Crystal Juan ’22
For sophomores looking to study abroad in Fall 2020, the approaching Study Abroad Global Education (SAGE) deadline on December 2nd at 5pm is daunting to say the least. While SAGE representatives provide the basic resources to start planning for your time abroad, the lived experience of our fellow 5C students may be the most valuable decision-making tool you come across. Thus, I took the time to speak one-on-one with upperclassmen and alumni about their time abroad.
The Scripps Voice (TSV): Did you ever second guess leaving home and going abroad for an entire semester? If so, how did you adjust when you got there?
“It was super hard to leave Claremont and be away from my friends. The school I attended [University College London] was the exact opposite of Scripps so I really struggled with that for a while. But it reminded me of all the things that I took for granted at Scripps and all the things that I loved about the Claremont Colleges that can be easy to forget until you leave them” (Maureen Cowhey ’19).
“I had my doubts about going abroad once I got on the plane and realized that I was going 10 hours away by plane. But, thankfully once I got there, I met incredible people that were going through the same thing so I felt more at ease that way. There were definitely ups and downs, but FaceTime and phone calls were truly my saving grace” (Nicole Pang ’20).
“I wanted to have a semester that was out of the ordinary. That included being in a country where I didn’t know the language, didn’t like the food, and was obviously a visitor as a white person. It was important for me to connect with the other students in my group to get some English time, but equally important to connect with my host family and teachers, to feel immersed in the language, to learn the geography of every place I went to, etc. so that I could feel like I was becoming closer to Mongolia and feel something like home” (Rein Irving ’20).
“Yes definitely, it was a pretty hard decision and I was constantly doubting if I made the right decision. Honestly, I didn’t have a hard time adjusting as my host family made me feel like part of the family right when I got there. I also tried to establish a daily routine with school, travelling, and other small things to help me adjust with the life there” (Nicole Tan CMC ’20).
“I didn’t second guess studying abroad. I think it’s really important for your education to go abroad. It’s important to be exposed to a different cultural experience and to live on your own. To have that opportunity as an undergrad is so awesome because you learn so much about yourself, and I think it really benefits you in the long run. Studying abroad makes your last year of college so different because you feel a bit more prepared about what’s to come after graduation” (Ana Bryan-Ajania ’20).
TSV: Did you feel homesick, and how did you cope with it?
“I coped with homesickness by staying busy! It’s easy to sit in your room and watch Netflix and feel sad, but I would go to a museum, explore the city, walk around a park, or anything on my very very long and constantly updated list of things to do in London. I always felt better after I came back from exploring, and I felt less alone being out and about and being a part of the city” (Cowhey ’20).
“Homesickness is so hard to deal with. It hits you in waves when you least expect it, but how I typically coped was by remembering that I didn’t have a lot of time abroad and I’d be home soon” (Pang ’20).
“I called my family around once a week and texted them a little bit every day to help with homesickness. I made an effort to find Asian food and snacks. I also made travelling plans to see my friends from home who were studying in London” (Tan ’20).
“Absolutely. Absolutely felt homesick. I think, again, everyone feels homesick when they go abroad. I missed home a lot. One thing that’s great is that you have Americans on the program with you so they’re experiencing [homesickness] generally at the same stages so I was able to confide in them, and we were able to support each other. Also, I think that sitting down and recognizing that I don’t have much time here [in Sweden] helped. It made more sense to maximize my time here. This is a temporary living situation and a temporary experience. Why not take advantage of it as much as possible?” (Bryan-Ajania ’20).
TSV: How did you deal with culture shock?
“I didn’t really experience culture shock in London. I absolutely loved London and I always felt safe in the city, and it felt like home by the end of the semester” (Cowhey ’20).
“I got shocked so hard, it was like I hit the reset button. I remember walking around Ulaanbaatar on my first day, looking for somewhere to eat, not knowing how to read Cyrillic—I stepped into many places before finding a restaurant. There, I pointed to a random item on the menu. It was goat. I was a vegetarian for 10 years. Nothing was the same as home, so it wasn’t hard to adjust, because it was not even comparable. It was only when I started thinking about how different things were in Mongolia that I ever panicked. But if I was just going with the flow, allowing myself to laugh at my mistakes and my confusion, everything was ok” (Irving ’20).
TSV: What are some things that we may take for granted as American students?
“I think I took being a liberal arts student for granted. I was at a giant research university and the professors had no obligations to meet with me or form any type of relationship with me. Also, the students only studied one thing since the end of high school, and it wasn’t at all interdisciplinary and people didn’t bring in ideas or concepts from other subjects like they do at Scripps” (Cowhey ’19).
“Toilet paper, clean water, vegetables, seatbelts! There was a lot that I have at home that I didn’t have in Mongolia. Conversely, there was a lot in Mongolia that I don’t have here. What was most interesting to me was seeing how Mongolia’s history has shaped its education system—critical thinking is not as emphasized there, so we learned in a way that is very different than at Scripps” (Irving ’20).
“We definitely take safety for granted especially coming from Claremont. A lot of students got their laptops and backpacks stolen in school when they left it out in the classrooms or hallways. I feel like because we come from places where this isn’t as much of an issue, we are definitely less alert and aware of our safety” (Tan ’20).
TSV: What is the one thing you wish you would’ve done/done more of?
“I probably should have studied throughout the semester rather than cramming everything into the last 3 weeks, but my goal for going abroad wasn’t to focus on school but to experience life in a new place and be independent and explore and travel and be happy… a lot of stuff I didn’t necessarily do while at Scripps” (Cowhey ’19).
“I wish I did more solo exploring throughout the city of Stockholm because it was such a magnificent and safe place, I would’ve been able to do that. I typically don’t go exploring by myself in Claremont just because it’s so hard to get around to places in LA, so I wish that I could’ve taken advantage of that a little more when I was abroad” (Pang ’20).
“I wish I had the confidence to talk to my host family more. It was hard to communicate as I was a beginner in Mongolian language, so I often stayed quiet. But even trying and failing to communicate could have helped us connect more, I was just too nervous to sound silly” (Irving ’20).
“I wish I travelled a little more and worried less about my school work” (Tan ’20).
“I wish I was able to travel a bit more. I wish I was more present sometimes and recognized how amazing this opportunity was” (Bryan-Ajania ’20).
TSV: What was the best thing you did/saw/experienced? What was the most valuable part of your experience?
“My best experience was afternoon tea in London! It was always the best day!” (Cowhey ’20).
“The best thing I saw was every day at meal time. It was really cool to participate in my host family’s slaughter and meat preparation every day. I got to connect to the whole process of meat eating that I never got to see at home” (Irving ’20).
“I travelled to London to meet two of my high school friends and that was definitely the highlight of my trip because it was really nice just to be with familiar people after a long time of living and studying ‘alone’” (Tan ’20).
“Of course I had my go-to café. I would study there every single day, and I met this really sweet Swedish waitress there. We hung out a lot and still message today…The most valuable part of my experience was that I learned so much about myself. You learn so much about what’s important to you and what you need in order to have a well-balanced life. Challenge yourself by meeting new people and experiencing new cultures. I know it made me a stronger person for sure ” (Bryan-Ajania ’20).