Students study abroad earlier, in student-friendly cities

Kelly Hwu

Whether concerned about securing internships or looking to expand their educational boundaries, Northwestern students are heading overseas after their freshman and sophomore years, following a national trend of students studying abroad earlier in their college careers.

According to a USA TODAY College article published last week, more students are choosing to study abroad during their freshman and sophomore years. A separate study by QS, a website that promotes networking between universities and businesses, found students are also opting to study abroad in the Top 50 Best Student Cities, a list including Paris and London as the most student-friendly destinations.

The USA TODAY article notes college students are studying abroad earlier because of school experience, their majors, program availability and enthusiasm to experience different parts of the world.

Weinberg sophomore Nikhil Bhagwat chose to study abroad the summer after his freshman year in 2011. As an economics major, Bhagwat said he thought China was the ideal place for him, given the country’s growing economy. Bhagwat attended NU’s Political & Economic Development Summer Program because the classes interested him the most, he said.

“I think my major was an influential factor in deciding to go to China,” Bhagwat said. “It was the most dynamic, ideal place to go.”

Bhagwat said he knew getting an internship in the United States would be difficult after freshman year, so instead he chose to spend his summer abroad. Bhagwat studied at Peking University in Beijing. “Most people choose to go to places like London, but I wanted a completely different cultural experience,” he said.

Bhagwat also studied abroad the summer after his junior year in high school and said he enjoyed the experience. He traveled to Spain, a country with cities on QS’s list, through the Indiana University Honors Program in Foreign Languages.

According to a study abroad data sheet provided by the associate director of NU’s study abroad office, Alicia Stanley, from 2010 to 2011 the top five study abroad locations for NU students were France, Spain, England, China and South Africa. Four out of the five have cities on the QS list; no South African cities are mentioned.

In an email to The Daily, Stanley wrote that students have said they are choosing to study abroad during sophomore year because they need to spend junior and senior years completing degree requirements. Stanley also wrote students may have leadership opportunities or extracurricular activities on campus that prevent them from studying abroad later in their college years. Students may also plan to do internships during the summer after their junior year and therefore prefer to study abroad during an earlier summer, Stanley wrote.

Communication freshman Adarsh Shah is planning on doing a summer abroad in South Africa for the Global Engagement Studies Institute. Shah said he will most likely find internships during the summers after his junior and senior years, so he thought the summer after his freshman year would be the best time to study abroad.

Shah applied by the Dec. 15 early deadline and was notified of his acceptance into the program before the winter holidays. Shah said he learned of GESI’s existence in Introduction to International Relations, a class he took during Fall Quarter.

Shah said he will likely pursue a double major in international studies but is still thinking about what he wants to study for the remainder of his college years.

“I think this program definitely has the potential to spark my interest in fields that I may want to pursue,” he said.

Although South Africa isn’t one of the top countries QS listed, GESI listed the country as one of its five destinations. Other sites include Bolivia, India, Nicaragua and Uganda, all of which are not on the QS list.

“There are these hotspot locations students want to go to when they study abroad, but it’s also good to go to a country that is more applicable to your area of study,” Shah said.

Communication freshman Michelle Margulis said she wants to study abroad in Switzerland, which did have cities on the QS list, during Fall Quarter of her junior year rather than her freshman or sophomore year.

“I think by junior year, I’ll be most prepared,” Margulis said.

Margulis said Switzerland appeals to her because she speaks French and has visited other francophone countries. She also said she would travel to Switzerland because there is more information about the country due to its popularity.

“I know that Comm goes hand-in-hand with culture, so my major is a big factor when it comes to deciding if I want to study abroad,” Margulis said.

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