An Option for the Study Abroad Skeptic

I’ve always loved vacationing to other countries and experiencing new cultures (I said cultures, not beaches. Let’s be very clear).  Luckily for me, my immediate family shares this passion. Throughout my life, I’ve been fortunate enough to travel internationally about twice a year, visiting places like Uganda, Honduras, and Israel.

So…Study Abroad?

Knowing this about me, you probably think that I would jump at the chance to spend a semester or a year abroad during college. But until recently, this wasn’t the case.  In fact, the thought of spending an extended period of time away from my family, friends, and the English language terrified me. And I know that I am not the only college-aged student who feels this way. Many students choose not to study abroad for the reasons I just mentioned.

An Awesome Opportunity

Despite my fears, I visited the study abroad office at my school, researched programs and attended fairs during my freshman year. I really do love to travel, that wasn’t the problem. The problem was that the thought of being independent enough to live in a country alone terrified me. Then, one day, a perfect opportunity fell into my lap. I am in an interdisciplinary Leadership Studies minor, and a professor in the department created a summer study abroad tour in Italy.

The tour was ten days long, hitting major cities like Rome, Florence, and Bologna. As it was explained to me, we would be taking a class to receive credit for our minor and visiting the headquarters of Italian businesses. There was no second-guessing, no hesitation. I jumped at the chance and applied to the program, momentarily pushing my fears aside. But, once accepted, they started to trickle back. I didn’t know many of the people I was going with, I had never been out of the country without my parents, and, worst of all, I didn’t know Italian.

None of this turned out to be an issue. My fears quickly subsided when I realized that everyone else was in the same boat as me, and everything we did was completely planned, down to the last second. We did all of the tourist-y stuff, of course, but we also had time to explore the cities and embrace the culture surrounding us, things many vacationers and beach-goers may not take advantage of. It saddens me to think that I almost let my fears keep me from doing something that I will remember fondly for the rest of my life.

So, what’s the point of all this?

As a result of my experience with the summer study tour in Italy, I now feel more equipped to handle studying abroad in a foreign country. I encourage students to contact the study abroad office and find out what summer programs they offer. Also, begin researching these as soon as possible, as deadlines approach quickly. The summer study tour was a great stepping-stone to spending a semester or a year abroad, especially if you share the same fears that I had (or even if you don’t).

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Emma Weissmann

Emma Weissmann

Emma Weissmann is a sophomore at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign pursuing a degree in News-Editorial Journalism with an interdisciplinary minor in Leadership Studies. Emma enjoys traveling, trying new foods, and snuggling up on the couch with her cat, “Louie.” She also spends her time volunteering and hanging out with family and friends.
Emma Weissmann

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