December 15, 2018

Making the Most of a Semester Abroad

posted on: Thursday January 18, 2018

                            Photo Courtesy of Wikimedia

by Taylor Godfrey  ’19

Opinion Co-Editor

Going abroad is one of the most talked about aspects of life at Providence College. Deciding whether or not to go, choosing a place, committing, organizing yourself, and submitting all of your documents on time: it is a daunting task for any student.

While many students will go abroad, many will go with friends or in a program with PC or American students. However, it is important to remember that one of the most fulfilling aspects about spending a semester abroad is gaining a new experience for yourself that you could not have gotten at PC.

Last semester, I chose to study at King’s College London and while I knew there would be a few other PC students there, I did not choose a program specific to this college.

I knew that none of my friends who were going abroad would be in at the same school or even in the same city as me. When I was thinking about going abroad, I did truly feel like I was going alone.

While I say that I felt like I went abroad alone, I was not really alone. King’s College London had over 600 study abroad students during the fall semester, and that is not counting the nearly 30,000 full-time students, or the over eight million people that call the city of London home. I had many people around me; I just had not met any of them yet.

While it is fun to travel with friends you already have, there is something special about being on your own in a new place.

Starting at King’s felt like starting freshman year at PC all over again, which at first was very nerve-wracking. However, I came to appreciate the fresh start.  No one at my new school knew me, and I got a chance to have a completely new experience.

The trouble with going abroad in groups is that it can be easy not to branch away from those groups. It is comfortable to stay with what you already know, and it can be easier to spend all your time with already established friends.

Two of my flatmates last semester were also American study-abroad students, and they spent most of their time with other American students in their programs. In this case, studying abroad is less of gaining a new experience and more of having an experience very similar to what you would get on campus, simply  in a different place.

When I was planning my abroad experience, I did not plan to go on my own because I thought it would make it a better experience. I just happened to be interested in studying in a place where none of my friends were interested in studying.

However, having a semester abroad that was completely unlike anything I could have experienced at PC and with people I would never have met at PC made my experience more fulfilling.

While I did find the thought of starting over again at a new school daunting, I am better for the  experiences I gained in forging my own path. Before I found my new friends at my new university, I went out and explored London on my own, learning to navigate the underground system and to rely on myself and my own abilities.

And while I may not have started the semester with friends, those friends did come and now I have made connections with other study abroad students from the U.S. as well as other students from the U.K. and Europe.

These friends gave me different perspectives and helped me to make global connections that I may not have made if I had been able to rely on friends that I already had.

There is a reason that PC does not allow more than two of its students to live together when they study abroad. The whole point of going abroad is to gain a new experience and to make connections with people you would never have met in Providence.

That is not to say that people who go abroad with big groups of PC students cannot have a full experience, simply that making some time to spend exploring your host city yourself and making an effort to meet people from your host country and beyond will only make your abroad experience richer.

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