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Published: Monday, 2/13/2006

Living abroad can teach you about yourself, students find

Natalie Scarlett, center front, attended with her mother, Christine, brother, Gabriel, and sister, Mary Catherine. Natalie Scarlett, center front, attended with her mother, Christine, brother, Gabriel, and sister, Mary Catherine.

Celeste Robertson vomited and shivered with malaria in Africa's Ivory Coast for three to four days at a time, once or twice a month for six months, before her doctor determined a malaria-preventative she was taking was making her sick.

She was served fried termites - a snack seasoned with chili pepper-type spices - and bush rat, which looked like a big hamster caught in a live trap, and then was skinned, chunked, and served on rice.

But ask her about foreign study or most any trip abroad for students and her answer is an unequivocal: Go.

"To me, it's the best opportunity in the world," she said yesterday at Perrysburg's Way Public Library, where she sat on a panel of Bowling Green State University staff discussing international study. "You're gonna find out stuff about yourselves you didn't think existed."

A resume that includes foreign travel can be lucrative as well.

People who spend at least three years living and working in countries such as Japan and China can find jobs in business paying $10,000 to $15,000 a year more than without that experience, said Ms. Robertson, a BGSU career and multicultural coordinator.

That's also true, though maybe to a lesser degree, she said, of time in England, France, Germany, Mexico, and Spain.

For careers in other fields, such as education, time abroad isn't likely to add to a union wage-scale salary. But it is likely to mean the difference between a job offer and a rejection letter for high school foreign language teachers, said Kristie Foell, a German professor and director of international studies at BGSU.

She has visited 10 European countries and Tunisia in at least six trips over 25 years. She was served calf's lung prepared in a sour cream sauce like stroganoff in Germany.

When she went to a German doctor, he stunned her by asking her to take her shirt off right in front of him for a medical test, rather than leaving the room and giving her a gown, as would be the custom in the United States.

Such tales appeared to fall on eager ears in the audience of about 15 people in a library meeting room. Among them was Beth Kosanovich, a senior at St. Ursula Academy, who said the farthest she has traveled is South Carolina and Niagara Falls, but she wants to "visit everywhere."

Contact Jane Schmucker at: jschmucker@theblade.com or 419-337-7780.

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