by Madalyn Johnson, Web Editor
The study abroad office at Manhattan College annually organizes a decent number of trips so students can travel to different parts of the world while earning credits. Study abroad is often commended for making U.S. students more appreciative of other cultures, as well as broadening their perspective on different parts of the world. Many, however, fail to recognize that study abroad trips are impactful for participants because they’re given the opportunity to explore another country, as well as explore a little something about themselves.
The trips Manhattan offers are either for a semester, a month or two weeks. Nonetheless a majority of students would agree the social life these trips construct are powerful and unforgettable.
Junior, Mia Serrano, went to Florence over the summer to study abroad in 2019. She shared how the trip created an atmosphere that drew students so close to one another. The students did activities while studying abroad that didn’t fit the norm of going to a classroom weekly to learn. Students got to eat dinner with each other, and as they progressively became familiar with the country, had free days where they opted to explore whatever they wanted together.
“I feel it draws students closer because it’s such a small group of kids,” Serrano said. “You experience a lot of the country altogether, eat most of your meals together and you also live together as a new set of roommates. Once you become closer, during a lot of your free time you end up going on new adventures with each other.”
Serrano suggests part of signing up for a study abroad is not knowing who you will travel with, which is why students should give it a go. She describes how lessons are taught innovatively and the surroundings in a foreign country are utilized to make studying more memorable.
“It’s worth the risk of not knowing people, and part of life is taking risks,” Serrano said. “For the price paid, there is so much benefit and the classes are more fun being taken on location. I did a class presentation on the bell tower of the Florence Cathedral, and I presented right in front of the bell tower itself, not in a classroom.”
Recently, another small group of Jaspers went to explore a variety of legendary landmarks, like Abbey Road and Shakespeare’s home, in London, England during this past winter break. Sophomore, Maren Kain already was close friends with two students who were also attending the trip, yet found herself developing strong friendships with more students.
“I am the kind of person who falls in love with cities easily and I knew I would have to be dragged back on that plane home,” Kain said. “Even though I went with my two favorite people, I was happily surprised by the other friendships I made with new people. We all had a blast and all had to be dragged back on that plane together. It was so special.”
A memorable experience at the beginning of Kain’s study abroad trip was when she spent the last night of 2019 getting to know more about the other students, while also gradually getting a feel for London.
“New Year’s Eve was just an incredible night, we all were able to go out together and spend time getting to know each other and London,” Kain said. “It was also one of our first nights there so it was a great ice breaker activity.”
Kain reflected on how studying abroad is a unique way to broaden a student’s social life and make more friends by witnessing new things with other students, transforming a trip to a foreign country into a home-like experience.
“I feel that the study abroad atmosphere is the perfect place to make new friends because it feels so special to share these new experiences with other students like you,” Kain said. “I loved getting to know every single person on our trip. They were all so wonderful and welcoming and helped us create a little home away from home.”
Calista Baker was another sophomore who went to London, England over winter break. She shared how the thought of traveling abroad seemed intimidating in the beginning since it was her first time traveling without her family.
Baker spoke about how being part of a small knit group of students while traveling and learning in a different country, motivated participants to get to know others in the program.
“All of the activities we did, we pretty much all stuck together because it was just a small group of us,” Baker said. “We weren’t really forced to become friends, but we spent so much time together that it was just natural that we became closer.”
On top of becoming close with a small group, Baker mentioned how the study abroad trips influence great social life because they give students the chance to socialize and engage with real-life places that are usually taught by book.
“It’s more about involved learning experience than just sitting in a classroom and hearing about something you actually have to see,” Baker said. “We read a Shakespeare play and we got to see it be performed and also went to where he was born, where he lived. We got to apply what we were learning about in class to real life.”
Students who have taken part in study abroad trips encourage others to take advantage of the opportunity regardless of whether you know who you’re traveling with or not.
“Being a little uncomfortable is so valuable,” Kain said. “It forces you to make connections with people you would never have had the pleasure to know otherwise.”