Advice on studying abroad / whether it is worth it / how to make the most out of your experience?


I spent this spring abroad, and it was definitely worth it! It's a great experience to get away from the everyday constancy of Penn, immerse yourself in a different national and school culture, and see new places and things - even if it does mean leaving friends and hitting some of the "exchange student stereotypes."

From my own experience and things I wish I'd done, here are a list of recommendations to make the most out of your experience abroad!

Academics
- Make sure you know what you can/can't get credit for in advance of even applying!
- Talk with Penn Abroad, your own advisors, family and friends, to decide on a place to apply. Some schools abroad have really strong programs in certain departments, and others offer diversity in courses that Penn might not.
- Be familiar with the school systems in your countries of interest. Some European or English schools, for example, don't give you as much flexibility with electives as Penn might - and differences in assessment work too. (Ex: I've had no midterms this semester, but all my grades depend on a single final assignment. Yikes.)
- Make sure you can graduate. < This is important.

Travel
- Yes, the abroad stereotype! Wholeheartedly recommend at least visiting somewhere new, whether that's a new country with a new language, a special event or celebration, or just somewhere really cool.
- Plan and book in advance, don't leave having regrets.
- Go with friends - either meet people abroad (other exchange students will probably be more down) or grab friends from Penn who are abroad.
- Consider solo-tripping: spend anywhere from a couple days to a week or so on your own traveling - it can be pricier and definitely more lonely, but for many people is a new and memorable experience.
- Visit something cool and new, or do something wild.
- Be informed about travel regulations and such abroad. Ex: Schengen area, when to get your passport stamped, RyanAir (lmao)

Everything Else
- Don't forget to experience the city and country you're in! It can be easy to miss some of those things especially if you're out having fun or at the library studying.
- Make sure to call home!
- Don't get too much FOMO :)

That being said, there can be a lot of reasons why abroad might not make sense. Either for financial (Penn financial aid carries over, but doesn't factor in costs of travel or fluctuating exchange rates), academic, or personal reasons, if you don't have the full flexibility to spend a semester away, don't stretch yourself too thin for it (a lot of students don't go abroad). Penn Global Seminars and Penn Summer Abroad are other options to look into!

Bovine Bear, April 14 2019, 6:23 PM