Imagine this: you’re strolling down an ancient pathway, in awe as you gaze at the Alhambra–a legendary palace and fortress– towering over you. A little later, you’re in a Moroccan marketplace, surrounded by desert and snow-capped mountains. Next weekend, you’re in Rome, waving up at the Pope and splashing in the Trevi fountain.
Or: waking up to the smell of espresso on the stove, walking through the historic center of an ancient Italian city just to get to class, and deciding mid-day whether you really need that second gelato… On Fridays, you make use of the fact that you don’t have class by take day-trips to Verona, Florence, and Venice, or by hopping on a RyanAir flight to London just for the Mumford & Sons concert because the plane tickets are cheaper than the concert tickets.
Does any of this sound good to you?
These were all moments from our study abroad experiences– Carolyn’s in Madrid, Spain, Cynthia’s in Bologna, Italy. If you’re thinking about studying abroad, whether in Spain, Italy, or anywhere else in the world, pay attention to this post to make sure you have as many choices as possible.
Although you have a couple of years to think about this decision and where you would want to go, there are some things you should know about studying abroad at Wes. First of all, most students who study abroad go in their junior year, but you can also go during the second semester of your sophomore year of the first semester of your senior year. College of Letters majors are the most common exception- the program requires that students study abroad during the second semester of sophomore year.
Wesleyan really encourages as full an immersion as possible for students that choose to study abroad. Therefore, if you’re thinking of studying abroad in a non-English speaking country, you should check out the list of approved programs and their requirements. If you’re starting a new language at Wes, it’s especially important to be aware of the country’s language requirements. For example, the programs in Argentina and Chile require students to have taken Spanish 221, which takes five semesters of Spanish to get to if you start with Intro, or the equivalent. So if you wanted to study abroad in Argentina in the spring of your junior year and have never taken Spanish before, you would need to take a Spanish class every semester.
Basically, you should check out what the requirements are and start taking the language pretty soon and make sure you get into the language class of your choice. Intro language classes fill up pretty quickly because most are capped at around 18 students. Intro classes give preference to freshmen, so you should sign up this year rather than wait. Plus most intro classes are year-long so if you are interested in starting a new language, you must do so in the fall.
If you don’t see any program on the approved list that interests you, you can petition for a program of your choice. If you do choose to petition, keep in mind that it’s important to express a compelling academic reason why the program better suits your interests than those on the approved list.
You can also prepare for study abroad by taking courses about the country or region you plan on going to, which may also give you a better sense of the historical, cultural, political, and social context for your study abroad experience.
If you’re interested in finding out more on study abroad or summer study abroad, the Office of International Studies is a terrific resource. They keep huge binders of all the study abroad programs students have gone on and each student’s experiences. They also will be able to tell you about specific programs in depth and can put you in touch with former participants. If you’re eager to meet with them, they will have daily office hours once the school year begins.