When “study abroad” comes to mind, we often neglect the first word: STUDY.
Behind all of the beautiful pictures, travels, food, and experiences outside the classroom, we are all still aiming to achieve an education while abroad.
Currently, I am doing the IES Abroad Study London program. There are plenty of different programs that IES Abroad offers across the world, where many are tailored toward a specific area of study or major such as Health Policy, Theatre, Business, and more. With COVID, many of these programs have been altered or have not been offered. My advice is to explore as many options as possible and choose whichever location and program best fits your needs.
As COVID put a halt to many of our plans, the only opportunity I had to study abroad is now, fall semester of my senior year and my last semester of college. Therefore, the requirements I had left to finish my degree were very few. I am a communications major, so I definitely wanted to see what classes I could take that fit in that realm such as Media and UK Politics and Conflict in Reporting Journalism through City University. Thankfully, this allowed me to have a lot of freedom in my class selection and take classes that I otherwise wouldn’t have thought of taking, such as a British cinema class.
The way IES Abroad offers classes is very manageable and even enjoyable. The small classroom setting is intimate for a learning experience, and allows us to better connect with our professors and classmates, as well as have more discussion based assignments and opportunities. Coming from a small school back home where a small class size is very important to me, I have definitely benefited from this environment.
I also opted to take a class at City University of London, to take full advantage of the London education experience. Taking a class here has allowed me to step out of my bubble and meet people from all over the world who attend school in London. I think there is great value in learning from your peers, even just through conversation, which taking a class at City has allowed me to do.
Balancing academics, traveling, and socializing while abroad can definitely be a challenge, as all are important aspects of the study abroad journey. For me, what works best is planning out a schedule and staying as organized as possible. Planning travel around times where workload is light, reading on the train or plane, and sometimes taking a step back and allowing yourself to go out with friends when you need a break is a personal balance you need to find that works best for you.
Finally, when it does come to hitting the books, find a study spot (or spots) that work best for you. I am definitely someone who enjoys more of a social setting to get work done. I love going to coffee shops, cafes, the student lounge, or even sitting in the park to do some readings. Sometimes, the classroom setting, or even your apartment can feel confining. Get out, explore your town or area and find your spot—you may never know what hidden gems you will find.
Of course, education does not just exist in a classroom setting. The opportunities to learn and experience life in a new country is the best educational experience of all. My biggest piece of advice is say yes, step outside of your comfort zone (safely of course), and always have an open mind when trying new things. Studying abroad is truly a once in a lifetime opportunity, so take advantage of everything this life changing experience has to offer.
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<p>Zoe Rodriguez-Willie is a senior at California Lutheran University, majoring in Communications with a minor in Sports Management. She is a Southern California native who is a connoisseur of European soccer and a major proponent of women’s sports. When she is not cheering on Barcelona or the USWNT, you may find her at Disneyland, the beach, or with her cat, Willow.</p>