Creating Your Own Study Abroad Experience

Maybe you’ve seen that beautiful study abroad brochure chalk full of stunning images and you’re ready to leave tomorrow; maybe you’re on the fence, not sure if study abroad is right for you; or maybe you are just reading this post because you are curious and know nothing about it. Wherever you are on this spectrum, this post is for you.

We all have our own ideas about what study abroad is. After all, a two hundred-word pamphlet certainly leaves a lot to your imagination. So in light of this, I would like to share some of my personal study abroad experiences in an effort to give you a little more information and advice about studying abroad in general.

Let me start by saying, the “study” in “study abroad” definitely shouldn’t be ignored. I was in school a lot more than I thought I would be. Monday through Friday, I went to school at the University of Belgrano from 9:30am to 2:30pm, and three days a week I had class with a UMKC faculty member for about two hours each day. That’s a lot of time! However, it was justified and time well spent. I received nine credit hours of upper level Spanish in just six short weeks, so it makes sense I was in class for so long. I also learned a ton of Spanish, which is what I set out to do in the first place.

Takeaway: Weigh the amount of credit hours you are receiving with what your goals are for studying abroad. If you’re looking for a fun time getting to know another culture, maybe a three or six credit hour program is for you. If you’re looking for a big increase in your language learning abilities, maybe a more intense, nine or twelve credit hour program is for you.

Another important aspect of a study abroad experience is the location. I’m studying abroad in Buenos Aires, Argentina – one of Latin America’s largest and most densely populated cities. One of the fun parts of being in a big city is that there is so much to do. People who have lived here their entire life have yet to do half the things the city has to offer. One of the down sides of living in a large city is that cultural differences from one large city to another are pretty small. On the surface, it would be pretty hard to tell New York City and Buenos Aires apart.

Takeaway: There is a lot more to a location than the beautiful views it has to offer. Think about the city’s size, geographic location, and position in the global society before making a choice about where you’ll go.

What about duration? My program took place in the summer and lasted a total of six weeks. Four weeks I spent immersed in Spanish classes and the other two were spent traveling and doing my own thing. As my trip comes to an end, I am so happy I had those two extra weeks outside of class; it’s where I really got out and experienced Argentina! Personally, I felt like six weeks was a perfect amount of time away, and the traveling in the summer allowed me to take less of a serious pause on my life.

Takeaway: Think about how long you are willing to be away from home; going on this trip I realized just how important my family, friends and life in general were to me. Additionally, I would highly recommend a program that gives you some free time.

All in all, studying abroad is definitely a worthwhile experience no matter what program you choose, where you go, or how long you are away. I guarantee you will have the experience of a lifetime!

Sam Nelson is a junior at the University of Missouri-Kansas City majoring in Psychology and Economics with a minor in Spanish. Sam will study abroad with the UMKC Spanish Program in Buenos Aires, Argentina during Summer of 2018 with hopes of improving his Spanish language skills. He is a member of Pride Alliance and several other student organizations. After Sam completes his degree at UMKC, he plans to attend graduate school and earn his Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology.

Student blog entries posted to the Roos Abroad Blog may not reflect the opinions and recommendations of UMKC Study Abroad and International Academic Programs. The blog is intended to give students a forum for free expression of thoughts and experiences abroad in a respectful space.