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Students return to campus after studying abroad

Irena Zajickova | Friday, January 16, 2009

Over 400 Notre Dame students are spending their first week on campus readjusting not only to harsh South Bend weather, but life back in the United States.

Kathleen Opel, the director of the Office of International Studies, said a total of 427 students studied abroad last semester in 31 unique programs that spanned six of the seven continents.

These students who participated shared an experience different from their lives at Notre Dame. They were introduced to a new culture, one that greatly contrasted with the one they left behind in the United States.

For junior Christina Karam, who spent the semester in Angers, France, the biggest change was the slower pace of French life.

“Whereas life in the United States is very fast-paced, French people like to relax,” Karam said. “Very long dinners are common, sometimes three to four hours with several courses.”

Despite the many differences from life in America, students said they enjoyed the changes. Kristine Yuen, a junior who spent the fall semester in Shanghai, China, said experiencing the distinct culture was the best part of the trip.

“My favorite part was definitely experiencing the culture, meeting new people, and dealing with the locals,” Yuen said.

Students also said the challenges of adapting to life in a new place were made easier by their fellow students.

“Life in a non-English speaking country was an entirely new challenge and opportunity,” said junior Jason Miller, who spent the semester in Toledo, Spain. “But I couldn’t have had such a great time without the amazing group of people I went with.”

An important facet of studying abroad was the additional travel that many students participated in, ranging from traditional tourist destinations to more exotic locales.

“I went to Inner Mongolia with three friends during our week-long break,” Yuen said. “It was definitely the craziest thing I have done in my life so far.”

Like most students, Karam enjoyed the relaxed workload she had while abroad and she’s confident that she will be able to get back into her normal academic routine now that she has returned to Notre Dame.

“Most classes were easier than those at Notre Dame,” Karam said. “I had one that was pretty challenging, though, so it shouldn’t be too difficult to adjust back to the ND workload.”

Miller is also certain he can readjust to Notre Dame’s coursework. He said he is happy to be back, although he does miss life in Toledo.

“Honestly, I wouldn’t mind being in Spain right now. Not even a little,” Miller said. “However, it is fantastic to see friends and familiar faces that I’ve missed for the past six months.”

Yuen echoed Miller’s sentiments, and said life back in the United States will take a little getting used to.

“It is a very bittersweet moment to be back. I missed all of my friends back here at ND, but I definitely miss China,” Yuen said. “The weather, food, culture, and people are all so different; it will take a little while to adjust back.”