by Carmen Borrison
Chapman University student Katie Murphy’s first time wakeboarding was in Italy when some friendly Swiss guys invited her and her friend out to sea for a day. This was just one of many of the junior studio art major’s crazy experiences while docked at one of the 10 countries she visited while on Semester at Sea.
While being confined to a ship for weeks at a time is not everyone’s ideal experience, it’s hard to go wrong when picking a destination for study abroad. But when weeding through hundreds of programs in an array of diverse countries, deciding where to go can be stressful and agonizing.
“It was so hard to decide, I wanted to go everywhere,” said senior communication studies major Reed Maday, who ultimately decided to study in Florence, Italy this past January.
So where truly is the best place to study abroad?
There are many criteria to think about when trying to dictate one city as being better than any other. You shouldn’t only think about the nightlife and the food when deciding.
Hali Erickson, a sophomore integrated educational studies major is currently studying in Florence, Italy.
“I was drawn to the food and culture of Italy, but these things have turned out to be less important to my experience than I had originally thought,” Erickson said. “For example, the food is great but I can't afford to eat out all the time. I usually buy the cheapest stuff at the grocery store.”
The first step to picking your destination is first to find the right program that will best suit your major, skills and interests. Of course, this step in the process will vary from person to person but it is a crucial step to take in order to enjoy your time abroad because you are there to study after all.
Erickson found that the program she ended up choosing was not what she anticipated; having originally wanted to continue her dance education abroad, she found the program unstimulating, disorganized and made up of unhelpful staff members.
Many students narrow their destination search down to just looking in Europe because of accessible transportation, which makes traveling and weekend trips easy.
Amanda Altman, a sophomore health sciences major is also currently studying in Florence.
“I knew I wanted to be centrally located so that I could get around to other countries,” Altman said.
But this reason alone should not stop you from considering other countries outside of Europe. The number one country Chapman students chose to study abroad outside of Europe is Australia. Of course with its lush landscapes, miles of decadent beaches and a tanned friendly people sporting cute accents, who wouldn’t be drawn to it?
But Lexi Dicicco, a sophomore business major studying in Newcastle, Australia had one dealbreaker to mention.
“The worst thing here is the bugs,” she said. “The mosquitoes are killer here!”
Aside from just that, the airfare alone and cost of living in Australia are among the most expensive of programs offered, which swayed both Ellie Newby and Tracy Silagi, amongst others, from ultimately choosing the program.
The cost of living abroad is an enormous thing to consider when looking into where to study abroad. Yes, the lavish lifestyle of the beautiful French countryside may draw you in, but if you can’t afford to go out and do anything, then your experience will suffer.
In fact, Michelle Lewis, a senior peace studies major who studied in Geneva, Switzerland commented that the high price tag on pretty much everything was her least favorite part of studying there.
“Switzerland makes the rest of Europe look cheap, so clothes shopping was done in other countries,” Lewis said.
The big city lifestyle draws in many students when choosing their study abroad location. Places like London, Paris and Rome stand out amongst others, and while students like Karen Rosenbaum, a junior accounting major who studied abroad in London, can vouch for the obvious perks: “Great music and dancing, a lot of coffee shops and tea salons to relax or read in, the museums are mostly free, the shopping is to-die-for, and really awesome public transportation,” getting away from the big metropolis cities can prove to be comfortably quaint, yet just as exciting.
Elise Pertusati, a junior art history major, studied in Cannes, France last year and described it as “an absolutely amazing experience.”
The Cannes study abroad program at Chapman is extremely exciting because it allows students to intern at the annual international Cannes Film Festival at the end of the semester.
“I got to see and meet a ton of celebrities at the festival, including James Franco which was pretty cool,” Pertusati said. “I was also able to walk the red carpet on three separate nights for premieres which was so much fun!”
Cannes, in addition, has great weather, fabulous French food, is centrally located in Europe and is choice that offers many career development opportunities to students, especially if they are interested in programs outside of a massive city.
Another program that frequently flies under the radar among Chapman students is the Prague, Czech Republic program, where Ellie Newby, a sophomore strategic and corporate communication major, is studying.
“I love just about everything about Prague. The city looks like a fairytale everywhere and there's always something to do,” Newby said. “The nightlife is amazing, and one of the best things about Prague is how cheap everything is.”
For students worried about finances while abroad, on top of fact that Prague has a very low cost of living compared to the rest of Europe, Chapman pays for student airfare for this program.
Although the Czech Republic is not internationally renowned for its food, the perks of Prague being an international city located in a small country in the heart of Europe are the many diverse foods that can be found there from all different parts of the world.
“People always tell me they want to go to Spain or Italy or France for the food but often those places don't really have other options, and Prague has it all,” Newby said.
One of Newby’s only stated downfalls to Prague are that the local people are not always the friendliest, but said because of its central location, many tourists come from all over Europe, and she has met an extremely diverse group of people during her time there.
Everyone’s study abroad experience will differ depending on major and interests, but it is hard to go wrong when choosing your destination for what almost all study abroad returnees describe as an experience of a lifetime. If you come to the conclusion that you just can’t decide, you can always do what Katie Murphy did and, if you don’t get seasick, instead choose to have it all.