College is the perfect time to broaden your horizons, and for particularly adventurous students, this means living and taking classes in a foreign country. In fact, 25% of students at the University of Rochester go abroad at some point during their undergraduate years. The University of Rochester has a variety of study abroad options for different academic programs and destinations!
I chose to spend all my four years here in Rochester, but two of my friends spent last spring abroad. I interviewed Eve Lang (class of 2024), who is majoring in brain and cognitive science and psychology, and Elizabeth Lotts (class of 2025), who is majoring in psychology, to learn more about their experiences overseas.
How did you decide you wanted to go abroad? What was the process of applying like?
Eve: I’ve known I wanted to go abroad since middle school when I saw some of my older cousins go! Applying was pretty simple, I looked on the study abroad portal for programs that had classes I could take towards my major.
Elizabeth: As a kid, I fell in love with the idea of full immersion as opposed to temporary travel. I started looking at different programs that both my psych major and Spanish minor could benefit from and found that the IES Barcelona program fit best with what I wanted. As long as applicants don’t forget where their passport is like I did, the application process is relatively smooth.
What were your favorite parts of going abroad?
Eve: How much freedom I had to travel and explore, and how easy Sydney’s public transport system made day trips! My favorite parts were exploring Tasmania or diving on the Great Barrier Reef, and also New Zealand and swimming with whale sharks in Western Australia.
Elizabeth: The spontaneity! I loved being able to plan a last minute trip with other kids I barely knew to different cities. Every morning there was something new that I had the opportunity to experience if I wanted to. I also weirdly loved walking through different parks, sitting at a bench with a croissant, and people watching. Barcelona encourages a slow pace, time to take in the world and sip at “un cortado”. I remember the first time I asked for a coffee to go. The culture there is beautifully based around working to live, not living to work.
Would you recommend this abroad program to prospective students? Why or why not?
Eve: Yes! I thought that it was super fun to take classes at the University of Sydney–it’s not structured the same as UofR but it’s a really pretty campus and the student’s are friendly and outgoing. It’s also on the approved list so the credits transfer back to the UofR really easily.
Elizabeth: I absolutely would. Take classes that interest you, experience a relaxed culture (if you’re from the east coast you need that), meet new, captivating people, and watch a different world move around you. IES is super helpful and honestly not too expensive.
Do you have any advice for students who are thinking about going abroad?
Eve: It’s not cheap–look up the conversion rate before you go and understand what the cost of living is like and save accordingly. Also be prepared to be outside of your comfort zone, but know that people are really friendly and want you to have the best experience while you’re in their home country.
Elizabeth: I know Eve already mentioned it, but absolutely bring more money than you think. I know people that ran through their budget in the first month. Another important thing: don’t expect it to be perfect. I expected easy perfection, that ideal study abroad experience that I had seen on social media. It was not easy, and it most definitely was not perfect. There are ups and downs, but I learned so much from both. Don’t set your expectations too high, and remember to take advantage of new experiences every day. Even if it’s going to a new cafe or eating at that restaurant you’ve passed ten times over again, the little ups will help the big downs. With that, don’t be afraid to do those things alone. I found a lot of myself in those lonely moments, and it’s an inevitability when you’re abroad. During my time abroad, I hopped on a plane and flew to the southern cities of Spain alone. I had to find my hostel, eat my meals, go to museums, navigate the cities, and fill my time myself. Thankfully, that trip provided me with new friends and some great stories.
If these stories sound like something you are interested in, take some time to explore the Center for Education Abroad webpage and find a program that suits your goals!