Studying abroad can be an extremely rewarding experience. However, it can also cause some complications, and is not something that should be undertaken without some forethought. A semester abroad can give students opportunities to travel, interact with other cultures, and see incredible sites. Yet there are still some serious questions everyone should ask themselves before pulling the trigger:
1. Do you actually want to?
Many students assume that they are supposed to study abroad, because it is increasingly becoming the norm on campus, especially among certain majors. However, not everyone has a strong desire to do so. Some people are homebodies, and that’s fine. Study abroad can be amazing, but it’s not for everyone. Don’t be ashamed if you’d prefer to spend all four years on the Hill.
2. Is the program legitimate?
Some Hamilton abroad programs are very useful. Others are little more than shams. The school isn’t going to tell you which is which. Before you commit to a program, find a student who has already participated in it and ask about it. Learn from the mistakes of the upperclassmen, and make the best-informed decision possible.
3. What will be the effect on completing your major requirements?
Hamilton isn’t great about transferring class credit from abroad programs. Before you commit, make sure you get a guarantee from the school that you will get enough transferable credits in your major. If you are a Hispanic studies major going to Spain, great! Otherwise you may want to plan your next few semesters and see how going abroad will affect you.Make sure that you won’t be putting too much of a burden on yourself senior year to complete your major. Your last year at Hamilton is marked by the writing of a thesis (sometimes two) and the search for a job. You won’t want to deal with more than you have to already.
4. How important is a consistent social life?
During study, abroad, you will be far away from your friends at Hamilton and you will have to make new social connections. If you are not the type of person capable of easily making friends, factor this into your decision. Study abroad can be a bit lonely for many people.
5. Will you have opportunities to travel after college?
For some students, due to grad school or career paths, this may be your only opportunity to travel while you are young. If this is the case, it is often worth it to study abroad. If you were going to take a gap year however, or take an internship overseas for the summer, it may not be as important to study abroad during your undergrad.