Experience study abroad through the eyes of our past returnees as they discuss their adventures in over 20 countries!
"Ever since I was old enough to know what study abroad was, I knew I wanted to do it".
"Spend a few months (or even a year!) in basically any country you want? Who could say no? At first, it was impossible to narrow down the list of places I wanted to go—the only programs I crossed off initially were the ones I didn't meet the prerequisites for! When I really thought about what I wanted from my study abroad experience, though, it was much easier. I'm a Spanish minor and absolutely love the language—it has always been my goal to speak it fluently someday. The more I thought about it, the more I knew I had to go to a Spanish-speaking country. I knew I wanted to go to Latin America rather than Spain, because it seemed more adventurous to me; I am lucky enough to have lived in Europe already, so I wanted to try something completely new and different. To be honest, I don't know why I chose Buenos Aires specifically. I knew very little about Argentina before coming here, but for some reason I was drawn to it (and I'm so glad I was!).
Studying abroad was easily the best decision I could have made to improve my Spanish. I'm constantly interacting with native speakers in my homestay, school, and daily life. I've learned so many new vocabulary words and idioms simply by hearing and using them so frequently. I'm sure that I could have eventually learned them all from a textbook, but here I was picking them up starting on my first day. There are also so many words I've learned that would be essentially meaningless without knowing and understanding the cultural context behind them.
I'm also taking a Spanish grammar class for the first time since high school. In college, once you get to a certain level, you just start taking literature or other content-area courses. There are many amazing courses offered at UR, but I'm a huge grammar nerd and missed my conjugations! Before coming here, I felt that I had sort of been stuck in a grammar rut—I knew all of the tenses and many other concepts, but I had no idea how to progress. Here, I feel like I'm pushing myself to new limits—we spend four hours a week going over and practicing complex topics. I'm learning a ton!
There are so many intangible benefits of living in a Spanish-speaking country, as well. I've studied Spanish for eight years now, and living here successfully really makes me feel like it's paying off. It is also definitely encouraging me to keep studying; every day I realize I still have much to learn! I've also noticed myself becoming more confident in speaking—I rarely get nervous now when I have to say something, and I'm way more comfortable trying trickier sentence structures in conversation.
If you're considering studying a language at UR, I can't recommend study abroad enough. Take language classes early and often, and remember that it's never too early to start thinking about going abroad!"
-Kristen Scherb, Buenos Aires, Argentina, Spring 2012
"I think for anyone sitting on the fence the only advice you can really give them is to go for it and you won't regret it".
"I can say that I've thought about going abroad, and to a Spanish speaking country, probably since I was in middle school. But when it actually came time to go I was never more terrified. And not everything about Chile has been perfect and easy. In fact a lot was very hard. But I have never been more glad to do anything. The experience has been absolutely amazing and taught me a lot about myself and about the world. Living almost entirely in a different language is frustrating but rewarding every day. It goes slowly but every time I've thought I couldn't do it, something has happened to lift my hopes. And it's a nice break from a real college semester. It goes by so much faster than you think, and while you have work, everything is so much more interesting and exciting to do. The places I've been and things I've gotten to see have been incredible, along with the people I've met. It's taken a little while but Chile really feels like home now, and so does my family here. I am still excited to go home at the end, but I'm already thinking of when I can come back. Doing something like this takes a lot of guts the first time, even for someone that loves traveling, but it's definitely worth it and know that every time after will be a piece of cake!"
-Hanna Arwe, Santiago, Chile, Spring 2010
"My favorite part was definitely traveling around New Zealand, especially since the scenery there is amazing".
"Another favorite part would be meeting people from all over the world. I kept a list of countries of where the people I met are from - Poland, Fiji, Norway, Kazakhstan, Russia, Brazil, just to name a few. And even though they speak English in New Zealand, the culture is still different from the States, and it was fun learning all the "Kiwi phrases" that they use (I kept a list of that too).
I really encourage everyone to study abroad for a semester, even though there might be a lot of obstacles in the beginning. In terms of finances, I would suggest saving up before you go - the semester before Auckland, I worked a lot to save money for my plane ticket. I know another student who also worked a lot the year before because he was going to Italy for two semesters. The earlier you start saving, the better."
-Nancy Weng, Auckland, New Zealand, Spring 2010
"One of my favorite memories from studying abroad is the time I finally climbed the bowsprit on the Seamester schooner, the Ocean Star".
"She's an 88-foot sailing boat that we lived on for 40 days, traveling around the Caribbean, and part of living on a boat is showering in the ocean. Every day, we'd soap ourselves up, then jump down off the boat and swim in the water, then climb the rope ladder back up to rinse and dry off. One time, I forgot to lower the rope ladder before jumping in, leaving me stuck in the water to either wait for someone to notice me or to somehow manage to get back up myself. I was never prouder than when I hauled myself all the way up by my arms and sheer grit, via the taut chain suspended below the boat's bowsprit. I had never been good at gym, but living on a boat sure toughens you up!"
-Elise Russell, Semester at Sea, Summer 2008
"Many students studying a natural science assume that they can't study abroad, or that they can't take classes for their major while abroad, but this is not the case anymore".
I was able to take an upper level biology class as well as a pre-med requirement while studying at University College London. It took a little bit of leg work during the semester before I studied abroad, finding a university that offered comparable courses to the two I needed to take (in English), but it was totally worth it. The two courses ended up covering similar material and I did not feel behind at all when I returned to UR. In fact, the British education system requires students to study only one subject throughout their years at university and I found that the courses I took abroad covered some material more extensively. In addition, taking classes in multiple fields makes for a great conversation starter with British students who will find you immediately interesting for doing so. Also, being part of another education system challenges and makes you much more cognizant of your own learning expectations and styles. However, the one thing I value most about my study abroad experience were the people I met. From classmates to professors; flatmates and teammates, going somewhere new exposes you to different types of people. At University College London, the students and faculty are literally from every corner of the globe, giving me a new perspective on anything from cooking to theory in social anthropology. The friends I made in London hailed from totally different backgrounds and experiences and their insights have broadened my thinking and made me feel closer to the global community."
-Gabriel Perreault, London, England, Fall 2009
"While studying abroad may seem like a huge commitment or too much to handle, don't underestimate what your abroad program can do for you".
"CIEE in Prague, Czech Republic set American students up with Czech students who lived in our apartments and dorms. My Czech roommate answered any and all of my questions about navigating the city, the Czech language, cultural differences and everything in between. And while my roommate did help me get around, getting lost and figuring out how to get home by myself in Prague was a great way to get familiar with the city as well as an interesting and rewarding adventure."
-Sara Gotthelf, Prague, Czech Republic, Spring 2010