Choosing a Full-Year Study Abroad Program

I’ve always known that I wanted to study abroad in college, so when applying to colleges, I specifically looked at schools with a wide variety of study abroad programs. I also wanted an environment where studying abroad is encouraged and common among the student body. After touring Scripps during the fall of my senior year of high school, I learned that Scripps offers a range of study abroad programs in countries all over the world. Whether students want a homestay or a more independent living experience, the opportunity to travel to multiple countries or stay in one place, a foreign-language speaking country or an English-speaking country, Scripps has choices. Historically, close to 60% of Scripps students study abroad, so I knew that this school would be a place where my dream of living abroad could be fulfilled. After attending info sessions and meeting with the Study Abroad and Global Education (SAGE) office throughout my sophomore year at Scripps, I decided to take a somewhat unconventional route and go abroad for a full year, rather than the typical semester.

My Decision

While most Scripps students study abroad for one semester – either in the fall or the spring – of junior year, some students choose to pursue a full-year at one program or two different programs. Having done a lot of research on various study abroad programs offered through Scripps, I discovered the General Course at the London School of Economics (LSE). The General Course is one of the oldest study abroad programs in the world. For a full academic year, American students take classes at LSE, live at LSE, and get involved in extracurriculars right alongside the regular LSE student body. Given my interest in sociology, which is a world-renowned area of study at LSE, as well as my desire to live in London, I started to consider the program seriously. The more I thought about it, the more I loved the idea of truly immersing myself in a city for two semesters, feeling part of a community, and meeting international students. While there are definitely other advantages to semester-long programs, I knew that I wanted to meet people beyond Americans in a study abroad program, and I really felt like LSE would provide a unique global experience. After submitting an application and securing my visa, I departed for London in September of 2019!

My Experience

Upon arriving in London, I created a huge bucket list with places, activities, and restaurants. From that point onward, I would aim to check at least one item off the list every week. Between classes, which meet less frequently than classes in the U.S., I would visit museums, walk around the city, study at cafes, and meet up with friends. I lived in a dorm nearly 20 minutes from campus, so I enjoyed a walk through the city every morning and afternoon. Every few weeks, I tried to take a weekend trip to another city in the U.K. or even to another country – I went to Iceland, Denmark, Spain, and Morocco during my time abroad. While the classes were definitely different than the classes I was used to at the Claremont Colleges, they were very enjoyable and provided me with a different perspective on politics and sociology. When the London winter became gloomy at times, I would try to create plans to look forward to, such as a weekend trip or a night out with a friend.

Unfortunately, in March of 2020, with three months remaining in my time abroad, COVID-19 hit and forced me to pack up my belongings in a matter of days. I returned home to Northern California in mid-March and completed my LSE classes from there. I’m even more grateful for the opportunity to have lived in London for six months prior to COVID, which required everyone to stay home for so long.

Back to Campus & Reflections

Now that I’m back at Scripps for my final year, I can definitely say that I made the right decision in going abroad for a year. While I definitely faced some challenges (studying abroad in a big city can be lonely sometimes!), I also matured immeasurably. I returned to campus with far more confidence and independence than when I left at the end of my sophomore year. I’m now really excited to move to a big city after graduation, knowing that I did it once before and I can do it again. While COVID has made the last two years difficult, I’ll always remember the amazing time I had in London prior to the pandemic, and I would recommend it to anyone who has the opportunity.

As a student at Scripps, going abroad is definitely possible, regardless of your major! Express your interest in studying abroad with your academic advisor and meet with the SAGE office during your sophomore year to create your study abroad plan. While studying abroad for a full year isn’t the most common choice, it made my college experience incredibly valuable on personal, social, and academic levels.