Woods, then a junior at the University of Oklahoma, turned to the woman sitting next to her to ask if she was on the right bus.
The woman said yes, but Woods had a feeling she didn’t understand the question.
Woods was on her third study trip abroad.
Directors at OU and Oklahoma State University said students are getting more adventurous with their choice of study destinations. More students are opting to study outside of Western Europe, where English is not a primary language.
After studying in Mexico, then Spain, Woods decided to go to Peru, where she found herself stuck on the wrong bus.
Woods, an international security studies and Spanish student from Garland, Texas, said her earlier trips gave her the confidence to go to a less-traditional location and brave the “crazy buses.”
The bus rides in Peru were daunting, even without being lost.People packed together like sardines, and music was always blaring.
A man stuck his head out the window and barked destinations for people on the street and then yelled at them to hurry as they boarded.
Schedules were confusing and buses moved fast, swerving in and out of lanes. It was easy for Woods to get lost.
When she was in Spain, Woods could turn to most strangers on the street to ask for help. That was comforting, but it also had some drawbacks.
Many people who discovered Woods was from the United States wanted to practice their English with her, while she was trying to gain Spanish-speaking skills.
In Peru, it was rare to find someone who understood English, Woods said. Sometimes that was difficult, like during the trip to the airport.
Unsatisfied with the woman’s answer, Woods made her way to the front of the bus.
The music was loud, like usual, and the driver looked like he didn’t want to be bothered, but Woods mustered her courage to ask him for help.
It’s a good thing because her suspicion was right — she had taken the wrong bus. With the driver’s help, Woods got moving in the right direction.
Those wild bus rides became one of her favorite parts of the trip, which she described as the highlight of her life.
“You really learn to be confident,” Woods said.
Not only are students choosing to study in more exotic locations, but more students are choosing to study abroad in general. OU and OSU officials reported significant increases during recent years.About 16 percent more students from the University of Oklahoma studied abroad between 2008-09 and 2009-10, said Jack Hobson, director of Education Abroad.
About 756 students studied abroad for credit last year, compared with 652 students the year before, Hobson said.
Projections for the spring suggest the growth likely will continue to increase, Hobson said.
In 2008, OU President David Boren issued a challenge for the university to double the number of students who study abroad during the next few years, Hobson said.
The university also has worked to diversify its programs and offer more short-term programs.
OU has seen significant growth to its programs in China, Chile and Turkey.
OSU has had a 17 percent increase in the number of students studying abroad, from 487 in 2008-09, to 571 in 2009-10.
Gerry Auel, Study Abroad and National Student Exchange coordinator at OSU, said President Burns Hargis and Provost Robert Sternberg are big supporters of internationalism. The university recently created a new position, associate vice president for international studies and outreach.
Administrators, faculty, students and staff also are holding international experiences on campus, which helps spark interest, Auel said.
OSU has programs in Romania, Morocco and Egypt and other places.
“Those are places you wouldn’t have seen people going to in the past,” Auel said.
“ … I think students are becoming more adventurous. The first step is just to accept the idea of studying abroad at all. The next step is to think of studying abroad in a more unusual, less traditional site.”
By Darla Slipke, newsok.com