More than 30% of university students study abroad at least once before graduating, according to the Center for Global Programs & Services’ website. As the spring 2022 semester comes to an end, this year’s graduating seniors reflect on their experiences studying abroad.
Kendall Copley, a senior health behavior science major studied abroad in Buenos Aires, Argentina in January 2020.
“I took Spanish and cultural classes there and we also traveled to places like Uruguay,” Copley said. “We did cultural things, we learned how to tango and ate cultural foods.”
While abroad, the seniors took classes, explored the country and experienced a new culture.
Sarah Shapiro, a senior elementary education major, spent three weeks in Italy during the 2022 winter session.
“My favorite thing was the cooking classes we did,” Shapiro said. “It was an amazing experience, we were fully immersed in the culture while Italian people taught us how to make this pasta and everything.”
Dannika Alvich, a senior psychology major, spent the 2022 winter session in Athens, Greece. During her time there, she was enrolled in classes meant to immerse the students in Ancient Greek culture.
“A lot of it was just immersion, going to the ancient sites we had talked about in class,” Alvich said. “A tour guide would come with us and tell us everything we needed to know about the site.”
According to Shapiro, studying abroad increases students’ understanding of a subject.
“I was on a cognitive science trip,” Shapiro said. “The name of the class was LING 102 ‘Language Minded Society,’ so everyone was taking the linguistics class. The class was about gestures and how they impact language. We compared the use of gestures in English and Italian languages. We also learned about how gestures can be used to support children with language delays. It was really helpful for people who were speech pathology majors, which overlaps a lot with education.”
The university has a long history of sending students abroad to study and is considered to be the first U.S. institution to offer study abroad programs, beginning in 1923. Today, the Center for Global Programs and Services offers more than 100 study abroad programs in over 40 different countries.
While some students like Copley were able to study abroad before the start of the pandemic, many had to postpone or change their plans when international travel was suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I was supposed to study abroad in 2021,” Shapiro said. “So right before we got sent home for COVID, I applied for an education major trip to Barcelona … but it got canceled a few weeks later.”
Despite the circumstances, the seniors were still determined to study abroad before graduating.
“When COVID hit, I was worried that it wasn’t gonna happen,” Alvich said. “So as soon as they were like, starting to study abroad again, I went on and just looked for programs that sounded interesting.”
Shapiro echoed similar sentiments about prioritizing study abroad.
“I was like, I am not giving up on this study abroad experience,” Shapiro said. “I could not have cared less about what class I took. I ended up actually picking classes that interested me.”
For Alvich and Shapiro, their determination paid off and they were able to study abroad before graduating.
“I’d never been to Europe,” Alvich said. “Being able to have that experience to see another continent, another culture … was very interesting and something that’s definitely changed my perspective being back in the States.”