To Travel or Not to Travel: Knowing When To Study Abroad

Travel is a big part of education, especially for the growing adult in college. Countless universities and colleges offer students the chance to travel through various study abroad programs. To all student readers: Take advantage of this privilege! The opportunity is truly a gift.

School year abroad programs give young adults the chance to have a taste of living somewhere new and unfamiliar, to immerse themselves into rich cultures and different languages, to learn all kinds of history and experience everything new and unexpected.

Personally, I know that I have held the dream of pursing a school year abroad ever since I was 11 years old. A study abroad program was so important to me that by the time I was applying for colleges, I refused to even consider anywhere that didn’t offer the chance for students to travel.

It’s only when you get to college can you figure out WHEN you’d travel.

Sadly, that’s the hardest part. College is unpredictable, meaning you never know what changes may befall you throughout your four years. You may take a semester off, change majors, change schools, or even repeat a class after receiving a bad grade.

Any kind of occurrence or sudden change to your schedule plans may delay or even stop you from ever getting the opportunity to experience a school year abroad.

For me? I decided to study abroad after my first year of college. I took a summer class in Florence, Italy. It was only for 6 weeks rather than a whole semester or a whole school year abroad, but I always thought I’d experience my full semester traveling in my third year.

It never happened. Since I changed my major, I found out that if I were to study abroad, I would fall behind on my studies and not graduate on time.  For others, they may have the time to have a full school year abroad but may not get very good grades in their classes, but they’d go abroad anyway knowing the risk of falling even more behind.

The only way to know is to ask yourself these 4 questions. It’s only by knowing yourself and your future plans that you can find out where you want to go and when.

1. What School Year? What Semester?

For most of you, different majors have their own exclusive programs abroad and so you don’t have any choice as to when or where you will go for your time away. Others may have a little more freedom as to picking where they want to go and when they want to go there.  You have to consider your schedules and the possible classes you plan to take for the following years. Where would studying abroad fit and what classes would you be able to to take that met your curriculum requirements?

You also may have a desire to study abroad at a time and place that your friends are. I realize how completely amazing it would be if you were able to perhaps travel around Europe or Africa with your friends, but you can’t put yourself and your future at risk just because you want to meet up with some buddies. Put yourself first and figure out when is the best time for you.

A lot of students experience a school year abroad in their junior year. However, if you know that your Junior and Senior year will be jam-packed with advanced classes, then maybe going earlier is a much better idea. Or if you’re like me where the school year itself isn’t a good time, remember there are always school year abroad programs available for the summertime.

2. What about your Grades?

Study abroad programs are able to offer classes needed for curriculum requirements, it’s true. However, these classes are also notorious for not being very thorough and a lot of them may not even offer a full 3 credit course or whatever a proper course credit amount would be depending on your school. A school year abroad means taking a risk of falling behind in your studies. If you know that you’re doing really well in all of your classes and feel that you really understand your subject and know for a fact that studying abroad wouldn’t affect your grades then by all means, go travel!

However, there are many students whose grades are not up to par, but they won’t take no for an answer when it comes to a school year abroad. While they may be determined in doing what they want, they may also feel sorry for that decision later when it affects them come graduation time. They may not have good enough grades, or have learned enough, or perhaps they may be behind on credits. It’s all a risk of  not graduating on time.

For some this may not be a big deal at all. Maybe you don’t mind if you spend another year or semester at school. Others may feel differently and may really dislike the idea of not graduating with all their other classmates and friends. Know yourself and what you want. Think ahead and think about your grades.

3. What to Study?

Do you have a dream to go to South Africa? China? Argentina? Switzerland? France? Well, wherever you dare to go make sure that the school year abroad program in that country or city offers subjects related to you and your major. There’s no point being a graphic design student and then taking a politics course in Israel.

Remember what’s needed for your curriculum and your required major credits. If there is a class that helps you to achieve much needed credits then totally go for it. Just don’t sacrifice your time and money just because you liked the idea of one country more than another.

4. During or After College?

There may be the chance that a school year abroad will just never come. Don’t fret just yet, though! You can always take an additional course during the summer even AFTER you graduate! There are also tons of programs all over the world that offer traveling and education programs. You can always take time after graduation to travel around the world doing various internships, taking different classes or perhaps just backpacking through the Swiss Alps! W

hile it’s common for young adults to travel in college, it’s not a rule. You can always be the one to stand out and travel after school and unlike regular school programs, you can go for as long as you like!

These are just a few questions I believe every student should ask themselves. Pursing a school year abroad shouldn’t ever be a stressful decision to make. You just have to know yourself; what you want and what you’re capable of. Once you know all that, you can do anything and go anywhere!

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Nina Reichenberg, a junior at Syracuse University spent her first two years in the Communications Design Program but is now currently working towards a degree in Computer Art & Animation. Whilst at school, Nina spends most of her time animating, watching films, and working as a design intern at SYR Outside of SU, she enjoys traveling, singing, dancing, spending time outside and collecting thimbles.

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