When I click on Facebook for the fifteenth time of the day, I’m greeted by a picture of one of my friends’ new photos – but they’re not normal photos taken on the streets of Pittsburgh – they’re posed in front of the Eiffel Tower, eating some pasta in Italy, or on the beaches of Costa Rica. With the opportunity to study abroad becoming increasingly popular at many universities, more and more students are starting to take the plunge and jet off towards a new world for what may be weeks, or even a semester.
For most college kids, it’s hard to imagine being away from their friends for a full semester. Yet, the people you meet, the landmarks you see, and the culture that surrounds you are all just remarkable. Whether or not you’re thinking about studying abroad, check out these helpful tidbits, and hear from the students who have experienced it firsthand:
1. Where are the most popular places to go?
The answer seems pretty simple: Europe. Yet, you don’t necessarily have to go there! Also, what most college kids don’t realize is that although they can pick one country and stay there, they could also partake in a traveling program. Lyndsey Karp, a senior at Pitt, decided to do something different; starting in London, her group made its way through many countries until they reached Rome four weeks later. “I wanted to travel, but didn’t want to plan the trips myself and didn’t want to be stuck in one country,” said Karp.
For people who prefer to be stationed in one place and be able to fully explore every aspect of that one country for a long period of time, the hottest places to study abroad nowadays are Costa Rica, Spain, Italy, and London.
2. When is the appropriate time to go?
Honestly, there is no “appropriate” or “expected” time to go; you should base it off of when you feel like you’re ready. It doesn’t matter if it’s for a semester, for the year, or for the summer; sophomore year, or junior year, or in between the two; whenever you go, you won’t regret being away from home.
That being said, summer seems to be a popular time to travel among Pitt students. Of the 10 students I talked to who’ve studied abroad, 6 of them opted to go on a summer program; mainly out of fear of missing core classes, or getting disconnected from their friends and the campus. While studying abroad for a semester seems like a long time to be away from your school, it gives you more time to immerse yourself into the culture. Julia Bucceri, a sophomore who plans on studying abroad in the spring of 2014, feels like she’ll be getting the full experience. “Studying abroad for the semester was my choice because I would have a longer abroad experience than if I went in the summer,” Bucceri said. Nevertheless, it doesn’t matter what year you study abroad, as long as you leave yourself plenty of time to plan ahead – trust me, when you’re in another country, you’ll be thanking yourself for that extra work.
3. What are the benefits?
To leave the United States and go live in a foreign country is one of the greatest opportunities for any young adult or teenager today. There’s no better way to learn about yourself, the world, culture, and communication than going somewhere unfamiliar and having to make it on your own.
That being said, going abroad has so many additional advantages. “For me, the main benefit was not having a worry in the world while meeting new people and seeing new places,” said Elena Giel, a Pitt senior who chose to study abroad in Italy the summer after her sophomore year. It seems that many would agree; “You get to learn a new culture while learning about yourself at the same time! It is a real growing experience,” says Becca Knoll, a senior who chose to study abroad in Costa Rica, hoping to gain a better understanding of Spanish.
You may be scared to study abroad, you may feel like you don’t want to give up time with your family or friends, but you have the opportunity to see, feel, and breathe history, language, food, and a new environment. Studying abroad is the perfect chance to meet new people, and see the world in a bigger picture than just your college life; you get to jump right into the lives of others, thousands of miles away. “Getting to see the world is so important to a person growing up to be the best they can be,” said Karp when asked about the greatest benefits. “I believe that staying anywhere too long leaves you stuck in a cultural bubble, forgetting that there are so many people, views, places and other cultures in the world.”
And don’t forget the academic benefits of studying abroad! Not only will you be able to take some classes for your major or general requirements, but you may be able to fulfill a minor: three of the girls I talked to were able to have their language minor (one Spanish, two Italian) complete by the time they came back from their program!
4. Are there any downfalls to studying abroad?
One common issue among Pitt upperclassmen who have studied abroad is the money. When you travel to Europe, you are most likely to be at a disadvantage from the exchange rate; yet, even without the exchange rate, going abroad is expensive and requires a lot of spending money, so start saving!
Traveling is an amazing opportunity; so, if you’ve never considered studying abroad, think twice – it could be your chance to experience the beautiful world, and to learn about yourself along the way.
If you have any questions about studying abroad, feel free to contact Nahja Martin, our Editor-in-Chief of Pitt's Her Campus, who also interns at the study abroad office. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org
The deadline for the Fall 2013 study abroad applications is March 8th!