honest advice from honestly nice people
When I left to a foreign country with 13 people I had never met before, I wasn’t sure what would happen. We were all nervous, and most of our first-day exchanges were awkward. Not only that, my first day in London, I was tackled by a purple-haired Scottish woman, and it really only got better from there.
Studying abroad offers numerous experiences and opportunities that can’t be found elsewhere, and through a college, there are even more. Participating in the Baylor in London FIE program the fall of my junior year was one of the best decisions I made in my four years in college.
1. It's a new city!
As much as you may have a soft spot for your college town (love ya, Waco), you’re going to get tired of it. Seeing the same locales over and over becomes exhausting, and being able to pound the pavement somewhere on the other side of the globe comes with numerous opportunities for adventure. The feeling of stumbling off the plane and taking a deep whiff of an unfamiliar breeze is nothing short of surreal.
2. You make new friends!
Some of the closest friends you can make are the ones that live with you: roommates, housemates, apartment building-mates. I lived in the heart of London (down the street from Prince Harry, in fact) in a tiny flat with 11 housemates. Which provided me with some of the craziest and most wonderful people I’ve ever met. We had all come together from Baylor, so our program let us all live together. One of my classmates, a guy from LA named Joe, was adopted into our flat, and while I think he enjoyed our company, we could never quite get him to understand how important Baylor football was (especially when we streamed games late into the night).
3. FIELD TRIPS!
One of the best parts of school in general, besides lunch, is when professors take learning out of the classroom. Because one of the best ways of learning is immersion, a great way to study and understand a topic is to see it and touch it and observe it firsthand. This is how I ended up standing next to the TARDIS in the BBC broadcasting building, looking down at news desks, or having tea in the Victoria and Albert design museum.
4. Seeing different styles of learning
Baylor’s wide repertoire of options to travel abroad offers different ways to learn, ones that aren’t easily experienced on the traditional American campus. Many are at a foreign university, studying in a different language and making local friends. Others involve traveling around with a Baylor professor, learning on the go with a smaller group of students, like one large field trip.
Mine was something completely different altogether. FIE is a nonprofit that teaches students how to live and work abroad. Part of the semester is in the classroom and the other half is spent in an internship. This meant I had my finals week in October and I had to commute an hour to work at a magazine office three days a week the second half of the semester. Extremely different styles of learning.
5. THE FOOD!
One of my favorite things about traveling to new cultures is embracing the food that comes with it. Many larger cities offer many different authentic international options to choose from, and even smaller cities are chock full of tiny cafes with delicious hot chocolate and free Wi-Fi.
Even traveling outside your host country can provide the chance to try something delicious: paella and tapas in Spain, tiramisu in Italy and haggis in Scotland were all highlights of meals abroad. It was also fun seeing other nations’ take on American staples. British Tex-Mex and a Danish Chinese buffet were especially interesting. I didn’t always know what I was eating, but most of it was pretty tasty.
And the British stereotype about tea is completely true. I’m pretty sure I drank my weight in the stuff weekly.
6. The experiences you have
Not much can trump field trips, but adventures outside of school can one up them any day of the week. No two study abroad trips are alike, and students don’t always know how much they’re going to see and do before they travel; sometimes opportunities appear for a moment and students suddenly can do something they never dreamed of, like kissing the Blarney Stone in Ireland, seeing a childhood friend, riding a gondola in Venice, having an internship with a graphic design magazine, visiting a museum dressed as a dog in Spain, skipping school to visit the actual Harry Potter studio, and actually meeting Benedict Cumberbatch.
When waking up on that first morning in an unfamiliar bed, you don’t know what your time abroad is going to be like, but if you make the most of it, magical things do happen.
7. Because you can!
There are numerous benefits of studying abroad through Baylor, especially. Baylor allows students to keep their scholarships while abroad, which covers that tuition. There are also other scholarships and grants available through Baylor and independent programs. At Baylor, we’re put in such a great position to be able to travel to learn and explore, not only to get academic credit, but to better ourselves and to embrace and dive deep into the world around us. There isn’t another opportunity quite like it.
In the wise words of an internet meme: “Don’t let your dreams be dreams…Just do it!” Experiences of a lifetime are in reach, and even though studying abroad doesn’t come without challenges of its own, the memories you’ll be making are completely worth it.
Adventure is out there!