The Short-Term Study Abroad Experience
For any and all adventure-seekers who have serious commitment issues.
It was the fall of my junior year and I was in the middle of an internal battle about whether or not I wanted to go abroad in the spring. I would constantly rotate between the two extremes of really wanting to go and really not wanting to go. All the potential adventure was pushing me forward but leaving all my friends and the FOMO that I knew I would experience was seriously holding me back. I’m very bad with commitment and I always second guess myself and change my mind, so committing to a whole semester abroad was a HUGE deal to me. So I decided to look in to some alternative options. While roaming my school’s study abroad website, I came across a whole section for short-term study aboard. This was pretty much the answer to my prayers; I could have the best of both worlds, go abroad and not miss out on a whole semester of school.
All the upcoming programs were for the winter term, which made sense with the end of the fall semester quickly approaching. A winter term was exactly what I wanted, not too long and not too short. Not to mention, the University of Maryland has painfully long winter breaks; I’m talking from Christmas to the end of January. Don’t get me wrong, I’m definitely not complaining about this, but when all your high school friends go to southern schools and have to be back for the spring within the first week of January, it gets pretty lonely.
So, I did what every logical teenage girl does; I went a little overboard and applied to every program that caught my eye. South Africa? Applied. Thailand? Applied. London? Applied. Honestly, I didn’t really care where I was going to go, I just wanted to have the opportunity to go somewhere. The only thing I knew about this particular winter break was that I didn’t want to spend it on the couch watching Grey’s Anatomy re-runs by myself like last year.
The program that I got accepted to was a three-week documentary filmmaking class in London. I didn’t know anything about documentary filmmaking, or who was going, or London for a matter of fact, but the program would count as three credits toward my major and it would be a new exciting experience, so I was in.
Fast-forward two and a half months and there I was boarding my plane on January 3rd. My thought process consisted of British accents, Fish and Chips, and giant red tour busses, what’s not to love? Okay fine, maybe a little bit of learning too, but hey, that’s a small price to pay. Well after three weeks, I found that I did love those things about London but I also realized that London is so much more then that.
This realization came around 8:30 p.m. on the day that we arrived. My class of 13 and I, awkward from the fact that we didn’t know each other yet and tired from the jet-lag, crammed together to fit into one of the observation carts on the London Eye. When we got to the top and as I looked down on the city, I was truly amazed. City lights were shining as far as my eye could see, the city was larger then I could of ever imagined. The next three weeks flew by with culture, field trips, tons of exploring and a fair share of British pub visits. I wouldn’t trade one second of it for anything.
I built amazing connections with my classmates, got to explore a huge city, and even learned a thing or two about documentary filmmaking. The best part was that I felt like I got a full abroad experience basically without even leaving school, I still got to go back in the spring and be at school with all my friends.
If you’re at all like me, look into see what your school has available for short-term study abroad, you may be surprised with what you find. Most schools offer a wide-variety of winter, summer and spring break programs that are ideal for students who can’t commit to a whole year abroad.
That’s my short-term experience, what’s yours?