To Study Abroad or Not?

This past year, one of the largest decisions I struggled with was whether to study abroad or not. Throughout my two years here, I’ve heard countless stories of study abroad experiences from older students. Students recounted going backpacking in Chile, visiting the Louvre in Paris, and studying globalization in Cape Town. Even beyond student testimonies, Swarthmore’s administration heavily emphasizes the beneficial opportunities that studying abroad can bring – around 40% of the student body studies abroad for a semester.

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A photo from a Swattie studying abroad

Even after hearing all of these positive recommendations, part of me was still unsure. My social and academic life fell into place this past year. While freshman year was filled with exploration and uncertainty, throughout sophomore year, I solidified my friend group, selected my academic majors, pursued new research interests in art history, and began writing for the arts section of the college’s student-run newspaper. I felt like I was continuously learning and growing at Swarthmore and I was unsure as to whether I was ready to pause that for a semester.

I had fears about spending a semester in a foreign country. Going abroad would entail getting accustomed to a new city, learning a new language, making an entirely new group of friends, and being away from my family and friends for a full semester. It would be a complicated process, too – figuring out visas, flights, phone plans, and study abroad programs. Why leave then?

While the unfamiliarity was initially daunting, I finally came to my decision to study abroad in Rome for the fall semester of 2019. The minute I was accepted into my program and clicked “ATTENDING,” I knew I had made the right choice. My initial fears soon took a backseat to my newfound excitement.

A photo of Rome (Courtesy of Comforts of Rome)

Each of my fears and hesitations has now been transformed into a positive attribute. Getting lost in the small alleys of a new city has become a chance to explore new neighborhoods and experience Roman architecture – one of my academic interests. The fear of being in a country with an unfamiliar language has become a chance for me to acquire a completely new language. And being without my friends for a semester has become an opportunity to create new ties with people from different countries, schools, backgrounds, and cultures.

I also cannot wait to learn in a city like Rome. As an art history major, Rome is the perfect backdrop to my interests in painting and architecture. Courses like The History of Art in Rome and Introduction to Visual Language will be tailored to Rome, offering field trips and opportunities to explore new areas of the city. While Swarthmore boasts incredible academics, leaving the school for a semester to study abroad will offer a new perspective and round out my academic knowledge.

While it took time and careful consideration, I’m confident that I came to the right decision. I can’t wait to move into my apartment in Rome and begin my semester abroad!

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