I have been blessed this year to be able to participate in two of Geneva’s study abroad programs, the Rome program and Semester in Scotland. If you would have asked me this time last year, I would have had no idea that I would spend more of my year in Europe then back home in Virginia. It has been so amazing to get the chance to expand my view of the world by being in foreign countries, and I still have another two months here in Scotland! Recently I have been reflecting on the two programs, how they are different and the benefits that each of them offers. For context the Rome program was in Rome and Florence and goes for three weeks. Semester in Scotland is over a whole semester taking place in Airdrie with trips to Glasgow, Edinburgh, and London.
Studying Abroad Short Term – The Rome Program
1. Any major can do it.
Since it happens outside of the traditional semester any major can participate. It does not affect graduation dates and fitting in all of your required classes. The Rome program can also count as credit for Humanities 203 and 303. One class and the trip to Italy can count for both classes! I really enjoyed that our trip to Rome was with such a wide variety of different majors, I was able to make friends with people who I would not have crossed paths with otherwise.
2. Fast paced.
There is not much downtime because you are seeing so much everyday. This can be good and bad. It is good because everything is already planned out, you do not have to worry about whether or not you will see something. The fast pace can also be overwhelming, but it is definitely worth it! There is no better feeling then climbing into bed after having walked 8-12 miles of Roman roads. There were definitely times when I almost dozed off on the train, but looking back that tiredness really was not that big of a deal. Looking back I remember what we saw not how tired I was at the time.
3. Short means you are only gone for three weeks.
This is perfect for people who are not as comfortable with being gone for four months. It is just the right amount of time to see everything while not having to completely move there. In three weeks you also develop a close bond with your travel companions while not driving each other too crazy. By the end of the three weeks I was feeling ready to go home, but I also did not want to have to say goodbye to everyone. I was thankful to go home, finally have a home cooked meal, and be with my family. Three weeks is just the right amount of time for a short term study abroad.
4. It is not as expensive as a whole semester.
It is cheaper to travel for three weeks instead of a whole semester, and you are getting a lot of travel in during those three weeks. Food and extra shopping can add up though, so you have to be careful. But money spent on gelato will never be money spent in vain, eat as much gelato as you possible can, it is amazing.
5. Minimal class work while you travel.
Most of the class work is done during the semester, so once you are actual in Italy it is just presenting the work that you have already completed and keeping a travel journal. This leaves all of your free time for exploring without having to worry about school work. I did not even mind the small amount of presenting I did in Italy, it was really neat to get to present in front of the artwork I had spent all semester studying. It also makes everything more personal when it is students presenting on things that they have grown to love through their research.
Studying Abroad Long Term – Semester in Scotland
1. Living in a foreign country.
When you live somewhere for an extended period of time it begins to feel like home. You are surrounded by the culture, living as they live in that country. This gives you a better understanding of how people in other countries live. Your view of the world will be changed! I have spent a lot of time reflecting on how Scotland and the United States are different; I have realized that they are not as different as I had once thought they were. Now that I have been outside of the United States I am able to actually reflect upon how we are not as important as we think that we are. I have also realized what a young country we are; last week we spent the whole week on the history of England & Scotland, and it was not until day four that we got to 1607, which is when the settlers got to Jamestown, Virginia. It really put into perspective how much we have to learn from other places.
2. Being part of the community.
When you spend several months with people you get involved in the activities that are going on, or at least you should! Community helps combat lonlieness and homesickness while you are away from home. And who does not want to make friends who are from other countries? You are able to share and learn from each other. I have loved becoming part of the community here in Airdrie, I feel like I have been here for so much longer than just two months. This feels like another home. Through worshipping together I have seen how the body of Christ is universal and brings everyone together.
3. Downtime to reflect.
A semester gives you the opportunity to take time everyday to reflect on everything that you are seeing and rest before the next adventure. Often going at a fast pace it can make it difficult to take everything in and you do not fully appreciate your travels until you are back home. While being in Scotland I have really appreciated having time to rest and reflect on everything that I am experiencing. While I was in Italy the focus was on taking everything in which did not leave much time to reflect on what I was experiencing; it was only after being home for a few weeks that I realized how much I had been able to see and experience.
4. Learning on site.
Studying in the country you are learning about means you are able to go from class to the actual places. All of it is still fresh in your mind, helping to reaffirm what you have learned. Here we are learning a lot about the history of Scotland and the Covenanters; I am not naturally inclined to absorb historical information well. However now that I have stood in the places where the battles took place, where Covenanters were imprisoned and martyred I have a much better understanding of what it would have been like for the people back then, and the history sticks with me. Learning on site makes the history come alive, and it gives you a firm context of where things took place.
5. A whole semester in another country.
When you are in a foreign country for four months, you are living in a foreign country for four months! You have the chance to travel and explore! With the wonderful transportation systems that Europe has it is so simple to catch a train, bus, or flight to another city or county. Personally I have loved how simple public transport is here in Scotland! Back home the bus system is awful, it can take 1.5 hours to get somewhere that would only take 15 minutes to drive to by car. But here in Scotland we can jump on the train and be in the middle of Glasgow in 20 minutes! We have visited Glasgow, Edinburgh, and we are going to visit York this next weekend. It has also helped me gain confidence in traveling, making plans, and using a map!
No matter what type of studying abroad you are thinking of doing, whether long or short term, I would definitely encourage anyone to go and do it if they are able. See the world, make friends, get school credit, gain life experiences, and increase maturity and self-confidence! I know that for myself I have grown so much in the past few months of traveling to Europe, and I am still here in Scotland for another two months. I cannot wait to experience more of God’s amazing world! If anyone at Geneva, or another school, wants to talk about either of these programs I would love to share my experiences with you.