By Megan Watkins
According to The New York Times, more and more colleges and universities are now encouraging students to study abroad for a semester, or longer. The purpose is to better prepare them for a future in a globalized world.
In fact, according to the paper, one emerging approach has students spending a majority of their college years overseas. They move “from campus to campus across continents, earning an undergraduate degree in the process…foreign cities are their classrooms.”
Most students, however, still only spend a semester or two overseas. Even so, those few short months can have a substantial impact on their life.
But choosing to embark on a semester abroad, away from the comforts of home, is not for the cowardly. Students who participated in study abroad programs say their experiences were so wonderful that even their life back at home was affected.
Fending for Oneself
Kayse Brunell, a junior from St. Lawrence University in Canton, New York, jumped out of her shell by enrolling in the University of Georgia Study Abroad program in Cortona, Italy, during the spring 2017 semester.
“We had to fend for ourselves, which I think made me grow a lot more as a person,” Brunell said. “Being a junior in college, you have a stable set of friends, so this program threw me into an environment where I had to learn how to make friends again.”
The friendships she built in Cortona were made to last beyond just the duration of their short Italian adventure. Brunell said she is already planning to make a trip down to Athens, GA, home of the University of Georgia, in the spring to reconnect with friends and attend their study abroad art show.
An Unmatched Cultural Experience
Building lasting friendships is not the only way going abroad can affect one’s life. Students also experience various cultures.
Josie Feron, a junior at UGA, spent the summer of 2017 studying in Valencia, Spain, where she was completely immersed in the culture. “While in Valencia, I began to realize there are other ways of living, and that the American way of life may not be the best,” she said.
Feron said the relaxed Spanish lifestyle had begun to implement itself into her everyday live, even when she returned back home.
Experiencing just a taste of one of the world’s cultures has convinced Feron to explore even more of what the world has to offer. Many study abroad students enjoyed their time so much, that now they have a desire to move back.
Isabel Insolia lived in both Modena and Turin, Italy, in the summer of 2016, participating in both work and study. She said she would be happy to move back to Italy permanently. That attitude seems to be the general consensus of students who thoroughly enjoyed their trips.
It does not matter where one chooses to study, it is the feeling of pushing the boundaries of normal life that remains with them beyond their college years.
The knowledge gained and the experiences they had affects students in a way the classroom cannot.
As part of her curriculum at the University of Georgia, Megan Watkins spent three months studying in Cortona, Italy in the university’s Study Abroad program. She believes the experience made her more independent and adventurous as a person.