Photo by Gabriella Chan
Unlike many of my peers, I don’t have the travel bug. I’m comfortable sleeping in one bed in the same place for long periods of time, without feeling the need to venture from one majestic wonderland to the next. I’d prefer to spend my weekends booking theater tickets and taking the train to country-side towns with names I can’t pronounce.
Almost a year ago today I had just finalized my abroad application for London, and that was much earlier than most of my peers, considering some were still unsure of where they wanted to apply.
For me, studying abroad was about being in a comfortable place and enjoying my surroundings for the longterm, while also stepping outside my comfort zone, making myself available to opportunities for spontaneous travel around the world and having the ability to say yes to those excursions without any hesitation.
Everyone’s study abroad experience will be unique and memorable in their own ways, but keeping in mind the little things can make a big difference overall.
If you’re a freshman considering studying abroad, or if you fancy one of Pepperdine’s many summer international programs, check out these five tips to keep you in-check, but also excited for your upcoming journey of a lifetime.
1. “The Return” Videos By International Programs Will Sway You, But Don’t Worry
On one of the first days of New Student Orientation, International Programs hosts an assembly where they show “The Return” clips from each of Pepperdine’s seven year-long study abroad programs. The intense, heart-racing music and fun-loving community consumes you and allows you to peer into these students’ experiences. But don’t let the close-up smiles and jumps into paradise fool you, because each program is special and unique in it’s own way. It’s OK to watch one clip and think, “That is most definitely where I’m going,” but it’s also OK to think, “How the heck am I supposed to choose one of these places?!”
2. Apply Where You Want To, Not Where Your Friends Are Applying
The truth of the matter is, your friends for the first month of college might not be your same friends the last month of college. For that reason alone, consider where you want to apply, and try not to let the opinions of others sway you. Chances are, your friends abroad could end up being your friends for a lifetime, and you might not even know them yet. Those back in Malibu or at other programs will be there for you when you get back, especially if you want them to be.
3. Talk to Upperclassmen, They Know A Thing Or Two About IP’s Allure
Freshmen are bombarded with information and deadlines from the start of NSO, and upperclassmen know what that feels like, because they’ve been through it themselves. Some of the best advice I ever got when deciding between international programs was from an upperclassmen who reminded me that the Pepperdine experience isn’t exclusively International Programs. After being reminded of this, I decided to take a week-long break from thinking about anything IP-related, and let myself focus on the first week of school and all of the extracurriculars I sucked myself into, because that’s part of the true Pepperdine experience. Once that week was up, London was it for me, and I haven’t regretted it since.
4. Food Isn’t Everything, But It’s Certainly A Priority
Whether it’s your go-to friend or your necessary acquaintance, food is an important factor in your study abroad experience. From pizza and panini’s in Florence, to chocolate and cheese in Switzerland, to traditional asian cuisine in Shanghai, the possibilities for foodies everywhere are endless. There is no such thing as the wrong decision when it comes to food in each international program location, that’s for sure. And remember, younger legal drinking ages might seem tempting, but they’re not the only exciting factors foreign countries have to offer.
5. Find Your Haven Abroad, Somewhere You Can Grow
Sure, location is important, but make sure that when you’re considering your abroad destination, you’re choosing it not just for the aesthetics of the place you’re going to, but for the culture, atmosphere and companionship that awaits you there. The amount of spiritual and personal growth you’ll experience during your time abroad will be the most rewarding aspect of your journey, so choose a place to foster that growth.
All in all, step outside your comfort zone and experience all that Pepperdine’s International Programs has to offer. From our nation’s capital, Washington, D.C., to venturing south to Buenos Aires, Argentina, to settling in the heart of Europe in Heidelberg, Germany, you can’t go wrong. Welcome to Pepperdine, and welcome to your endless options of once-in-a-lifetime opportunities.
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