Welcome to a special edition of Valparaiso Volunteers. Today we are talking to a representative of the Study Abroad program at Valparaiso University, Olivia Dausch. Last summer Olivia studied abroad in Japan. Now, Olivia works with the University to inform other students about the benefits and opportunities of traveling abroad during college.
Why do students volunteer at the Study Abroad Fair?
The Study Abroad Fair is a big info-session bringing together students interested in going abroad and students who have returned from abroad. The returning students volunteer their time to try to answer any questions interested students might have about the specific programs.
How has volunteering changed your life?
Volunteering was a thing that was introduced a bit later in my life. My parents tried to convince me not to go out of my way for others. Once I got to high school and joined Key Club, I realized that giving to others was incredibly fun and rewarding.
Do you volunteer anywhere specifically? Why there?
I don’t volunteer in a specific place. I usually volunteer with my fraternity, Alpha Phi Omega. My friend introduced me to the group, and I’ve been with it for about a year now.
How do you think studying abroad changes students?
I think that studying abroad lets students see a world outside of themselves. There is a world outside of Valparaiso, outside of Indiana, the Midwest, the United States. There are different places with different cultures and problems of their own. I feel it is very humbling. It’s very easy to see that one’s immediate surroundings is all there is in the world but going across an ocean greatly expands a person’s world view.
Why do you think studying abroad is important?
I think studying abroad is important because it puts a lot of smaller problems into perspective. Being away from the familiar, even temporarily, is refreshing and can provide great opportunities for self-reflection. Finding out what issues were left behind and what managed to go with can be a great way to figure out the importance of those issues.
Is there anything students should know prior to studying abroad?
Outside of the general “pack light” and “step out of your comfort zone”, I think other students should know that it’s okay to take a day to just reflect on everything. It never feels like you change, but you are with yourself all the time. Taking some time to look at where you are and where you were before you left can at least partially show how much you’ve grown during your trip.
How should students investigate where they want to study abroad?
I feel like students should look at their interests. A lot of people who study in Japan start from anime, manga and video games. However, this isn’t enough. There has to be a genuine interest in the culture itself. For example, anime and manga can be a great stepping stone into researching different cultural aspects that inspired the different stories, and how the cultural facets are integrated into the culture itself. It boils down to having an interest in learning about the culture of the places the student is considering.
How does studying abroad change a student’s life?
Studying abroad will give students the tools they need to figure out their place in the world. It’s a safe place to take risks and see what the world has in store. There is time to experience the life of a student in another country with the freedom to explore the country in question. There are opportunities to talk to local students and make lifelong friends. Students also have the chance to go to other nearby countries as well. It’s a chance to experience the world safely and with little risk.
When you studied abroad did you personally feel it changed how you view community service or global responsibility? How?
Absolutely. I was able to see Japan’s more family-oriented culture. There were people who helped me because I was a foreigner, and I saw how easily they were able to do so. They tried to explain things in as much English as they could, and even the effort to help made all the difference. I saw how easy it was for me to do the same and that I always should. Even helping someone in the store could make someone’s day, and that’s what really matters.
Specifically do you think students become stronger or more informed leaders for our community?
Absolutely. Learning about any culture outside of one’s own is already a step toward being a more informed leader. Actually experiencing a different culture can give students a perspective they never could have received through reading.
What’s your motivation to do good?
My motivation to do good comes from knowing that there is a lot of bad in the world that everyone experiences. Taking a second to do something to help someone with anything can improve their day even slightly. I feel that’s the most important thing.