I may have recovered from COVID, but now I’m suffering from another disease: senioritis.
Studying abroad wasn’t a question for me. Choosing when was the only decision I had to make. Unfortunately, the international impacts of COVID since my freshman year limited my choices. I had originally planned to study abroad my junior year, but kept pushing it back because I continued to fear COVID. I finally decided to study abroad this semester, the fall of my senior year. There have been some benefits to this decision: I already completed my political science degree requirements so I had more freedom in choosing classes, I have more background knowledge about some topics I’m studying, and I am not too concerned about credits transferring because of how many I already had upon arrival. On the other hand, I have struggled with additional concerns of post-graduation plans. I plan to attend law school next year, so I have spent a lot of time studying for the LSAT, working on law school applications, and communicating with mentors and professors from San Antonio. Additionally, I have had to limit some travel and follow a stricter budget in order to afford my application fees. I still have a month left of the semester, so I cannot definitively say the the advantages have outweighed the disadvantages just yet.
I interviewed Miles and Jonathan, two seniors in my program, in hopes that their experiences can help answer this question. Miles is a senior physics major and Jonathan is an international studies major, so they can offer different perspectives on this matter. Detailed below are the questions I asked and their answers.
What are the benefits to studying abroad as a senior?
Miles says that, since he waited to study abroad his senior year, he has a clearer idea of what he wants to do. “I’m not studying german at my home school so this is a nice break, but I still have a clear understanding of what’s going on.” He says that, as a physics major, “Combining academics and exploring Berlin is something that other underclassmen don’t get to experience.”
For Jonathan, studying abroad was a solution to burn out. He says, “It’s nice to have a break from my rigorous university.” Jonathan had the opportunity to study and visit Germany before his semester in Berlin, so he is also enjoying interacting with the city in a more informed way. “I lived in Germany for a year before and studied German for a few years, but it’s interesting to come back and be in a place and engage with it more critically and academically. It’s also interesting how my relationship with Germany has changed, especially since I didn’t study in a city as international as Berlin.”
What have you struggled with the most?
Miles simply said, “Boring classes.” He also dislikes how many different levels of German there are. Aside from that, he also listed additional responsibilities like grad school applications, figuring out what he wants to do after college, and working on his senior capstone. “In some ways, this is not an ideal time to study abroad.”
Jonathan also struggles with the classes, and, while this has been a needed break from his university, he does miss the academic rigor of US classes. “This is unengaging.” In addition, he shares some uncertainty about the future and had to work on applications of his own. “The future stuff is scary. Also, I miss my girlfriend.”
Why did you choose to study abroad this semester?
Originally, Miles did not plan to study abroad out of fear of missing out on the senior experience experience, but he realized, “this is one of the only times in your life when you can go somewhere for a long time with zero responsibilities.”
Jonathan’s decision came as a response to the difficulties of existing as a college student. “I was incredibly burnt out and overworked last winter when I made the decision to study abroad.” This decision ended up benefiting him, though, because his senior capstone is over the Humboldt Forum in Berlin.
How many classes are you taking to fulfill degree requirements?
Miles is taking zero classes at IES Abroad to fulfill degree requirements, so his studies here are mostly to learn. “This is completely different from what I’m doing at [my home school] so I like learning.”
Jonathan also does not need any of his IES Abroad classes to fulfill degree requirements.
To what extent have you begun preparing for life after graduation?
Miles is applying to graduate school as I type this up, so he is definitely preparing for life after graduation.
Jonathan is also thinking about life after graduation a lot. Over the summer, he figured out what he wanted to do after graduation, and has taken the steps this semester to achieve those goals. In fact, he says, “I realized I wanted to continue engaging with academia and the classes here are nonacademic, so that reaffirmed my wish to be in challenging courses.”
Would you recommend studying abroad fall of senior year?
Miles doesn’t think his experience would have been super different if he studies abroad at a different time, but he does recommend going earlier if possible.
Jonathan says that studying abroad senior year is a great solution to burnout, but he doesn’t see anything uniquely bad or good about studying abroad fall of senior year.
Studying abroad as a junior is definitely more conventional, but, personally, I have found the benefits in waiting until my senior year. Of course, I have been overwhelmed at times and stressed about the future way more than my younger peers, but I am free from worrying too much about completing credits for my homeschool. Ultimately, choosing when to study abroad depends on many factors that are unique to each individual, but it is important to weigh your options when making this decision.
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Hallo! My name is Kassidy Witt, and I am a senior political science major at Trinity University in San Antonio, TX. I moved around the United States a lot growing up, yet my travel bug is still not content. I love adventure and I am a huge history nerd, so I am beyond excited to study in Berlin this fall!