When I reminisce about college, I don’t think about sitting in an auditorium with 2,000 Intro to Astronomy students or standing in line for quarter beers at Kam’s.
My most vivid college memories aren’t even set at my alma mater, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. They’re set 4,000 miles away in Europe, where I spent my junior year abroad.
That’s where I got to study English literature, in England.
I didn’t just read about the fall of the Berlin Wall; I hopped on a train to Germany and watched it crumble in person.
I hitchhiked from England to the Eiffel Tower for charity, snuck into an opera at La Scala, explored the Louvre and Prado, and toured Dachau’s concentration camp.
I’ve yet to meet one person who studied abroad and wished they hadn’t. (Then again, I’ve never crossed paths with Amanda Knox.) The only regrets I hear are from those who stayed home.
“I would do it again in a heartbeat,” said Bailey Gucinski of Naperville. The 20-year-old junior at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minn., returned home this month after a semester studying marine biology in Australia.
“It really fueled my desire to see what else is out there beyond the United States,” Gucinski said. “It makes you realize how big the world is.”
A recent State Department-funded report says the ranks of those studying abroad dropped slightly in the 2008-09 school year, the most recent data available. This marks the first time the numbers have dipped during the 25 years the Institute of International Education has tracked the information.
The not-for-profit group found that 260,327 U.S. students received college credit abroad during 2008-09, down 0.8 percent from the previous year.