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Male Students in Study Abroad - Alumni Ambassador Conor Farrell Speaks Out

This week in our blog series Male Students in Study Abroad, CEA Alumni Ambassador and junior at Towson University, Conor Farrell, reflects on his experience abroad and how it has better prepared him for future international employment opportunities.

  Conor: I studied with CEA in Barcelona, Spain, for the Fall 2012 semester. I took part in a number of CEA sponsored trips around the city, including field trips with professors at the CEA campus as well as trips to the Pyrenees Mountains and Montserrat. While in Barcelona, I stayed in a residencia with other international students, which gave me the independence and freedom to make my own decisions - from making meals to planning trips with other students in the residence.  Also while abroad, I was able to travel quickly and easily to Prague and Peniche in Portugal.  Overall, I was able to experience a mix of cultures in Spain and abroad, and also able to learn the European style of life and business, which I absolutely loved.

CEA: Why did you choose to study abroad?

Conor: Ever since I went abroad in high school, travel has been a  huge desire.  I've studied in Costa Rica and Guatemala, but visited four different European countries and much of Central America.  Being able to study in a Spanish-speaking country was a big bonus.

  CEA: What skills did you learn or improve on during your time abroad?

Conor: Independent decision making was something I considered lacking before I went abroad; I would usually do what peer majority wanted and just go with the flow. Being abroad and living in the residencia allowed me to focus on how I wanted my experience to be. Although I would still make group decisions and hang out with large groups of people, I have definitely noticed that I am more comfortable in making decisions that impact my life. Clearly my Spanish increased ten fold; I am now one class away from completing my minor and I am absolutely breezing through the class,  all due to being in Spain and having an excellent Spanish teacher while there.

  CEA: What classes did you find useful or applicable to your field of study or career interest?

Conor: A big reason I studied in Spain was to improve my Spanish but also to get an idea of international business and economies. Being an international business major and a Spanish minor, it made perfect sense to study in a country where there was a different economy and different language.  The three business classes I took abroad all had to do with international business and business practices.  Each class was taught by a professor with not only teaching experience, but actual experience in the field as well. They were able to give real world examples and from their personal life that tied the material together.

CEA: How has your study abroad experience impacted your life, academics, and/or future career goals?

Conor: Before Barcelona, I really knew I wanted to travel the world and be able to experience different cultures, as cliche as that sounds. Because I had already studied abroad previously, I knew studying abroad was the best way to do that outside of joining the Peace Corps or something. But study abroad has already opened me to professional opportunities. After being back for a month, I applied for a job that required an international business degree, language minor and absolutely required study abroad experience. This opportunity would never have come my way without having studied abroad.

  CEA: In your opinion, why don't more male students study abroad?

Conor: I think male students are less aware of the amount of opportunities abroad and are less proactive about looking into programs. Many of my friends at school always talk about how much they want to study abroad but never even take the first step to research the programs available. Also, from my experience, males tend to think it's always "too late" to study abroad.

CEA: Why do you think it's important for male students/all students to study abroad?

Conor: The world is too global at this point. You cannot feasibly only understand and experience one country and one culture and expect to make it through life. Studying abroad is a great first step in the right direction and gives you the base understanding of the global marketplace and the underlying differences between the United States and the rest of the world.

  CEA: What are 3 study abroad myths you can debunk for other male students considering study abroad?

Conor: First myth - the ratio of guys to girls is never a negative. Even if there are more girls than guys, everyone is in a different country, different lifestyle and just as nervous. 

Second myth - study abroad isn't safe: Studying abroad is as safe as you make it. As long as you don't draw attention to yourself, make smart decisions and follow the recommendations of the program, you will be as safe as any place in the states.

Third myth - No one goes abroad alone: I DID!  And so did many other students in the CEA program as well as many other students I met in Barcelona. Going abroad alone isn't bad, everyone else is uncomfortable for the first few days and almost everyone I met was willing to have another friend around.

CEA: If you could give any piece of advice to other male students considering study abroad, what would it be?

Conor: JUST GO! No matter what country or program you choose, being in a different culture and being away from the boring grind of the American lifestyle is amazing in itself.

Conor Farrell is a junior at Towson Univeristy and studied abroad with CEA in Barcelona, Spain, during the Fall 2012 Semester.
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