For many Brown students, going abroad is a defining characteristic of junior year, and the majority of these adventure-seekers do so for the fall semester. However, there are a number of us who, for whatever reason, decide to go abroad in the spring. Perhaps it’s a desire to do something after it’s considered “cool” (definitely not) or because of a concentration requirement (probably), but these students are out there. We are two of them.
While the thought of returning to Brown after a semester and a summer is unbelievably exciting, there are a bunch of things that we’ll have to anticipate upon our return. Here are a few of them:
1. Explaining to everyone that you were actually gone last semester and not simply a hermit in Providence.
You know those people who you met during your first week at Brown or during freshman year that you don’t really know, but still feel obligated to say hi to regardless? Well, those people probably have no idea that you were gone last spring — in fact, they might even think you’ve been avoiding their eye contact around campus. This results in a burning need to tell these folks that you were abroad, followed by the clear understanding that they don’t really care. This makes the return to campus social life a little more awkward than anticipated, because after you say you were abroad and they say their semester went well, there isn’t much more to discuss. But at least they don’t think you were a hermit.
Three months from now, many of my classmates and I will be jet-setting to foreign lands in search of adventure, out-of-the box education, invaluable experiences, and the perfect foodstagrams. Going abroad sits somewhere between exciting and strange. Everyone I’ve spoken to, who is leaving Brown for the fall semester, has agreed that it doesn’t yet feel like we’re actually leaving, or like we aren’t going to be back here for a whopping eight months.
You know what they say–count your blessin’s. Though the sophomore slump hit us pretty effing hard, we shouldn’t forget what we’ll miss about Brown while we’re gone. I know — the slump makes it easy to forget. Don’t worry — I’m here to remind you what’s so special about Brunonia.
1. The Ratty. Some study abroad programs don’t offer meal plans for their students. Plus, how could those that do compete with the Ratty? The Ratty, in my opinion, is one of the most amazing things about Brown. Those going abroad won’t find all-you-can eat, pre-paid meals everywhere in the world — or daily access to grilled chicken.
2. The Brown bubble. The Brown bubble is safer than any foreign city; there’s no doubt about that. It’s also a one-stop shop — the Brown bubble has everything you could ever need in a square mile and a half. Food, good places to work, a CVS, bars, and, most importantly, Health Services! What do I do if my appendix explodes while I’m abroad? How do I find antibiotics in the Czech Republic?
3. The familiar faces, which lies in the same vein as the Brown bubble. It sounds like a college cliché, but it’s true — you really can’t go more than two minutes without running into someone you know or without someone saying hi to you. When you’re having a shitty day and are forced to smile to someone you know, your day actually becomes that much better. I’m not so sure you can feel so loved in a city of millions of strangers. (Wow, that sounds super depressing.)
About 600 Brown students go abroad every year. Between researching, applying, and preparing, the process can be daunting. In order to help combat some of the confusion and give students a realistic look into the study abroad experience, an info session called “What I Wish I Knew: Students Perspectives on Studying Abroad” was held last week.
The program started with upperclassmen saying where they went abroad, what they wished the OIP helped more with, and what piece of advice they could give. Keep reading to find some pieces of advice that kept coming up, for any stage of the process you’re in.
Figuring out where you want to go:
No matter where you want to go or what you want to do, you have options. Maybe too many options. There are so many programs to choose from (or petition for) that you’re going to have to do some digging to find the one that fits right. One suggestion for narrowing it down is setting two goals that you want out of your abroad experience. Weigh all the programs based on those two basic criteria to start. So you want to learn a language? So you want to be fully immersed in a place without other American students? So you want to get a better understanding of foreign political systems first hand? Figure out where best you can do just that.
If this looks familiar, it’s because it was your lounge last semester -Vartian Gregorian B 352
A little before 5 p.m. EST on January 13th, the majority of students returning from semesters abroad were assigned rooms via ResLife. They received everything from singles in Grad Center to doubles, triples, and quads in various buildings with randos roommates they were not previously acquainted with. A select number of students were assigned to *triples* in Vartan Gregorian Quad (New Dorm A and B): rooms that were previously lounges.
The unfortunate souls placed in these *triples* were told by ResLife that the situation is “temporary.” However, the email relaying that information read:
“Please note this space is a temporary room, as permanent space becomes available over the remaining weeks of August the office of Residential Life will work with you to relocate.”
August? It seems like that was copy + pasted from previous summer assignment emails.
New Dorm B 352:
In contrast to buildings like Wayland and Hope College (which frequently have their lounges occupied), in New Dorm, each floor’s lounge also doubles as the floor’s kitchen. As of now, only the fourth floor kitchens in buildings A and B remain unoccupied, and available for cooking. Sans meal plan residents are naturally concerned about preparing food next semester.
With study abroad decisions in the near future for many underclassmen, the campus seems overwhelmed with travel-relevant questions. Sophomores on BlogDH had our own questions, so we created a Blog panel in order to answer some of the basics, including the dichotomy between studying abroad in the Fall and the Spring. Our Fall correspondent went to Copenhagen, Denmark, and our Spring correspondent went to Paris, France.
Will I implode on myself if I miss Spring Weekend?
Spring: Um, no. If you go your junior spring, you’ll still have your senior Spring Weekend, which is the most important. Depending on where you go abroad, you might also get a Spring Weekend-esque concert. I was in France when gay marriage was legalized, and MIKA gave a free, outdoor concert. There were thousands of people, the performance was amazing, and I didn’t have to wake up at an ungodly hour to give BCA my money.
Is it more fun to have warm weather when I arrive or at the end of my stay abroad?
Fall: Particularly for the destination in which I chose to study abroad, it was really great having warm weather when I arrived. Being able to explore an unfamiliar, new home in the sunlight and warmth was a way to make the transition much smoother. More specifically, the place I went also increasingly loses hours of light by the minute, so by the time I left in December there were only six hours of daylight. I couldn’t imagine trying to navigate the streets of a foreign city in the darkness.
Spring: I enjoyed going from cold to warm because it meant the weather could only get better with time. I also chose to study abroad in the spring because I hate Providence weather from January-April. The way I saw it, if I’m going to be cold, I might as well be cold in Europe.
What’s the deal with commuting?
Fall: It differs based on what the details of your program are. Some are situated on campuses on which all students live, whereas others (like the one I attended) are more of “commuter” schools. If you are studying abroad in Europe, however, the public transportation systems are almost guaranteed to be very functional and easy to navigate. The program will usually cover your commuting costs, as well.
If you’re a junior, odds are one of your friends or acquaintances just got back from studying abroad. They made Facebook albums with stupid names that feature pictures of them in front of French landmarks or playing with children in India or drinking lots of legal beer. They’ve told you all the “cah-razy” things they did after drinking absinthe in Prague or staying out until 6a.m. in Berlin. You pleasantly nodded and remarked on how interesting their experience was for the first two weeks, but now you’re getting pretty sick of it. Why not just replace your friend with a random study abroad phrase generator (since that’s all they are now anyway)? Well, if you want to, Blog’s got you covered.
When I lived in Paris I always used to drink wine next to the Eiffel Tower with this artist you probably haven’t heard of .
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