If you’re reading this, do it. Pull the trigger. Study abroad.
My message, as a double major in Finance and Economics having been involved in SDSU Greek Life, Associated Students and other organizations and activities, is simple: Going abroad is a great educational, social, and cultural experience. The rewards by far outweigh any concerns, if any, you may have with the Study Abroad process.
“It’ll be one of the best times in your life, so trust the process of getting there and enjoy the thrill.”
You’ll hear numerous pros regarding studying abroad, some which include:
- Gaining an expanded appreciation for different cultures
- Making new acquaintances from different backgrounds
- Discovering new places previously unknown
- Trying new authentic foods and drinks.
All have proven to be true. Take it from me. I lived in southern Italy for 6 years as a child and traveled constantly to new beautiful places. As a result, I thought going abroad wouldn’t have as much of a mental impact on me as it did for others. To my surprise, studying abroad in northern Italy exposed me to new customs and traditions, people and places, and foods and drinks that I previously had no knowledge of. I traveled to new spots in Europe, had a blast while doing it, and expanded my already tested cultural horizon in the process.
The pros you hear for studying abroad will come from both people who have and have not studied abroad. The experience is universally known as being eccentric and wonderful. Cons, however, only seem the come from students who need a way of convincing themselves that it would be unwise for them to go abroad. Of course, based on experience, the cons you hear from people who have never studied abroad (or even been abroad) don’t really have validity.
You’ll hear: “It’ll set me back in credits” or “My friends aren’t going so I don’t think it’ll be as fun.” Kids are afraid to leave their current situations. People today are afraid to change, rather than being afraid of failing to change.
You’ll be set back in credits if — and only if — you put in minimal work to find the right program at the right location that has the right classes. Picking where to study abroad is no different than choosing which college to attend out of high school; It takes hard work to decide your own optimal path.
Plenty of schools will have plenty of classes to choose from, so don’t limit yourself to only a couple options. Having available GE’s to take abroad does increases the scope of possible destinations, but there will be plenty of universities with classes that will fulfill your upper-divisional needs (more likely than not, the schools with a more available course load will provide a more well-rounded educational experience).
Socially, going abroad without close friends gives you a different kind of study abroad experience. The goal of going abroad is to expand your cultural horizon and encounter new information that challenges your global outlook on the world around you, so going solo has its rewards. You are more likely to meet new people, more likely to complete your travel destination bucket list and more likely to fully immerse yourself into the foreign culture.
However, traveling with friends allows you to express your unfiltered personality; Your experience will mostly revolve around the party, and less so in living like a local. It’s all about what you personally want to achieve from your study abroad experience (both are just as fun, but in different ways).
Now, as stated earlier, choosing your study abroad destination requires time, commitment and research, no different than applying for undergrad. Always keep in mind the school size, location, weather, student population and academic rigor.
Academic rigor? Oh yes, the notion that all international classes require minimal effort for adequate results (passing) has not reached every school in Europe. There is a reason the application process for some universities requires a higher than normal GPA or suggests that only students of certain majors or programs should apply. Most schools aren’t overly intense but a select few are, so take the time to research the academic intensity of their international (English) classes.
Be excited. This is such a unique opportunity that so few have had the luxury of partaking in. Take advantage of this once in a lifetime prospect of indulging in a culture alien from your own. It’ll be one of the best times in your life, so trust the process of getting there and enjoy the thrill.
My School: Universita Bocconi
The University of Bocconi is an extremely prestigious business and economics school centrally located in the city of Milan, the Italian capital of finance and the world capital of fashion.
The school rivals other world-renowned universities including Oxford and the London School of Economics. The school employs extremely accomplished professors; Half of my own higher learning instructors have Wikipedia pages, another is a guest lecturer at Yale and other universities in Shanghai, China. Another is the son of a senator in the Italian Parliament.
Here you will learn from the brightest minds Italy and Europe have to offer.
As a result of the impressive standing of the school in European and world education rankings, classes are strenuous, especially economics and finance classes that require math. While difficult, my courses taught me how to be successful in real-world business and helped indicate the level of difficulty and content of course work that I would potentially experience in graduate school. I am beyond grateful I had the opportunity to gain insight from highly-accomplished men and women about how I can be successful in my career.
There are plenty of general business courses that are not intense, however, so if attending Bocconi, research all the potential courses that you might enroll in to construct a schedule that most conforms to your study abroad expectations and desires.
Milan is a fantastic Italian city. It’s lively and kinetic and its people are exuberant. The Duomo Plaza contains the largest Gothic Church in Europe, and is located next to the stunning Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, a famous and artistic open gallery that contains authentic Italian restaurants and high-end shopping and clothing stores including Gucci, Louis Viton and Prada. Milan also is home to Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper.
For young people, Milan has the best nightlife in Italy, where you can make a trip to Navigli, which features countless shops, restaurants and bars along the canal waterfront. The best part about Milan is that it’s centrally located in Europe, making travel simple and affordable. Milan also has countless parks amd monuments and plenty of shopping. You can catch an AC Milan or Inter Milan futbol match at the famous San Siro stadium, and even access the numerous charming small towns and lakes surrounding Milan and northern Italy, including the famous Lake Como and the Swiss Lake Lugano.
Milan is a phenomenal city certain to hold your interest and provide an abundant amount of activities to make your study abroad experience unforgettable.
Lukos Vodantis is a finance and economics major. He studied abroad at Universita Bocconi in Milan, Italy during spring semester.