Summer Study Abroad: Oh, the Places You Could Go!
This is part one of my summer study abroad series! Follow along this summer as I post about my travels in Sweden and Denmark while I study in Stockholm and Copenhagen through the Danish Institute for Study Abroad (DIS).
Since I started looking at colleges in high school, I’ve wanted to spend a semester abroad. Now I am lucky enough to be planning the summer after my sophomore year of college in Europe. However, when I was fifteen years old, nobody told me how much planning actually goes into studying abroad, even before you get on a plane. (I might be willing to give my Dad, who studied in England for a year when he was in college, a pass for not preparing me adequately for the process since it was the 80s.)
Perhaps the most fun and also the most daunting task of studying abroad is actually deciding where you’d like to go. For me, deciding where I wanted to go was probably a bit easier than it is for most people. When I was in middle school, I had a penpal named Anne-Line who was from Denmark. When I first started corresponding with her, I could barely point out Denmark on the map, but she inspired me to learn more about Danish culture and even complete the Danish course on Duolingo. Ever since then, I’ve longed to go to Denmark. It certainly helps that Scandinavian summers are known for being particularly mild with average temperatures in the 60s (around 20 for those used to Celsius) and sometimes upwards of 18 hours of sunlight a day. When I found out the Danish Institute for Study Abroad (DIS) also offered summer classes in Stockholm, I figured I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to travel there as well.
There are hundreds of programs for students of just about any major in pretty much every country. While that’s really exciting, it can also make it a little difficult to narrow your program search down to just one or two. Of course, there is no “one size fits all” approach to choosing your study abroad location, nor is there one location which is just perfect for everyone, so start your search with some questions:
What do you want to study while you’re abroad?
Do you speak the country’s native language? If not, are you comfortable with that or are willing to learn as you go?
How can you integrate this experience with your education at your home institution?
What does this particular location have to offer that you can’t get in a domestic setting?
Another important thing to consider when you start thinking about studying abroad is when you’d like to do it. Most often, students will study abroad at some point during their junior year. At Barnard, studying abroad during the spring semester of junior year is especially common. However, there are also plenty of students who still study abroad during the fall or the entire academic year. Some students will even study abroad in the first semester of their senior year. Many students will also do programs abroad during their summers.
Unlike in academic year programs, credits from summer study abroad programs are transferred like domestic summer programs (i.e., if you were to take summer classes at a local school) and summer study abroad is not regulated by the Office of Study Abroad. This just means that in order to receive credit for these courses, you would have to speak directly to the Registrar. You still have support from the Office of Study Abroad when it comes to figuring out which programs to which you’d like to apply and actually applying to them.
That brings me to the thing that may have been pressing on your mind since I started talking about this whole process: what if I don’t get into the program?! As someone with two jobs at the Office of Admissions constantly answering student and parent inquiries about the competitiveness of the college application process, I can assure you, I thought the same exact thing when applying to my programs. However, you can breathe a little easier knowing that most study abroad programs are not as competitive as the undergraduate application process is here, and this holds true for U.S.-based study abroad programs as well. Most programs will list their admissions requirements and as long as you meet these criteria, you stand a good chance at getting into the program.
For this blog series, you’re going to follow along with me during my summer in Europe at the DIS. I’m spending this summer in Sweden, Denmark, Belgium, Germany. For the first three weeks of this summer, I will be in Stockholm taking a class about the two-directional interaction between social norms and television. For the next three weeks, I will be in Copenhagen taking a class on terrorism and counter-terrorism from a European perspective and during this class, I will also be taking a week-long study tour through Brussels, Cologne, and Munich. Both of these classes are a bit outside of my major area, history, though they both touch upon history in their own ways. You can definitely find plenty of classes, especially in history, wherever you go, but I decided I wanted to broaden my horizons a bit this summer and take two classes just for fun.
In my next post, I’ll be talking a little more about the process of actually getting to your destination country, from booking your plane ticket to sorting out a visa, as well as my own expectations for studying abroad.
Until then, farvel!