Doubling Up with Study Abroad: An Inside Look at What to Expect

By Emma Buchman

Foreign Correspondent

This must have been the most eventful winter break that I’ve had since coming to WC.

Before I even got to winter break, my semester in London ended with two final exams, a 2,000-word paper on our internship, and the dreaded 7,000-word dissertation that all of us put off (though I did mine on Alan Turing, so I don’t know why I complained about it so much).

Pictured on the left is The Shard, the tallest building in London, overlooking Tower Bridge and the Tower of London.
This is The Shard, the tallest building in London, overlooking Tower Bridge and the Tower of London.

After I finished my assignments, I stayed in London for an extra week, and my family came to visit me. During this time, I was manically trying to sort out my next semester abroad.

I was going to spend the next semester in Arras, France at the Université d’Artois. In order to get there, I had to get a visa, and due to a multitude of circumstances that were both within and out of my control, the time that I thought I had to get a visa was cut into thirds.

Not to be a brat, but a lot of it had to do with appointment times and other time constraints that I couldn’t really control.

On top of all of this, I had to say goodbye to some of the nicest people that I have met and leave a place that had quickly become not only my favorite city but also a place of comfort during times of anxiety.

This all sounds very much like a rant, but doing two different programs is not impossible or that difficult to do as long as you’re prepared.

You have to be responsible and take everything into your hands. This should be the case for any study abroad experience, but doing two different programs doubles the amount of headaches you get and pushes the limits of your attention span.

You’ll need two different visas, you’ll have to manage two different class schedules in what could be two very different systems of education, and you’ll have to adjust to two different sets of cultural norms that might be very different from your own.

Additionally, you have to be prepared for less time at home than you thought. This may be speaking too narrowly, but I didn’t know that I got two weeks at home until about a month before the end of the second semester.

Not only did this make me cram my visa process, (which was an absolute delight), it also gave me very little time with my friends and family. The most poignant example is probably when my best friend found out. I had assumed (which was a bad idea) that I had already told her about how short my stay would be.

The belfry and hôtel de ville of Arras at la Place des Héros lit up at night.
The belfry and hôtel de ville of Arras at la Place des Héros lit up at night.

The day I came back from London, she came to get dinner with me. I mentioned in passing, and rather indelicately, that I would only be in the U.S. for two weeks before heading to France.

Needless to say, she was not happy. She wasn’t angry at me. She had just wished that I would be there for a longer period of time, and the feeling was mutual.

We’ve been friends for over 15 years now, and there are a lot of things going on in both of our lives that will eventually split us up for even longer than a semester.

This sounds a little melodramatic, but it was truly upsetting that I only got to spend two weeks with my best friend after living apart for four months.

Bottom line is, if you want to do two different study abroad programs be prepared to get headaches from the logistics of getting there and the sacrifice of family time.

This should not discourage anyone from studying in two programs. In the end, the biggest difference between doing a one-year program and two semester-long programs is in terms of getting there and staying there legally.

Otherwise, any problems that you encounter would be the same ones you’d encounter in a program with one destination.

I’ve taken to looking at it as a year-long program with two different destinations that both offer diverse insight into two unique and historic cultures.

The hassle was, well, a hassle, but the experience so far is worth it. Plus, by the end of it all, you’ll realize just how capable you are of being an independent person.

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