CGE asked faculty a series of questions about their experiences spending a semester or year abroad.  Below are the questions and highlighted answers:

Worries

Most Exciting Aspects

Biggest Challenges

The Best Part

Advice

  • When you were considering spending a semester abroad, what were the things that most worried you?
    • The house and the pets.
    • I was anxious if I would be welcomed into the department and not make a fool of myself. 
    • Money.
    • How well the kids would take to being away from friends, house, "normal" life.
    • Child care, especially since [child] was so small. And the corollary - finding time to work.
    • Making arrangements for family members- schooling for the children, finding large enough housing, and keeping everyone busy while I was working.
  • What were the things that most excited you?

    • The chance to live and work abroad for ourselves, as grownups, and the chance to give our kids an amazing international experience that could shape them for a lifetime.
    • I welcomed the professional opportunities, and they turned out to have a significant impact on my career in various ways, but I have to say that the biggest motivators were more personal, about having the chance to live in another country.  Ultimately, though, the personal and professional connected in some exciting ways, so it all began to fit together.
    • Opportunity for great experiences with family and students. 
    • Travel opportunities to teach/learn first-hand about things/places that have only been read about before.
    • What most excited us was getting a chance to live abroad and see the world from another angle.
    • The refreshing sense of displacement and resituating oneself in a new country, the dedication to investigating the new place.
    • Living in a city with excellent transportation.
    • What excited me the most was providing the opportunity for my children to live in a busy urban area and take advantage of all the cultural activities, festivals, museums, concerts, recreational opportunities, attractions, etc. 
    • Meeting new academics and learning about their take on teaching and research.
    • Learning more deeply about other cultures, deepen language skills, develop new friendships and working relationships with students and faculty.
  • Ultimately, what turned out to be the biggest challenge?

    • Financial dealings from the U.S.
    • The kids had some homesickness and adjustment issues.
    • Working out schools and rentals.
    • The weather!
    • Mundane stuff - housing and taxes.
    • Living with a teenager is a challenge. Living abroad with a teenager who would rather be home with her friends is more of a challenge.
    • Changing travel arrangements.
    • My courses were also a challenge since I had to change all three of the classes dramatically after arrival.
  • And what turned out to be the best part?

    • Absolutely, definitely, living abroad and having such a rich experience as a family. Everything from learning a language together to traveling for fun to eating new foods as a family was great, but the best of all, I think, was getting to know people in the new countries, socializing with them, being invited to their houses, and staying friends since we came back. And doing that as a family, and being able to talk about it together, was incredible.
    • Another thing that was sort of oddly nice was the anonymity. We are very social here, which is great, but you know, it was nice to just stick with the family and not have many friends or social engagements for a couple months.
    • The memories.
    • Teaching students from several types of US schools and programs. It was interesting to compare.
    • I enjoyed the most getting a chance to meet, chat and spend time with the students from the University both inside and outside of the classroom.
    • I also met some faculty that I hope will turn into future research collaborators.
    • The children simultaneously learned a tremendous amount about themselves and US culture, while they learned about our host country and other European countries. They come back to the US with new friends and new perspectives that I hope will last a lifetime.
  • And finally, what advice would you give to others who are considering it?

    • Know the ins and outs of Skype.
    • Arrange online billing for everything possible.
    • Figure out tax stuff before you go.
    • Monitor your mail for months before you go and make a list of all the financial issues you might forget to think about
    • Have some close friends or family who know your house well lined up to help out in emergencies.
    • Talk to doctors regarding medical issues and get specific advice before you go.
    • Blog
    • When you're in the new country, be adventurous and don't just try to recreate your life at home.
    • Reach out and get to know people in the new country. It's the best thing you can do; Most importantly, don't let the logistical difficulties keep you from going. It's worth it a thousand times over.
    • The key is to understand that living abroad is not a vacation, but rather an adventure, full of unexpected twists and turns.
    • The rewards are well worth the hassles.
    • Living abroad is one of the best things one can do in academic career- travel IS learning.
    • Timing can be important, especially if family members are involved.
    • Speak with people who have successfully applied in the past.
    • Do it.