Culture shock, a foreign language, and you still have to go to class? The prospect of studying abroad can be daunting for many students. After all, college life is already stressful enough, even when accompanied by a carefully cultivated routine. Could completely uprooting one’s self just for a change of scenery really be worth it? The answer, according to Pia Marcoux ‘19, is a resounding yes.
“I recommend [going] abroad to anyone, everyone, everywhere,” said Marcoux, a Wheaton senior and founder of the on-campus magazine, Babe Lincoln. Marcoux spent her entire junior year studying abroad, traveling first to Argentina for the fall semester and then to Spain for the spring. Afterward, she then once again returned to Argentina to complete a Davis Fellowship. When reflecting upon going abroad, Marcoux said that “by the end, I saw language learning as a core part of my sense of self, as well as a core part of my future. I watched it expand my threshold of opportunity and of friendship, and radically alter my self-truths.”
On average, about 40 to 45 percent of Wheaton undergraduate students study abroad. In contrast, the national percentage lies somewhere around 10. Alida Gomez, the associate director for the Center for Global Education is one of many people working behind the scenes to make such statistics possible. “Going abroad is one of the many things students can do here in their four years that will really help get their resumes to the top of the pile,” said Gomez. Going abroad, however, can also pose a number of obstacles and questions that a typical semester at Wheaton would not. When it comes to cost, the goal is always to keep the price of going abroad the same as or even less than a normal semester at Wheaton. “The new billing model for studying abroad has students only paying tuition here at Wheaton. By doing that they are still accessing all of their federal or Wheaton aid, but not paying room and board to Wheaton, [instead] paying it directly to the program,” Gomez explained. In some cases, the price of room and board, flights, and student visas total equals less than the typical price of room and board for a Wheaton semester.
In regards to issues with language, programs are chosen specifically around the abilities of the student. Some programs are language intensive, developed with the intention of immersion. Others do not require the student to speak another language at all.
Gomez encourages all students even considering the idea of going abroad to make a consultation appointment, saying that “it is our job to make sure we are matching a student with the program that is gonna be the best fit for them.”
Ultimately, the decision to go abroad is specific to every situation. It is also an experience that, according to Marcoux, can be an opportunity that will prove hard to come across again. “I do not think there are opportunities for this kind of immersive travel, that confer the benefits and privileges that study abroad programs do after college,” said Marcoux. “Go for a semester, or two, or a summer. Just go. Even if it’s challenging, I promise you will get something out of it.”