Check out my article in this week’s Endicott Observer!
When you hear about people’s study abroad experiences, what is the one thing no one ever tells you anything about? That’s right, the actual school part. Obviously the main reason for this exclusion is that the actual traveling part is about a million times more interesting. However, recently I have been getting more and more questions about my classes (mostly from my parents and professors) so I figured I would discuss some of my personal experiences so far while studying in Madrid.
Some people who have studied abroad will tell you that school and studying were a joke. My experience in my first few weeks of classes is that they are actually much more similar to my experience at Endicott than I thought it would be. People warned us that the European education system is greatly based on lecture, which you don’t necessarily need to show up for, and that you just “read the book on your own” hoping to pass the final exam at the end. While I’m sure that is the case in many schools, I am attending an American university (that is affiliated with Endicott) so the structure of my courses and the actual workload is fairly similar to what I have encountered at home.
The difficulty of your classes also depends on what you are studying. Most of my friends who are studying abroad, both at CIS and at other colleges, are taking a lot of their Gen Eds. They consider it a great place to get some of those required courses out of the way, while getting the international perspectives of the professor and other students. If you are taking courses for a major or minor, like I am, then you might want to look a little less jet-lagged from your long weekend trip and pay a bit more attention. Courses can also vary in difficulty based on the language in which they are taught. Since I’m a Spanish minor, the majority of the classes I’m taking this semester are in Spanish. This means that, at times, the class itself and the homework can be much more challenging than if it were the same content in my native language. That being said, if you feel like you’ll be able to keep up, I would highly recommend taking a class in the language of the country in which you are studying, or at least a class about the country. There’s nothing more authentic! No matter which type of classes you opt for, you’ll most likely get to take some field trips (probably for free) and what’s better than that?
Coming from such a small school, having people from so many different cultures in a classroom together can be an experience in and of itself. Most European students that you’ll meet at your college abroad are part of a program called ‘Erasmus,’ where the government basically gives them a small scholarship to study in another part of Europe. Their college education is significantly less expensive than what we pay to attend school in the United States; you see their eyes go wide when you explain the price of an American education. Because of this difference, it seems to me that a fair amount of these international students do not feel the same pressure to perform well because there may not be as much on the line for them. Thus I have experienced a lot of other students who don’t seem to care about the class or the professor and can be downright rude. Do not be one of those people.
When you’re having the time of your life in another country, the main focus probably won’t be on school. And honestly, it shouldn’t be. Before my parents and teachers all call me up asking me how in the world I could tell people not to focus on their education, think again: I’m an education major! I’m not telling my peers not to care about school, but instead encouraging experiential learning; the best way to learn is to ask questions, then go out into the world and seek the answers.
And, on that note, here are some cool pictures from my adventures during my first month abroad, where you do the most learning…