Students studying abroad sooner

A growing number of students are beginning to travel abroad following their freshman year, shifting traditional trends that showed students were waiting until their junior or senior years to head overseas, according to an article in USA Today.

Students choose to study abroad earlier based on their high school experience, their major and availability of programs, as well as the desire to see the world.

Within the last five years, many students have entered college with advanced placement credits that count for a semester, or sometimes, even a full year of college credits, according to an article in USA Today.

Kelcey Armstrong, a senior and intern in the Capstone International Academic Programs office, studied abroad in Meknes, Morocco following her freshman year and recommended that students study abroad earlier in their college career.

“There is no reason to wait,” Armstrong said. “The earlier a student goes abroad, the more flexible their course schedule will be both here at UA and during their time overseas.”

Many students return from study abroad trips with newly discovered passions and sometimes change their major or add an additional major or minor.

“Going abroad early means leaving yourself room for growth and change,” Armstrong said. “Not to mention the fact that it will be the time of your life, and you can’t take advantage of that soon enough.”

For some students, studying abroad is a way to further learn a language they have already studied and a way to make their summer different than their previous ones.

Nick Starnes, a sophomore finance and French major, studied abroad in Tours, France immediately following his freshman year to understand the purpose of his major but said it is a way to push yourself regardless of whether you know the language of the country.

“Think about it, last year, [most students] probably were at home with their parents and had a curfew, spoke English and watched TV all day,” Starnes said. “Now, here you are, one year later, in a stranger’s house, thousands of miles away, speaking in their native language, going to school and having to think for yourself. It’s different in a very good way.”

Bryant Cooper, a sophomore international business major, studied abroad in Florence, Italy after his freshman year and said any student can benefit from a study abroad program regardless of their age.

“Studying abroad should never be limited to someone based on their age,” Cooper said. “I am glad I went the summer after my first year because it was a really great opportunity to experience living abroad at a younger age. I have been exposed to a lot more and feel that I have a better view of the world and a different culture since having lived in Italy.”

Students often believe that studying abroad is unattainable to them because they will not be able to find a program for their major, can’t afford it or because they don’t know a language, but there are always ways around all of these obstacles, Armstrong said.

“I encourage everyone to travel now before they are tied down by a job or a family,” Armstrong said. “[From my experience,] I learned how to push myself outside of my comfort zone and make great experiences happen rather than just wait around for an adventure to fall into my lap.”

After spending time abroad, some students even decide to plan a second trip.

“I’m going back [to France] for eight months in my junior year and can’t wait,” Starnes said. “I feel way more confident in myself and know what to expect already because of my previous exposure.”

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