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A changed man and a global citizen

Stephen Zerfas | Wednesday, November 13, 2013

I see five powerful reasons to study abroad. First, experiences that displace us foster great personal growth by demanding quick self-discovery and improvement in new contexts. Studying abroad in Asia accelerates this process by maximizing this displacement. While anywhere outside the Bend will challenge you, few study abroad experiences will foster growth more than getting lost in the world’s most densely populated neighborhoods, climbing mountains above clouds alongside monkeys, and playing charades while teaching English in the countryside.
Second, Father Hesburgh’s primary motivation for starting Notre Dame study abroad was to foster a student body that understood foreign perceptions of America. Understandings these perceptions is a critical step to becoming a global citizen, and the Asia study abroad sites offer exposure to a geopolitical climate much farther removed from ours than that of our closer neighbors.
Third, while Asia offers great immersion opportunities for learning some of the most widely spoken languages in the world, most sites include English-speaking universities, enabling all students to study there.
Fourth, while all study abroad sites will foster a deep appreciation for another culture, Asian study abroad sites expose students to both the most unfamiliar cultures and those that define many minority communities seen throughout the United States.
Fifth, Asian sites will leave you with a truly international network of relationships. Host families and fellow exchange students mean you won’t just foster Notre Dame friendships, but virtually guarantee you’ll establish a network that touches every continent across the globe
Small enrollment rates in these sites suggest studying abroad in Asia may be one of Notre Dame’s greatest untapped opportunities. As underclassmen rush to complete their study abroad applications, their life-changing choice might be better informed by these five reasons. Not only am I better rock climber, English tutor, sea kayaker, dancer, track athlete, and martial artist because of my time in Hong Kong, I’m a changed man and a better global citizen too.

Stephen Zerfas
Class of 2014
Keough Hall