Leaving on a Jet Plane, Do You Know When You’ll be Back Again?

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Hilary Weissman>Sophomore>Journalism>University of Maryland
This spring, registering for classes and approaching application deadlines beckons the inevitable question: Can I fit studying abroad into my four-year plan without turning it into my five-year plan?



The University Studies Abroad Consortium boasts life-changing individual growth, adventure, expanding academic resources, and satisfying curiosity as some of the top reasons to study abroad.

A full year abroad can be a life-changing experience, whether or not it was the original plan. Mackenzie Edgemon, a junior psychology major at UC Davies, spent a year at Brighton University in England after extending her initial semester stay. Edgemon only regretted taking the amount of time she had for granted, saying that a year went by so much faster than she could have anticipated.

“My first semester just felt like an extended vacation; it was a total whirlwind of excitement and confusion, but not nearly enough time to get acclimated to the English way of life,” she said. Edgemon felt her abroad experience led her to a more independent style of learning without being “spoon-fed” material, and forced her to leave her comfort zone. After overcoming her overwhelming desire to return home early in her first semester, she was ready to appreciate all that England had to offer her.
Others recognize that sometimes the objective of a study abroad program is getting as much out of it as you can in the short time you are given. Nicki Alpern, a senior psychology major at Tulane University, spent a semester in Greece, though she considered staying longer to travel and work.
 “As much as I wanted to stay forever, I feel like if I stayed a whole year or extended my trip, I would have taken time for granted,” she said.
One of the most important lessons she took home with her was time management.
“It’s hard to make yourself do work when Europe is your playground and it’s Greece outside your window,” she said. Alpern also noted that she saved mostly electives to take in Greece and had finished the majority of her credits for her major.
For Kristin Valva, a junior Marketing major and Spanish minor at the University of Delaware, the choice of semester or not came down to her initial major. The program of International Business would have required her to spend the full semester abroad, but once she changed majors, she still felt it was in her best interests.            
Preparing to come home from Granada, Spain, at the end of this fall semester, Valva reflects, “I think that this was the perfect amount of time to study abroad; although I tell my parents I might not be getting on the plane to come home! The time here went by so fast, but I feel as though I have learned more in these past three and a half months that I have in all my college years.”
Still, many choose to take just a summer or winter session abroad, whether it is accommodating a rigorous class schedule, athletic season, or nerves over spending too much time from home. Though she felt that classes and an internship were a lot of work to cram into the two months, Emily McNaughton, who graduated from Boston University last May, was satisfied by her summer in Madrid in 2008.

“I do think the two-month summer program is a great option for those who don’t have enough time during the semester. I also think that if the summer program was any longer, I would have been dead by the time it was over – I made sure to get in as much as I could during every waking hour … sleeping was my last priority,” she said. McNaughton recommends just focusing on either an internship or a class schedule during a summer session to better absorb the material you learn and appreciate the culture and sites around you.

Ultimately, the choice will come down to what fits into your family’s budget, how much time you can spend away with the rest of the requirements you have left, and what other commitments you would have to leave behind. Talk to your advisor about how credits will transfer towards your major or minor, and talk to your parents about the cost of a summer program in addition to your regular tuition, or the substitution of an abroad semester’s tuition for what your University normally costs.

From her experience, Valva can assure that, “whether it may be for five weeks, a semester, or even a year, you will learn such life experiences and grow as a person. I believe that the opportunity to study abroad is a once and a lifetime opportunity and I would do it all over again in a heartbeat.”



College Magazine Staff

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