To Be or Not to Be Abroad? That is the Question.
By The Executive Board
As juniors all over campus scramble to finish their study abroad applications this week for the coming spring, let their stress serve as a warning to the underclassmen who will be in this place a semester or year from now. We, at the Student, want to alleviate this potential stress by offering some practical advice and considerations about studying abroad that we feel should be taken into account.

A little known fact is that most study abroad applications are surprisingly demanding. The recommendations and personal statement will bring to the mind the days of college applications — and not in a good way. In addition various writing samples are often necessary, and institutional approval is required. Thus, start early, preferably in the summer, and begin researching your options as soon as possible. Most countries will have an overwhelming variety of programs and places to choose from, and it is important that you have enough information to confidently and intelligently select the program that best fits your desires. Moreover, if you speak more than one language, the choice will be even more difficult — so be sure to give yourself enough time to explore all of the options that interest you.

Many come to college with a set idea about whether or not they will study abroad while at the College. However, it’s a harder decision than you initially think and each individual should carefully consider whether or not studying abroad is a good decision for them. You only have eight semesters here, and as you get to know and love the College it will be harder to contemplate giving up a semester or even a year here. Make sure to mull over these points: All of your extracurriculars will go on with you. You’ll miss Spring Concert, Commencement, TAPs, late nights with your friends and the chance to take certain classes. Furthermore, if you do decide to study abroad make sure you discuss your plans with your advisor as soon as possible. Your advisor can help you in your decision-making and aid you in avoiding possible complications. It can be difficult to fit in major requirements if you do not seriously consider going abroad early in your Amherst career, so start mapping out potential ways to take the classes you want and need to take (especially those offered only in one semester or every other year).

Despite the negative vibe we’ve been giving this entire article, we do think that studying abroad is a worthwhile endeavor. In studying abroad you will gain an once-in-a-lifetime chance to spend a few months immersed in another culture, perfecting your language skills, learning new and interesting things about yourself, traveling and meeting people from around the world. Studying abroad gives you the opportunity to get out of the Amherst bubble and gain not only a new perspective on the things you study in the classroom, but also a new outlook on your life and your relation to the global community.

As a parting piece of advice, we encourage you to talk to your advisor, language professors and upperclassmen who have been abroad. Talking to someone who has been abroad will give you a more personal insight; learning all about the wonderful adventures and difficult experiences that another person had while studying abroad can not only help decided whether or not you’ll study abroad, but also where you’ll go.

Issue 04, Submitted 2010-09-28 23:47:18