For a long time, Parth Chopra, W’18, E’18, never dreamed of studying abroad.
During his first year at Penn, Parth felt he had more than enough to learn as a student in the Jerome Fisher Program in Management and Technology, Penn’s oldest dual degree program. M&T is a unique fusion of Wharton and Engineering curriculums, and requires a rigorous course load that kept Parth busy on campus. It wasn’t until sophomore year that he decided to give studying abroad a chance, where in retrospect, he came to realize that some lessons can only be learned by taking the leap.
Making the Decision
“What really switched my mindset was [thinking], ‘you’re never going to do this again,’” Parth said. With that in mind, he spoke to peers with personal travel experiences and learned about Edinburgh. His professors offered guidance, helping him restructure his course plans. Parth discovered that M&T offers a range of study abroad options, and the program’s connections with international institutions, spanning Europe and Asia, make it easier for students to complete their requirements away from Penn.
Through his own experience, Parth firmly believes planning ahead of time is crucial for anyone interested in studying abroad. Despite that, he has seen too many students letting their reservations keep them from a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. “People put too much weight on too many things,” he said. In reality, “clubs, friends, and classes are still going to be here when you return.”
A World Away
Above all, Parth treasured his freedom at Edinburgh. During his five month stay, he traveled to 13 countries and 29 cities. While he was a fan of exploring outside Edinburgh’s campus, the university also organized events for visiting students, in part of a greater effort to encourage students of all backgrounds to mingle. Parth, for example, roomed with both exchange and local students.
Classes at Edinburgh run differently from those at Penn, with final exams being the most important grades. The teaching style, involving regular reading assignments and major exams, lends itself to self-motivated learning. Parth knew Edinburgh was strong in the humanities, and it was the two humanities courses he took – one on Asia and Africa: Nationalisms, Liberation Movements and the Legacies of Colonialism, the other Economic History: The Global Economy – that became his favorites.
Although Parth was already interested in history before Edinburgh, his humanities classes broadened his worldview. The state of the political sphere there, especially differences between American and European perspectives, was fascinating to Parth both in and out of classroom. He described the atmosphere as liberal and enjoyed speaking with local students, who were generally less concerned about how academic performance would impact their future careers.
His Advice on Deciding to Study Abroad
- Avoid overthinking.
- A semester abroad does not just stay abroad. It is an opportunity to compare and contrast: so take your study abroad experiences back to Penn. The lessons you bring with you will enhance your Penn experience.
- Be curious. Be adventurous.
To anyone who may be considering studying abroad in the future, Parth added: “Don’t look at what you can lose – look at what you can gain.”
— Gloria Yuen
Posted: March 27, 2018