Guest contribution: Why summer abroad was the best decision I’ve ever made

The following is a guest contribution from Jennifer Ruthruff, a student at WSU Vancouver.

You will always hear people saying that “everyone should study abroad!” and “It’s the best experience you could give yourself as a college student.” Well, not to be one of those people to tell you that you should pack your bags and go abroad, but they aren’t wrong.

Studying abroad was never something that I thought I would pursue. Growing up a little on the shy side, I was not one to step out of my comfort zone on my own. I just never saw myself being emotionally and mentally able to do it.

That apprehension all changed during my freshmen ROAR orientation. There were different information sessions that new students could attend and studying abroad was one of them. I had made friends with one of the girls in my orientation group and she was going to attend that session. Knowing a very limited amount of people I decided to tag along with her and see what studying abroad was all about. That one decision changed my outlook on life. Not only did I discover the possible places that I could go, but I began to have a more confident and independent attitude. From that day on I made it my plan to study abroad the summer after my junior year.

Fast forward three years later and I was on a plane to meet people with the same passion and excitement I had, and who would become some of my best friends. I had chosen to study abroad with the organization The School for Field Studies, or SFS for short, through their summer Tanzanian program. The summer program was split into two sessions focusing on wildlife management and conservation and techniques for wildlife research.

As a biology major, wildlife and the environment have always held a special place in my heart and the SFS program could not have been a more perfect fit for me. The courses through SFS are field based, enabling one to gain skills in field research with hands-on experiences actually out in the environmental settings. From field lectures to hands-on activities to actually utilizing the skills we learned in the classroom and applying the knowledge to the tasks that we were assigned, the field school was an excellent experience for a biology student.

We were constantly learning about wildlife and environmental issues not only through the course content, but also by going out and witnessing it with our own eyes. Whether we were conducting research on the changing environment by interviewing locals, witnessing a lioness in the Serengeti become stressed as tourist cars blocked her from her pride or hearing about human-wildlife conflicts in the villages, the reality of the issues behind each topic became more and more clear.

Although I only spent a short two months abroad with SFS in Tanzania, those two months had a huge impact on me. I learned that I greatly enjoy being out in the field conducting valuable research, that I have no problem with picking up wildlife dung, that zipping through the Serengeti standing in a Land Rover with the top off brings you immeasurable amounts of joy and that when you spend two months living with the same people you will come out with some of the most amazing friendships imaginable. Studying abroad with SFS was the best decision I could have made, not only for my education and career goals in life but for making me a better version of myself, and I would not trade it for anything else. If you are like me and have a passion for the environment and wildlife and want to actually contribute to research in the field, or if you just want to experience the nature of another country, then I highly encourage you to consider a program with SFS or a similar program. Who knows, maybe it will have a large impact on your life like it did for me, or better yet an even greater one!

Editor’s note: For more information about the SFS study abroad program, contact Jennifer Ruthruff at jennifer.ruthruff@wsu.edu. Additional information can also be found at http://www.fieldstudies.org.

Photo Credit: Jennifer Ruthruff

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One Comment

  1. Lengai jerrymantz says:

    The article is interesting. I am happy that you speaks your heart and i believe that was just a pieces (summary). That program had a lot to teach us 8n life and left us with a lot of knowledge about life and wildlife. Am still enjoying the fruits of sfs