Before I get started on this, I should make one thing clear: If you are financially unable to study abroad, then don’t. The University of Connecticut is a phenomenal and life-changing place, and spending all of your undergrad degree in Connecticut is frankly underrated. Cherish it.
From the moment I started thinking about college, taking a semester abroad was an inseparable part of my post-secondary education. For me, it had to do with my major and personal values. I’m a political science major, and my undergraduate degree spans from fall 2016 through spring 2020. That’s an incredibly rough time to be studying American politics to say the least. For the past few months in Prague, I’ve been focusing on historical and modern European politics, and it’s been a breath of fresh air. Of course, I check Twitter every morning to stay caught up with the hellscape that is the current American political apparatus, but that’s just due diligence.
Anyway – everyone should take a semester or two to study abroad if the program is within their means. Most people spend their entire undergraduate degree studying in the same university or, at the very least, in the same state. In some instances, that leads to a stale perception of the world, especially for social sciences. If you’re in a STEM field, your studies will likely be similar no matter where you learn them, but I’m sure you know that. If you’re in the social sciences, your studies will be exponentially better if you take time outside of the campus you’re familiar with.
I know what you’re saying: It’s just class, and it’ll be the same stuff in other countries, even with a different scope, and I understand that qualm. Most of my political science classes are similar in study to my upper-level UConn classes, and I do just as well in them. I learn about the recent history and current status of Czech and regional history.
What makes studying abroad special isn’t what I learn in the classroom, it’s what I learn when I leave it. My Prague program is nothing like Storrs: There isn’t a campus in the slightest. From the instant you leave the building you’re in the city. Every person you pass has a different mindset, life and story than you. A couple of months ago, I finished my class on central European integration. Basically, it explored how the Czech Republic gets along with Austria, Poland, Slovakia and so on and so forth. About five minutes into my walk to dinner, I passed by a pro-European Union activist. She had a clipboard out for EU members to sign and give their support for a unified continent. It’s hard to put into words, but seeing something you learn about via Powerpoint immediately come to life just outside your classroom door is something special.
Truthfully, I’m pitching for you to study in Europe more than I’m pitching for you to study abroad. If your heart is set on Japan, Australia, Egypt or any non-European country, follow it. There are hundreds of interesting countries on this planet, and each has a unique story to tell.
From a political lens, Europe proves to be the flipside of all I know about western politics. The Czech Republic has a population of less than 11 million – that’s fewer than my home state of Pennsylvania. Unlike Pennsylvania, the Czech Republic is a country, free to produce its own laws, most of which I’ve had to learn over the past few months.
I realize I’m rambling. My rationale for why I took my semester across the pond will be infinitely different than yours, should you choose to do so, and I guess that’s my point. It’s up to you to choose your own journey, not to follow mine. You’ll find your own path in your chosen destination, and maybe you’ll be writing this passage this time next semester.
That being said, I bet Prague is better than wherever you’ll end up. I get attached to city pride easily. Study abroad.
Daniel Cohn is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.