As classes start up again this fall and you begin to reunite with your friends and classmates, you might notice that some familiar faces are missing from campus. And that shouldn’t come as a surprise. Every year, instead of returning to Brown, nearly 600 Brown students choose to study abroad, opting for a new academic adventure in another country.
While Brown is a warm and lively campus, many of us eventually get a bit tired of our daily routine on College Hill and begin itching for something new. Study abroad programs offer students an exciting academic alternative to their sophomore — or junior — slump, so it’s no wonder some of your friends are missing from Brown this semester.
But if studying abroad is so enticing, why do so many of us stay at Brown and opt out of the adventure? For some, it’s because they are international students and coming to Brown is already considered “studying abroad.” Others simply love College Hill way too much to leave, even for a semester. But more often than not, the main reason students don’t study abroad — even though they desperately want to — is because they are afraid of not finishing their concentration requirements.
Science, technology, engineering and math concentrators, for example, are notorious for prematurely dismissing study abroad opportunities. Many claim they can’t waste time studying abroad because they have a heavy load of concentration requirements and fear falling behind in their studies. Other students choose not to study abroad because they believe it’s not possible to get an Ivy League-quality education elsewhere. While these beliefs might hold true in some instances, they are usually not the case.
With its Satisfactory/No Credit option and open curriculum, Brown is basically rooting for you to pursue your academic desires abroad, regardless of concentration. In fact, Brown offers engineering programs in Spain and France for the very purpose of combating the misconception that engineers can’t go abroad. And as for STEM students, the Ireland study abroad program at Trinity College offers multiple courses in math and science — most of which are transferable to Brown.
It is also untrue that study abroad institutions are sub-par compared to Brown. Brown carefully selects the institutions it partners with for study abroad programs, making sure they meet the needs and high standards of Brown students. As a result, the majority of Brown-sponsored study abroad programs take place at some of the most renowned and selective universities in the world, including Oxford University, University of Edinburgh and University of Granada — where I will be studying next semester. Rather than diminishing your academic experience, study abroad enhances it by giving you the opportunity to form relationships with distinguished professors and faculty members at both Brown and other elite colleges around the world.
But there’s much more to the study abroad experience than the status of the institution or the courses offered. Cultural immersion, language learning (in non-English speaking countries) and simply forming friendships are just a few of the many benefits that come along with studying outside of Brown. By exploring a new country, you can leave behind your comfort zone at College Hill and engage in opportunities that you would otherwise not have access to. Whether you’re navigating the streets of Hong Kong, speaking French to the locals in Paris, France or investigating religious differences in Spain, studying abroad allows you to do some serious soul searching and explore different passions — all while receiving credit toward your Brown degree.
So if you’ve always felt that studying abroad was out of reach or only for humanities majors, it’s time to reconsider. Don’t limit yourself before doing your research and investigating all possibilities. Chances are there is at least one program — if not multiple programs — that meets your academic needs, no matter what you may be studying.
Samantha Savello ’18 can’t wait to take Spanish classes in Spain next spring. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please send responses to this opinion to email@example.com and other op-eds to firstname.lastname@example.org.