According to Wesleyan’s website, about 300 students go abroad each year on various programs to many different countries. With statistics like this, it is clear that Wesleyan makes it very possible to study, work, or intern all around the world. Having just returned from a spring semester abroad on Wesleyan’s ECCO program in Bologna, Italy, I can say firsthand that it is a challenging but very rewarding experience. Certain majors, such as Psychology and College of Letters, require or strongly suggest studying abroad, but students of all disciplines also decide to study for a variety of reasons. While I feel that my experience in Bologna was one of the highlights of my Wesleyan experience, studying abroad is not for everybody! Uprooting your entire life and living and studying somewhere else for five months is hard work, so I highly encourage students to make sure they have a strong reason for wanting to go abroad (more than just that your friends are doing it too) and that you feel emotionally prepared to make this giant step.
If you feel that studying abroad is the right choice for you, planning ahead and making smart choices are essential to making your experience the least stressful and most enjoyable as possible! Here are some things to consider:
WHEN TO GO:
Wesleyan students have the option of studying abroad a full year, fall semester, or spring semester. While it may be a tad more difficult to obtain credits or financial support, other students also decide to spend their summers studying or working in another country too. Additionally, while the majority of students study during their junior year, others go their sophomore spring or senior fall.
While there are some common pros and cons that Wesleyan students consider when deciding to study in the Fall (pros: do not miss out on events like Spring Fling or Senior Week, have the option to extend their stay to the full academic year, cons: have less control over living arrangements when returning to campus) or the Spring (pros: have the opportunity to continue travelling over the summer, often wonderful weather, cons: must figure out next year’s housing and summer plans remotely), I encourage everybody to take into also account their personal academic plan as well.
While College of Letters students must go abroad their sophomore spring, and College of Social Studies students generally go during their junior fall, most departments allow students to study abroad whenever they would like. It is up to you to make sure that you can receive major credits while abroad, or will be able to complete your major when you return. You should check your major’s website and speak to your major advisor to figure out if you can receive major credits while abroad. You can also check on Wesmaps to see when required courses are offered. For instance, if you major offers required courses (or just courses that interest you more) only in the Fall, maybe it is better for you to study abroad during the Spring. If you are going on a program with a language requirement (Wesleyan’s programs usually have them) make sure you plan your courses ahead of time!
Additionally, certain programs offer different experiences in different semesters.
One example is that my program is the Vassar-Wesleyan program in Paris, which offers a French intensive course in Bordeaux only in the Fall semester. Finally, certain locations may be more desirable during a certain time of year than another. For instance, winters in Sweden tend to be VERY cold and dark. If studying in Sweden during the Fall semester, each day will progressively become darker in colder. If studying in Sweden in the spring, each day will instead become sunnier and warmer, which many people prefer. This brings us to another very important consideration…
WHERE TO GO:
For some students, the decision of where they want to study is a no brainer. Many people, myself included, use studying abroad as an opportunity to go somewhere they have wanted to go for their whole lives, either to connect to their roots or learn a language. However, if you know you want to study abroad but have no idea where you want to go, that is okay! Some find universities abroad that specialize in their academic interests, and some are drawn to certain aspects or themes of study abroad programs. Just like when choosing a college, you can choose a country of program by pinpointing things that are important to you. Maybe that is whether you go to an English speaking country or not, whether you live in a home stay or an apartment, or whether you want to live in a big city or a rural village. Once you know what you want from your experience, Wesleyan’s Office of Study Abroad, located on the ground floor of Fisk, is a wonderful resource to help you explore not only Wesleyan sponsored programs, but other programs that Wesleyan students have gone on in the past.
To get started, check out Wesleyan’s study abroad website: http://www.wesleyan.edu/ois/