Established 1874.

The Oberlin Review

Established 1874.

The Oberlin Review

Established 1874.

The Oberlin Review

Office of Study Away Should Offer More Tailored Guidance, Opportunities

Photo by Abe Frato, Photo Editor
Study away is a staple program at Oberlin.

When thinking about studying abroad, millions of thoughts pop up all at once. From where, to when, to how, to why — these questions become seriously overwhelming sometimes. When looking into the process myself, I really was excited at the beginning. However, the more I am invested in the “must-gos” and the “must-dos,” it seems like every place available to me as a student suddenly becomes liminal.

Price, housing, and food are primary concerns of mine, but the price is especially important. When not having much money to spend on studying abroad like I do, the world goes from “I am your oyster” to “I am your spoiled oyster from three Sundays ago.”

From Dublin to the castles like buildings of Oxford, a student like me should be allowed to dream big. But can I? My dream is to spend a whole semester in all of the places I want to go to, but alas, that cannot happen. Because I am at Oberlin, though, I really do feel like the study abroad options here are endless. The only issue is that I don’t feel like I’m getting quite the guidance that I feel like I need here or from program advisors.

From misinformation to miscommunications, my research for studying abroad for Spring 2025 is not seeming as exciting anymore because I have been pushed in so many directions at once. At first, I was wide-open, wanting to explore any place I can travel to — finance permitting — but when I met with different study abroad advisors, my hopes of going to Amsterdam and studying the humanities were dashed — temporarily. Each program is different, as with each program’s advisor and what their biases are. 

I feel like everytime I say “I am high-need,” each advisor I have talked to recites from memory the cheapest options that do not pertain to my interests or major. From Alicante, Spain — gorgeous, but has a language requirement — to Maastricht University in the Netherlands — whose humanities program leaves much to be desired —  I can’t help but feel like I am shopping for a college instead of investing in the experience. Yes, of course finances are a priority, but I feel like the advisors I have talked to automatically eliminate my interests in favor of money. I totally understand, but still…

Truth be told, this experience of choosing an international college and running with it is something I’m probably — definitely — overthinking. But, does it really hurt to think about what I want and dream about it? I don’t think so.

Some of the places I have been looking into are Trinity College in Dublin, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam in the Netherlands, various schools in England, and Florence in Italy because of how great their programs are or their location and the experiences they provide. I want an experience that can change my perspective of the world but also get my credits for my English and History double major.

When visiting the international study abroad office at Oberlin, I really loved the experience of talking it through with someone in-person rather than through Zoom or on a phone call. Oberlin does a great job working with students and their study abroad applications but when trying to find other people I can talk to more about other programs and their experiences, I find it hard to find those people without emailing the director of international study first. Easily accessible postings of open-appointments with students who have been abroad and want to support other students is a more helpful way to understand what experience I want.

I suggest this: at the beginning of each semester at Oberlin, students will have the chance to go to a large panel of Obies who traveled all over the world. Having a moment to interact with Obies who have experienced what you want to be a part of is the best way to make a clear decision for location, time, and program. Not to avoid the pre-existing opportunity to meet anytime with a student who has been abroad, it is just a system that doesn’t allow students to connect to students without the administrator. In other words, saving the important conversations with the supervisor of study abroad after gaining insight into an Obie’s experiences is more resourceful. 

Posting on Campus Digest or creating a separate sub-department made up of student representatives would make people like me feel more confident about exploring programs that are the right fit for me through students’ lenses. Support for students wanting to study abroad programs shouldn’t just start and end with Oberlin’s once a year booths, but start and end with Obies supporting fellow Obies in a more accessible way.

After really thinking about this for a couple of weeks, and writing this article, I have come to the conclusion about three programs that are a good fit for me. They may not be my dream, but they check all the boxes in terms of place, time, and program. Whether I go to Amsterdam for its bicycle culture or Bath for its, well, Roman baths, or Florence to see Michelangelo’s house, I trust that my experience will be just as fantastic as I always thought it would be.

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