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Sewanee Girl Abroad: 4 Things to Think About Before Going Abroad

Sewanee Girl Abroad: 4 Things to Think About Before Making the Decision

By Kate Snow

(Me last summer, preparing for my trans-atlantic flight!)

It is unreal to think that in a week I will be embarking on Sewanee’s Semester in Spain program, living the life of a real Spaniard. Well, not really I guess. My broken Spanish with elaborate hand gestures and general American-ness are an easy giveaway to my citizenship, but I am excited to experience what it is like to live in a foreign country for a few months. As an International and Global Studies major, I am required to go abroad as part of the curriculum. Even though it is mandatory, I must admit I struggled with the idea of living abroad. What if I didn’t like my host family? Would people be able to understand me? What if I was too far out of my comfort zone? Most of all, however, I struggled with the idea of being away from Sewanee. I couldn’t imagine being away from my friends, and the place I have called home for these past two and a half years. The decision to go abroad is a very personal choice, and it isn’t for everyone. Because it isn’t an easy process, I have thought up a few short things to consider when making your decision to go abroad, including the reasons why I have decided to go. I have included some pictures of my recent trip abroad last summer to England along with this article to show some of the other amazing experiences you can have in Europe during your time away from campus. 

  1. You may not ever get this opportunity again. This isn’t necessarily true; you may get an opportunity to travel once you graduate or even work abroad as an adult. However, you may not get this chance again to study in a foreign country (with your parents likely footing the bill). I knew that if I did not take this opportunity while I still had it at my fingertips, I might regret my choice later. 

(Bath Cathedral in Bath, England)

  1. Do your research, and know your strengths/abilities. There are literally thousands of study abroad programs to choose from, and it can be a little overwhelming. In order to figure out which program is right for you, it is important to be honest with yourself, your comfort zone, and your abilities. Don’t apply to a direct enrollment program unless you are super independent, or apply to an advanced language curriculum if you struggle with a foreign language. While study abroad is certainly an opportunity to expand your horizons and grow as a person, being candid with your abilities now will save you a lot of stress and agony in the long run.  

(Her Campus editor Annie Blanks and a group at the Cathedral of St. James in Santiago de Compostela, Spain last summer)

  1. If you are interested in a language, going abroad is the best way to become proficient. While Sewanee certainly has fabulous language courses, the best way to become competent and fluent in a language is to actually speak it with people who are native speakers. I knew the best way for me to become fluent in Spanish was not to read a textbook, but rather practicing it everyday with my host family, ordering at the coffee shop, the grocery store, asking for directions, etc. Although Sewanee prepared me well for a good knowledge of Spain, I knew that Madrid would give me more opportunities to really grasp and learn the language.

(View from the tower of St. Paul's Cathedral in London, England)

  1. Don’t be afraid of what you will miss. Think about what you will gain. I love Sewanee, but it is my safety net; I feel so comfortable on the campus I know and love so much, with the people I have become so close to. While this is certainly not a bad thing, I want to see more of the world. But despite my desire for traveling, I couldn’t help but think about some of the things I would miss while I was gone. I won’t be at Sewanee for Rush, Spring Party, or the final semester for many Senior friends. However, I quickly realized that study abroad was something I had to do for myself, and while there were certainly going be things that I will miss, there will be so many things I gain while being abroad. While I may not be able to tailgate at Fiji Island during Sparty, I can sip red wine on a rooftop overlooking the city of Madrid. I might miss the excitement of Spring Rush, but I will get the thrill of riding a camel in Morocco. I may miss the beautiful Sewanee springtime, but I will be able to enjoy my picturesque, ever-changing surroundings as I travel around Spain and North Africa. While yes, there will be things I will miss, but I will grow as a person by expanding my horizons and becoming worldlier through my travels.

(Hampton Court Palace in London, England)

The decision to study abroad is certainly a very personal choice. No one should have to feel pressured one way or another to go abroad or stay at Sewanee. But what you should do is make the best decision for yourself. I know I will miss my friends, professors, and campus so much, but this is simply an opportunity I cannot let go. I know when I return I will be a more confident, independent, and self-reliant young woman.

Also ladies, the Spanish have great clothes and hot accents. Need I say more?

I will contributing to HerCampus throughout my European adventure, blogging about my various experiences and helpful hints that I think might be beneficial for Sewanee girls interested in going abroad, including How to Pack for a Semester Abroad, Living in a European City, Making an American Wardrobe Work in Europe, Spanish Clubbing vs. Sewanee Fratting, and many other topics that spark my imagination. If you have any suggestions, please don't hesitate to contact me! I am always open to ideas and topics that y'all want to read about!

If you are interested in studying abroad, please check out the website http://studyabroad.sewanee.edu/ and schedule an appointment with Dean Larry Jones, who can help you decide which program is right for you.

(Photos courtesy of the author and Annie Blanks)



Kate is a junior International and Global Studies major and Spanish minor. She is an avid runner, travel aficionado, wine addict, and Kappa Delta from Alexandria, Virginia. She will be traveling abroad this semester in Madrid, Spain. 
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