Last year, I studied abroad at ICADE, a business school in Madrid. The four months I spent in Spain were, without exaggeration, the most rewarding of my life. Prior to leaving for Madrid, I did have a few apprehensions – What if I don’t make any friends? What if my Spanish isn’t good enough? What if I get sick of Madrid after two months? But all of these uncertainties quickly faded away, as I discovered how incredible the study abroad experience is.
To anyone even considering studying for a semester away from Wharton, I encourage you to do so, and here are five reasons why:
- You will learn things you’d never expect. Most of us know that Spaniards are passionate about soccer, but would you have guessed that they love basketball, too? The Spaniards that I played a pick-up games with throughout the semester not only passionately supported their national team during the European Basketball Championship, but also knew many of the NBA teams and players. During your time abroad, you will encounter these little surprises that you would never read about online or in a travel guide.
- You will practice a foreign language the right way. Not every program will be in a foreign language, but many are. If you are like me, a native English speaker who has only practiced a foreign language through classes in school, then study abroad is how you will take your language skills to the next level. Four months immersed in a foreign language will turn a proficient speaker into a near-fluent one. You’ll learn the local dialect and slang that can’t be taught in a classroom. And don’t worry if your language skills are only so-so. Many people in your host country will appreciate you making the effort to practice their language, even if your grammar and accent aren’t perfect.
- You will experience something new every day. Let’s be honest, the classes you take abroad are going to be a breeze compared to a typical Wharton courseload. In Madrid, I was able to create a schedule with no Friday classes, and in many of my classes, attendance was not enforced. As a result, I had the opportunity to travel almost every weekend, either to different cities in Spain, or different countries in Europe. And don’t forget that you will have fewer extracurricular commitments while abroad. That means that during the week, outside of classes, you will have plenty of time to explore your host city.
- You will come to appreciate Wharton even more. Of course, it’s great to come back to Penn after a semester abroad and see people you haven’t seen in months. But there are other things that you will come to appreciate about our school, like how beautiful our campus is and how great our facilities are. For example, where I studied in Madrid, there was no campus; rather, the entire school was pretty much two buildings next to each other. Oh, and don’t take GSRs for granted. Whether you love them or you hate them, Wharton GSRs offer a convenient place to work in groups, and your university abroad might not have the same resources.
- You will meet countless interesting people and make lifelong friends. After my semester abroad, I get to brag that I made friends from Germany, France, Ireland, Italy, and Spain. I still keep in contact with them through Facebook and WhatsApp group chats. Recently, one of my closest Spanish friends came to the U.S., and I visited him for a weekend in Boston. Some of my classmates from Spain are even studying abroad in the U.S. now, and I have been able to visit them here. The people that you will meet abroad are what make the experience truly special.