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OPINION: College credits and passport stamps

Upensky Cathedral in Helsinki, Finland.

Studying abroad as a college student was an opportunity I never thought would materialize for me. The intricacies of the process seemed overwhelming, and the cost was a constant concern looming in the background. However, this past summer marked a significant milestone as I embarked on my first study abroad experience with the communication department, an achievement I can now proudly reflect upon.

I was presented with the possibility of studying abroad by Aaron Atkins, a Weber State University professor of multimedia journalism, who approached my class with an invitation that turned what once felt like an unattainable dream into a tangible reality.

The destination: Finland, where we would explore the realms of intercultural communications and digital media. The communications aspect was within my comfort zone, but the latter was not my strong suit. Regardless of my reservations, I had a strong determination to explore the arctic circle and gain six valuable credits in the process, which fueled my decision to join the group.

The initial concern about finances proved to be less daunting upon closer examination. While the cost initially appeared staggering, in comparison to my regular tuition for the same amount of credits, it wasn’t too different, this helped me rationalize the price.

The Study Abroad office required a $500 deposit to secure a spot in the group, followed by the remaining balance prior to departure. This is standard for all study abroad trips at WSU.

Aside from the deposit, many financing options were available such as loans, grants and scholarships, alleviating some of the financial strain. Additionally, WSU’s Study Abroad program offers the Opportunity Award, an incentive that grants a financial award in exchange for a project involving your study abroad adventure and to broadcast to future students considering a similar journey.

As the departure date drew nearer, a blend of nervousness and excitement took over me. Although a few familiar faces were part of our group, most were complete strangers. To break the ice and ease our initial interactions, we attended several pre-trip meetings.

The night before departure brought a whirlwind of emotions. Packing seemed to become a cynical and paradoxical task of fitting too much and too little simultaneously. Sleep evaded me as I constantly checked and rechecked my backpack to ensure the presence of my passport, the key piece to our entire trip.

Stepping into the airport, a wave of relief washed over me as the recognizable faces of my peers began to gather near our gate. After meticulous attendance checks, the moment of no return came as we stepped onto that plane and embarked on our journey to Finland. The flight offered a chance for some sleep, and upon our arrival in Helsinki, I felt ready to take on the Nordic country and all it had to offer me.

My eagerness died down a bit as I realized the airport was a bit farther from the city center than anticipated. It required about a 30-minute train ride. Nevertheless, I pushed forward, engulfed in the fresh air and scenery.

Stepping off the platform, the symphony of rolling suitcases against cobblestone pathways provided both comfort and humility, a mindless musical reminder of travelers navigating new territory.

Upon arriving at and settling into the hotel, a burst of energy propelled me and my roommate to venture out and explore the city. That first night was spent with walks through the streets with a back-and-forth of excited voices pointing out new sights that captured our eye. A much-needed night’s sleep followed by a hearty Finnish breakfast gave way to the first day of our academic endeavors.

Mornings were dedicated to scrutinizing our itinerary, establishing daily goals within our study groups and outlining plans to document and capture each day’s experiences.

Between orchestrating interviews, capturing video and countless photographs, we found moments to immerse ourselves in the reserved yet welcoming Finnish culture.

Cultural landmarks, history-rich museums, cathedrals that predated the state of Utah, UNESCO heritage sites and a plethora of saunas revealed themselves as essential components of our exploration and daily life.

One of the highlights of the trip was an immersive experience of Finnish university life. Engaging in interviews with local students sparked an instant connection that transcended geographical boundaries. Beyond the walls of Weber State, I forged lasting friendships with Finnish locals — I might have even kissed one. All of this immersion contributed to an even deeper understanding of the local culture and upbringing.

In retrospect, I am immensely grateful for the trust I placed in myself to pursue the experience. Diving deeper into the logistics, the entire process unfolded more seamlessly than I had anticipated. The Study Abroad program played an integral role addressing my inquiries, whether extensive or trivial, with a tremendous amount of patience and support. They never made me feel like an inconvenience; instead, they guided me with enthusiasm and expertise.

This entire process was a transformative chapter of my academic journey, providing me with knowledge, cherished friendships and another stamp on my passport.

As I inch closer to graduation and reflect on my time at Weber State University, this study-abroad experience stands out as a key aspect of my growth, contributing to the layered experiences that shape me, my perspective and my future aspirations.

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Adam Montgomery
Adam Montgomery, Editor at Large

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