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Study Abroad Builds Skills, Understanding, Confidence

International Studies major Tara Di Cassio.
International Studies major Tara Di Cassio.

Studying abroad allows students to apply their learning to the real world, as they gain first-hand experience with other cultures, languages, traditions and people. It also teaches students a lot about themselves, as they navigate new, unfamiliar environments.  This Q&A highlights how CHASS students have incorporated study abroad into their undergraduate career.

Tara Di Cassio is a senior who is majoring in international studies. She spent two months studying in Amman, Jordan, expanding both her Arabic language skills and her knowledge of the Middle East. 

What or who sparked your interest in study abroad?

Jodi Khater, my NC State Arabic professor. She constantly reiterates to her students how important being on the ground in the Middle East and speaking with native speakers is to expanding your linguistic and cultural knowledge.

Please describe your experience.

I studied abroad in Amman, Jordan at the Qasid Arabic Institute for two months in the summer of 2013. I was enrolled in an intensive Arabic language course taught by native speaking professors for four hours, five days a week, throughout my stay. I lived in the city of Amman along with two fellow NC State students in a small apartment, a cab ride away from class.

How did studying abroad relate to your major, career goals, and personal interests?  

Studying abroad in Amman directly related to my International Studies major as I focus specifically in the Middle East region. I was also able to put four semesters of Arabic training to use getting around the city and interacting with local Jordanians. My trip significantly impacted my career goals as I was sure upon my return that I would begin to apply to graduate programs to continue studying this region of the world.

What are some things you learned?

Being in Amman was such a wonderful experience for me and one of the best memories of my undergraduate career. I learned that the people of Jordan are incredibly warm and I will never forget the kindness and help they gave me. Studying abroad taught me to jump right in to my experiences because they are unique and once in a lifetime opportunities.

What were some of the challenges?

A challenge I faced while studying abroad was definitely difficulty adapting to the month of Ramadan. Shops and restaurants are closed, the days are long and hot, and many people are agitated from fasting all day long. For those not observing the religious event, finding food and water can be difficult and it is rude to have water bottles or food showing in public. So finding the right time and place to do shopping and to eat were challenging at first, but you get used to it. I fasted one day and it was extremely difficult but rewarding.

What were some of the rewards?

Recognizing my own independence and strength was one of the greatest rewards that studying abroad afforded me. After a few weeks in Amman, I began taking cabs by myself successfully to class, the grocery store, and friends’ homes using the language and cultural skills I learned at NC State. I began to recognize that I am capable of navigating well in new environments and that I do not shy away from new cultural experiences.




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