Among chatter of finals, WILD, and summer plans, April is also the month juniors compare study abroad options. I am extremely lucky in that I’ve been a Spanish minor since day 1 of freshman year and always knew that the Madrid program was for me. However, for many, the decision does not come as easily. From watching my friends gallivant around the world and experiencing my own semester abroad, here is some advice for picking the best study abroad opportunity for you.
1) Keep an open mind
Many of the Olin programs are less traditional study abroad destinations when compared to some bigger schools your friends from home may attend. Even if it’s not a location you’ve always heard about, don’t count it out. Every place has its merits.
2) Think about what you want from your abroad experience—without your friends.
It’s easy to succumb to groupthink and end up picking a location just because you have friends going there, even if it’s not the type of experience you’re looking for. I made the decision independent of my close friends, and it’s worked out incredibly. Plus, I’ve become extremely close with other WashU students in the process.
3) Keep travelling in mind—consider accessibility and location
For some, travelling is a huge part of their abroad experience; for others, not so much. It was a crucial aspect for me, and I have been lucky enough to visit more than 15 cities during my time abroad. I have friends who have spent most weekends in their abroad city and they’ve loved every minute of it. There’s no right answer to this—it’s just important that you keep in mind a city’s accessibility and location if travelling is important to you.
4) Don’t think of studying abroad as the default option
It’s easy to when everyone is discussing it, but it’s a deeply personal choice and it’s not for everyone. Don’t force yourself to go abroad just because you think it’s the right thing to do or most of your friends are going—that’s a recipe for being unhappy. Needless to say, studying abroad is an incredible experience that has truly opened my eyes to so many different cultures, as well as things about myself.
5) Ask questions!
Do not hesitate to reach out to older friends or even just people you know of who have studied in places you’re interested in. We (students abroad) love talking about our experience and can go on for days. The best way to learn about an abroad destination is to talk to someone who’s experienced it!
Photos courtesy of Chloe Baker