Whether to study abroad can be a hard decision to make. On the one hand, college is one of the easiest times to travel, and studying abroad can lead to meaningful new relationships and perspectives. On the other hand, it can be expensive, lonely and mean you have less time to spend at Wellesley. As someone who just returned from studying abroad through the BA/MA program in Geneva, I’m here to give my honest thoughts on my experience.
Pro: New experiences and New People
The new experiences you have while studying abroad are definitely one of its biggest selling points. From experiencing a new culture to new food to new people, going abroad lets you discover things you never would have in the US. My program was very international, so I was able to meet people from all over the world. My program also had several older students who were going back to get their Masters after a few years of working, making up a demographic rarely found at Wellesley. I liked getting to know people with vastly different backgrounds and life experiences.
One of the biggest challenges with studying abroad is the cost. Wellesley does provide financial aid for study abroad, including adjusting your cost of attendance based on the cost of living in the country you’re traveling to. However not being able to work for an entire semester or year can be challenging. There are also numerous costs associated with international travel, like getting a passport, visa fees or other payments you need to make that can add up. One thing I wish I had done differently is apply for more study abroad scholarships. .
Pro: Language Practice
While not everyone wants to learn a new language, for many, language practice can be one of the best things about studying abroad. Some study abroad programs offer specific language classes or simply classes in the language you’re trying to learn. Even if you don’t take a language class while abroad, being in another country is an effective way to immerse yourself in the language spoken there. While I didn’t take any language classes abroad, I still grew more confident in my French just by using it to order food or shop at the grocery store.
As someone who is fairly slow to make friends, I struggled with feeling lonely during my program. Part of this was specific to my program — I was directly enrolled at another university, and the program was almost exclusively Masters and PhD students. There were fewer school events happening, people didn’t spend time in common spaces and fewer people lived in student housing, which made it harder to connect to others. I didn’t feel like I was close to anyone until the end of the semester, which was also when I had to leave. All of this depends on your specific program, and how quickly you generally make new friends, but as someone who’s more introverted this was definitely a struggle for me.
Pro: Different Academic Experience
While studying abroad can be a chance to focus more on priorities outside of your academics, getting to know a different academic environment can also be interesting. Studying abroad gives you access to classes that you wouldn’t be able to take in the US. However, sometimes the different academic experience can also be a con — you might be in a larger class, with less contact with a professor and few grades outside of a few exams.
Con: Less time at Wellesley
Depending on factors like your major or whether you’re premed, spending a semester away from Wellesley can be challenging. As someone who’s double majoring, I had to plan ahead to make sure I was able to take the classes I needed for my majors. This is especially an issue if you’re majoring in smaller departments, where some classes might only be offered every two years. There were a handful of classes I would have liked to take but couldn’t, and I have a more intensive senior spring trying to finish up my major requirements.
Overall, I really enjoyed studying abroad, and it’s something I would encourage everyone to at least consider. While there are challenges,in my experience, the good far outweighed the bad. I was able to meet new people, explore a new place and get to break out of the Wellesley bubble for a semester and see what else is out there.