinicals, labs and practicums, most Modern Foreign Language (MDFL) majors sit sedentarily in their desks, content with learning little more than literature and grammar.

“There is not enough time or money to study abroad,” many say. But they made time to study a language at Augustana, so why not do it right?

Students know that Augustana is the most expensive school in the state for a reason – a high quality education. MDFL majors need to see studying abroad the same way – as something worth the time and money.

Seven percent of last year’s graduates were MDFL majors, but few of them studied abroad for a semester or longer. As of Nov. 2, 2012, there were 108 foreign language majors on campus, making the study of languages the fifth most popular major, according to the MDFL web page. But over the last four years, an average of about seven MDFL majors per year study abroad for a semester or more, according to data from the International Programs Office.

Although students understand the benefit of learning another language, many stick to the time-and-money excuse,  but they ironically spend more for a month-long touristic trip than they would on a semester-long program.

Unlike an Augustana education, time is free. Why not spend an extra semester or year to graduate if it means doing what you want with your life? While there are benefits to interim and spring break trips, developing advanced language proficiency and cultural competency demand going and staying in a different country for at least a semester.

But due to the cost, or the rush to get a ‘real job,’ students deny themselves the chance to live in a different place and learn from people.

Depending on the program, it’s possible to keep some of your Augustana scholarships. Furthermore, students who learn abroad for a semester or longer keep all federal aid, such as grants and loans, and those with high financial aid can qualify for one of the few study abroad scholarships from Augustana, such as the Jerry Looney or Tracy Riddle scholarship.

A quick meeting with the International Programs Office and Financial Aid will let students know which programs are more affordable, as well as scholarships, such as the Gilman and Boren, which provide thousands of dollars in aid.

Some MDFL grads and seniors struggle to speak in their language of study. While language development is more difficult for some than others, for the most part this is a result of not living and learning abroad for more than a few weeks, if at all.

Most importantly, study abroad programs are more than studying. After five months of living in the Dominican Republic, I know what life is like for the typical Dominican. You’ll be little more than a tourist if you spend a month or less abroad.

Each MDFL major needs to spend a semester or more abroad. Each Augustana student should consider it, too. Living and learning abroad revealed what mattered most to me.

But you won’t know if you don’t go.