Friday, October 23, 2009

Study Abroad: The Homebody vs. the Jetsetter

Poor C. is having some study abroad woes this week, as she was all set to study in France next semester but after wading through a maze of paperwork and as her routine here in Williamstown becomes more established, she's starting to wonder if it's right for her.
I thought this was interesting because, at least here at Williams, studying abroad is SUCH a polarized experience. Probably over half the junior class chooses to go abroad, making some of us (like me) feel like we're crazy for choosing to stick it out in weather-crazy, isolated Williamstown for 2/2 semesters.

At Williams, we only have three Williams-sponsored study abroad programs. There's the Oxford program, in which students spend their entire junior year studying at Oxford. There's Williams-Mystic, where students can go and still be fairly close to campus (Mystic Seaport is in Connecticut) but also get to live on a boat and engage in maritime studies. Williams in Africa takes a group of students to, you guessed it, Africa, and we once had Williams in New York but I'm not exactly sure when that's going to be functional again.

The options are pretty slim, so many students elect to take programs offered by other schools; C.'s program, for example, is out of Middlebury College. The problem with that is sometimes the double-overload of paperwork from both the other college and the actual program, plus the cost, plus the Visa, etc., can make the experience more frightening than fun, and very overwhelming. Some schools even require you to obtain admission from that school in order to do their program; so if you want to take a program offered by Yale, for example, good luck.

Personally, I've never had much of an interest in studying abroad. But at Williams, I'm made to feel akin to a leper (okay, maybe not that extreme) for that lack of inclination. Here's my deal, though: I am a double major in English and American legal studies. There's nowhere else in the world to get as valuable an education in United States law as, well, the United States, so that rules that out. For my English major, the most logical program for me to do would have, of course, been the Oxford program, but here's the thing. I've been to England, and it's great, but I don't think living there for a year would be any better than being here at school. I would NOT want to be away for a whole year, so that basically rules the program out. Ireland or England would also be good choices for an Enlish major looking to go abroad, but I'm interested in American literature at the turn of the (20th) century, and really again, no better place for that than the U.S.

Also, my argument really boils down to this: I only have eight semesters, EVER, to be an undergraduate college student. I can travel on summers or after college. Why would I want to give one, two or even more of those semesters, ones I can never get back, up?

And so I ask you guys: Did you/do you plan to study abroad as an undergrad? Do you regret going and losing time on campus or was it the best thing you ever did (as most people say it was for them)?

[Images from Hicker Photo, Swift Passport,]


  1. I think you should study abroad.

    I know its annoying when people who studied abroad yak on and on about how great the experience was- but I think there is a reason why- because it is! I wasn't going to study abroad but last minute decided to go study in London my junior year and it was the best semester of my life. Hands down. I learned so much about myself, about the world, made amazing friends, and backpacked through Europe.

    I always said I would travel a lot after college, but then life took over. I had bills, I had school, I got married, and while I have been out of the country since then- I likely will never get the experience to LIVE in another country again. for upwards of six months like I did when I was in Europe. So I really value that experience and totally would recommend that you go. Its worth it.

  2. i studied abroad in rome and college and it was honestly the best time of my life. i felt so at home and i still tear up when i think about it.

  3. Wow I must be in the minority! It's actually too late for me to go, even if I had wanted to-- we have to do the paperwork the end of sophomore year in order to go Junior fall or Junior spring.

    I think I'd probably have a great time if I were to go, but I also have so many things I want to do here too--plus I'm a double major which makes getting all my requirements done and going away tricky.

    I'm so glad you guys had such great experiences! If either of you would like to follow up on this post by guest blogging about your time abroad (to offer the flip side of the coin), definitely let me know and we'll do it!