Preparing to Study Abroad Spring Semester

By Cassy Sottile
Elm Staff Writer

Pack your bags; it’s time to study abroad.

“There is some practical as well as mental and emotional preparation that goes into studying abroad,” said Study Abroad Coordinator Alex Levy ‘15.

Studying abroad is open to all majors, although it is more challenging to fit a semester abroad in the hard sciences or human development certification disciplines. Any student who is thinking about studying abroad should mention it as early as possible to their advisors.

The application to study abroad is located on the Global Education Office page. Students will apply to both the GEO as well as the host institution where they want to study. Once they register for classes at their host institution, the classes will return to Washington College as credit.


The GEO holds workshops for students who are preparing to study abroad for a semester.

“We hold three pre-departure workshops for preparation aspects—logistical information such as course registration, visas, what happens to a student’s WC account while they are away but also less academic information such as packing lists and how to best combat culture shock,” Levy said.

Junior Tori Zieminski will be studying abroad next semester at the University of College Cork in Cork, Ireland.

“I prepared for this by talking with my family and teachers about the logistics, but I have also talked with my bank about the money exchange and payments that take much longer than a few minutes like I originally thought and have to plan in advance,” she said.

Rhea Arora, an international student who studied abroad at Leiden University in the Netherlands last spring, said, “I was already mentally prepared to live in a different country for an extended period of time. But in general, I’ve found that taking care of things like immigration, housing, banking, etc., helps me avoid anxiety related to the move.”

Studying abroad requires independent action and self-awareness. Students should research their host institution and country to learn the context of the environment in which they will live.

“Communicate with resources provided. Use social media to familiarize yourself and investigate the differences between where you will be studying and the United States,” Levy said.

Levy herself studied abroad in England in 2013.

“It is an exercise in independence. Students take the next step in learning, living, and existing in a really different place,” she said.

Students going abroad should sort out their packing lists, especially their electronics, well in advance.

“I packed only as much as I could take without any help. With connecting flights and transfers, it’s good not to be bogged down in luggage,” said senior Mallory Smith, who studied abroad in Cork, Ireland in the spring semester.

Beyond packing for the semester abroad, get involved in your host institution and country with places and activities that could not be found in the U.S.

“Getting involved in wherever you are studying abroad allows you to immerse yourself more fully in the culture and country and helps aid students get over their culture shock,” Levy said.

“I am excited to learn about Irish culture and explore the country. I will be taking my first archaeology class in Ireland, which seems wicked cool,” Zieminski said.

According to previous students, studying abroad for a semester is not a GPA killer, it provides students with new ways to learn and immerse themselves in a different culture full of new experiences.

“Studying abroad is saying yes to an adventure. Say yes to a 20-euro flight to Prague for 36 hours. Get lost in your host city, become a tourist in your own life. When you come home with 81 cents in your bank account, you’ll understand that studying abroad is priceless,” Smith said.

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