Massachusetts Daily Collegian

How study abroad shapes UMass experience

By Sara Crossman

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It’s been a short four years here at UMass. I will definitely miss the environment here after I leave. I visited several schools before deciding to come here, and I’m glad I made the decision I did. UMass has a unique feel: it’s laid back, yet there’s always so much going on.

I came to UMass as a declared political science major and a Commonwealth Honors College student, and I have never regretted either of those choices. After talking with many friends in other majors, I think the political science department is the best department on campus. Almost every political science professor I’ve ever had has gone out of his way to help me choose classes; get recommendations; apply for scholarships, internships, and jobs; and discuss my future. The political science staff has also been great. I don’t think I could have picked a better major or a more useful one.

I feel the same way about participating in the International Scholars Program (ISP) which is primarily open to honor students. You apply to be in ISP second semester freshman year, have a class each semester sophomore year, go abroad for one or both semester junior year, then have a final class first semester senior year. Being a part of ISP was a great opportunity because we got to discuss a lot of international issues that I never got to talk about in any of my other classes, and it wasn’t specific to any area of the world because it included students who were going to study abroad in all different parts of the world.

The third class which I took last semester was particularly good because we spent so much time listening to each other’s experiences and what we learned, and it was funny how often we had similar experiences in such different places. I personally studied abroad twice, once in Beijing where I was in the CET Intensive Language Program, and once in Copenhagen for a month last summer. I wouldn’t have had the same college experience if I hadn’t studied abroad; it’s something I would recommend to every student.

Study abroad completely changes how you view the world, and I personally think it’s important to have experiences like that when you’re young so that you can change your worldview and better understand what you want to do with your life. Living in Beijing was so different, and it forced me to really develop my language skills. While I was in Beijing I applied for the Copenhagen Capstone Experience Program, also one of the best decisions I made here at UMass. I really just wanted to study abroad again, but I had a great time living in Copenhagen, made great friends, and I think study abroad as a part of your thesis is a great idea.

One of the key parts of being in ISP, the Copenhagen program and studying abroad for me was the friends you make in these programs. Not only are they good learning experiences not just for academics as well as life in general, but I made friends for life. There are tons of ways to make friends with people at a college as big as UMass, but these programs have created relationships that are so much stronger than the average acquaintance relationship from class.

Not everything has gone as smoothly as I’d have liked. I’ve had a nightmare roommate, bad professors, walked around in the snow when we should’ve had a snow day but we didn’t. I definitely won’t miss the crazy wind. But overall I’ve had a great experience here. I’ve loved being an active member in Pi Sigma Alpha, Phi Kappa Phi and the National Society of Leadership and Success; making things at the Craft Center in the Student Union; and, this semester, doing an internship with the Amherst Conservation Department.

I would absolutely recommend that everyone do an internship before s/he graduates either for credit during the semester or over the summer. It’s great experience, and my internship in particular was a lot of fun. I helped put together the Amherst Sustainability Festival that went on last Saturday. I would suggest that anyone interested in the environment or sustainability consider contacting the Amherst Conservation Department next year because it was such an amazing experience.

Your experience here is what you make of it. I’ve done my best to make the most of my time here, and I don’t think I missed anything that I wanted to do. I will definitely miss being here at UMass.

Sara Crossman is a Collegian columnist. She can be reached at [email protected]

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