Have you ever considered studying abroad during college? Would you like to be an exchange student? Spend a semester or May-mester outside of your home country? An even better question might be, have you visited your university’s study abroad office to learn about the opportunities available to you?
Well, if you are looking to develop the critical skills needed to compete in today’s global economy, including foreign language fluency, strong problem-solving and analytical capability, a tolerance for ambiguity, and cross-cultural competence, then you probably should give studying abroad a second look.
Choosing a location
During the second semester of my freshman year at the University of Pittsburgh, I stumbled across a study abroad fair in our student union. Although I had never given much thought to studying abroad, seeing the incredible programs that Pitt offered sparked my interest in student travel. I started researching both Pitt programs and outside programs, eventually sending in my application to the Atlantis Pre-Med Fellowship. Several application essays and video interviews later – I was in! I was traveling to Cuenca, Spain for three weeks in May of 2019 to shadow health professionals in the Hospital Virgen de la Luz and to explore Spain’s countryside.
Developing a global mindset
Admittedly, I was nervous to travel so far from home to a country with a language that I was far from fluent in. However, with the encouragement of my family, friends, and academic advisors, I was able to spend three amazing weeks learning more about medicine, healthcare, and the Spanish language than I ever imagined to be possible. I was challenged to step out of my comfort zone each day in the hospital as I spoke with Spanish-speaking patients and medical professionals, explored historic Cuenca with other students from across the U.S., and tried new cuisine.
My experience with the Atlantis Fellowship helped me develop a more global mindset and cultivated the passion I now have for the Spanish language and global health. Furthermore, I can happily announce that I will be studying abroad again in Spain for the Fall 2020 semester.
As my experience in Cuenca, Spain proves, studying abroad for any period of time is one of the most valuable experiences a college student can have. Whether you attend a program for your major, for an internship or research, or just to take general-education classes at a new university, don’t be afraid to give study abroad a second look. You never know the impact the experience will have on you and your academic and professional success.