by Sami Briggs
Well, first off, I should amend the title of this post because at Cornell, we do not have any courses labeled 101. Cornell’s course catalog is so extensive that introductory level classes are labeled 1101. So, Cornell’s Psych 101 class is truly Psych 1101. But I digress.
I came to Cornell in the fall of 2012 with what I thought was a very solidified plan of what I would and would not do during my days at Cornell. I will openly admit that the majority of my days thus far have been spent in ways that I never predicted, and I am thankful for those twists and turns that brought me to where I am today; I might not have expected to find my niche where I found it, but I have never been happier. My experience with planning my semester abroad has been no exception.
First, I thought that I would go to somewhere in central Europe such as Germany or Austria. As a History major I was fascinated by the culture and wanted to see the sights, hear the music, and enjoy the art of such cities as Berlin or Vienna. But…then I remembered that I do not speak a word of German, and I thought my semester abroad would be better spent in a place where I would be able to truly immerse myself in its culture. The College of Arts and Sciences has a language requirement for most study abroad programs for this reason, and with my lack of natural language skills, learning a new language was not a commitment I was willing to make.
After nixing central Europe, I decided that I would go to London. Half of my family lives in southern England, and since at that point in my Cornell career I had decided to concentrate my History studies in British imperialism, it seemed to be a logical destination (also, I may not speak German, but I am a pro at English). But then a conversation with a friend made me rethink my decision all over again. I had heard about the Cornell-in-Washington program before, but since I had already set my sights on Europe, I didn’t really consider it as an option. I gave it a second look when a friend told me she was considering the program and it took me all of five minutes to realize that the Cornell-in-Washington program was perfect for me; I major in Government as well as History and plan to work in government upon graduation, and this program allows me to take classes toward my major while interning in a government department or think tank. Cornell-in-Washington and I fit together beautifully, and I am beyond excited to study abroad domestic next semester and room with that very friend who helped me decide on Washington.
So, as you start planning out your own study abroad adventures, here are some tips and important facts that you should know about studying abroad at Cornell:
1. You do not have to go to Europe. Let me qualify that. Europe is a phenomenal place to study abroad; it is composed of unique and fascinating countries and has the delightful quality of being small enough that you can travel internationally with relative ease (especially within the Euro Zone, you don’t even have to change your money!) but, there are tons of other possible destinations, and you should explore them so that you can make a well-informed decision. A friend of mine who studies Animal Science spent last semester split between Kenya and Tanzania, studying wild animals in their natural habitat. Another friend who wants to become an attorney focused on social justice is spending this summer in New York City with Cornell’s Urban Semester Program (CUSP) with the Legal Aid Society. Another participated in the Semester-at-Sea program and spent the semester on a boat studying oceanography and traveling the world. Don’t let Europe be a default option, if you choose Europe, choose it for a reason! And don’t be afraid to look to other destinations.
2. You don’t even have to leave the country! The Cornell-in-Washington program is in Washington, D.C., the Cornell Urban Semester Program is in New York City, etc. The program that is right for you could be closer than you think!
3. Explore all of your options! Refer to tips #1 and #2.
4. The College of Arts and Sciences has a language requirement. As Cornell’s liberal arts college, the College has a language requirement for matriculation, and focuses on foreign language immersion for study abroad programs in countries where English is not the national language. If you are continuing the language you studied in high school, this is generally only two semesters of courses, but if you are beginning a new language, this generally amounts to more like five semesters of courses. Your adviser or dean might be able to help you find a way around this if this requirement becomes prohibitive, so, don’t fret!
5. There is no particular semester that you should go. You can go either semester your junior year, your first semester senior year, or even over a summer! While the majority of students will study abroad second semester junior year, you can and should choose whatever works best for you.
6. You can study abroad even if you major in the sciences. You will hear that it is more difficult to study abroad when majoring in the sciences due to the challenge of transferring credits, etc. But, where there’s a will there’s a way, and with some planning ahead it is absolutely possible to study abroad and still graduate on time.
7. Try not to let FOMO prevent you from going. You will find that Cornell is bursting at the seams with clubs to join, classes to take, places to go, people to meet, and opportunities to take advantage of; my sister put it best when she said she could spend four more years at Cornell and fill each day differently than she did the first time. I consistently feel like there aren’t enough hours in the day to do everything I want to do, so choosing to spend a semester away from my beloved Cornell was a tough decision. I knew that I would have immense Fear Of Missing Out (FOMO), but, upon further reflection, it is still totally and completely worth it to spend a semester abroad.
8. Don’t be afraid to change your mind. This last piece of advice applies to more than just if/when/where you will study abroad; it applies to everything and should be thought of always. When you arrive at college, you are most likely 18 years old, and you are given the weighty task of choosing what you want to do for the rest of your life. What 18-year-old can say for certain that they know exactly what they want? This 20-year-old can’t even say that with complete confidence. Granted, I have a pretty good idea, and I had a pretty good idea at age 18, but one of the reasons I chose Cornell over the other universities to which I was accepted was for the freedom it would give me to change my mind. If I hadn’t been unafraid to change my mind, I never would have found the study abroad program that was right for me.
Happy traveling, and good luck!
To learn more about the Cornell in Washington program, please visit http://ciw.cornell.edu/. To learn more about Cornell Abroad, please visit http://www.cuabroad.cornell.edu/.