Senior Reflects on Year in England, Recommends Study Abroad Program

Like most seniors making their way through their last year of college, I have nostalgic moments around every corner of campus. Whether it be a certain room, event or even meal option at the Marketplace, it seems as if I can recall a fond memory within everything. Although everyone’s college story is unique with its own chapters of excitement, fear and experience, I think self-discovery is one of the most common themes throughout each. As I begin to reflect on my college career and what has impacted me the most as an individual, I believe that the most rewarding experiences I have had came from studying abroad.

I knew I wanted to study abroad in college before I even chose which school I wanted to attend. I’ve always had a passion for travel and learning about different cultures and I knew that studying abroad would be an experience I would never regret. During my sophomore year, I really started looking into my study abroad possibilities. With the help of the study abroad office and advice from those who had gone before me, I was soon able to start making my dream a reality.

I decided I wanted to study abroad in Cheltenham, England through the BCA Study Abroad program. I really wanted to study abroad in England because I had always wanted to visit the United Kingdom and was really interested in the culture. I was told that most students studied abroad for only a semester. After having many conversations with both my study abroad and academic advisor as well as the registrar, I found out that I could study abroad for an entire year and still be able to graduate on time.  This was not the norm, but I knew that I wanted to get the most out of my study abroad experience.

Everything seemed to be falling into place wonderfully until I took a better look at the final price tag for my excursion. Although it didn’t seem that expensive at first, once it got closer to being a reality I started to rationalize if I’d really be able to afford it. I soon realized I wouldn’t be able to afford it on my own. I applied to several scholarships in the hopes that I would get at least one to help alleviate the costs of my travel. Luckily, after a grueling wait and several rejections, I was notified that I was a recipient of the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship. When I received the acceptance email I immediately screamed and cried in excitement. With this scholarship under my belt, I finally felt secure I could afford the costs of studying abroad. I was going to study abroad in England for an entire year.

Friends of mine who had studied abroad before had warned me about how nerve-wracking and intimidating it can be. I also heard some horror stories about the effects of culture shock and the prominence of homesickness. To be honest, I never once felt anything but happiness and excitement to start my journey in England. The moment I arrived, I knew that I had made the right choice and I was exactly where I needed to be.

My study abroad experience exceeded my expectations. The culture was very different from the United States, but in the best way. It was rich with history, charm and livelihood. The school system was quite different from ours, but I found myself making strong connections with faculty and often leaving lectures with interesting new perspectives. I was able to travel to many places in England as well as to Ireland, Scotland, Wales, France and Spain. I made memories that will never fade and friendships to last a lifetime. Most importantly, I learned, grew and developed as an individual more within my year studying abroad than I ever have.

Studying abroad was the best and most rewarding decision I have ever made. To study abroad is a costly endeavor. It requires a lot of time, planning, saving, will-power and bravery to achieve, but the benefits are immeasurable.

I feel incredibly grateful to have been guided and supported by Elizabethtown College, BCA Study Abroad, the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship and my friends and family in my study abroad journey. It was a truly beautiful, humbling and life-changing experience that I wouldn’t trade for the world. I cannot stress how worthwhile studying abroad is and I highly recommend it.

Please note: This article was originally written for The Etownian and was published on October 15, 2014. The Etownian is Elizabethtown College’s student newspaper. Click here to view the original article.

About the Author – Jazmin De Jesus

Jazmin studied abroad with BCA Study Abroad in Cheltenham, England for the 2013-14 academic year. As an Elizabethtown College student, she majored in mass communications.

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