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Wanderlust at BU

The downside to study abroad programs on campus.

By Mara Mellits

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Many in their collegiate careers choose to continue their studies in another country- students at Boston University are no exception to that trend.

Hosting over 78 programs from Australia to Japan to Chile, BU offers a wide range of programs and consistently ranks within the top 20 schools based on the number of students who study abroad. Students can go abroad for a semester, a full year, or during a summer session while taking full credit courses and/or internships.

But not everyone who wants to study abroad can, and different factors can affect whether or not it’s plausible for individual students to participate.

For some, it simply doesn’t fit into their schedules because of a rigorous major. This was the case for Vivien Shea (CAS ‘24) who found it difficult to study abroad.

“There weren't that many options for me and I would not have graduated on time if I had chosen to study abroad because none of the classes would have really counted towards my major,” Shea said.

There are also financial barriers that can impede a student’s ability to apply for study abroad in the first place.

“I also couldn't have justified spending that much money and then I'm still not going to graduate when I was supposed to,” Shea said.

For Lucy Gilbert (COM ‘23), study abroad had been something she had always wanted to do.

“My mom studied abroad in London for a year,” Gilbert said. “She still talks about it because it was a year so it was a pretty long time and, and it really impacted her…so I always kind of wanted to do that same thing as her.”

Gilbert submitted an application to study abroad for the summer of 2022 but quickly found out she wasn’t the only one who was planning on studying abroad in London. Students in the CGS program have the option to study abroad in London or Boston during the summer and are often given priority spots for the London program.

London is also one of the most popular destinations for BU students — with eight study abroad programs offered throughout the year.

“There were a lot of people [applying] who were PR majors,” Gilbert said. “I think it was just a really desirable place to go for PR majors because the location of London, and there's a lot to do with the industry there.”

But COVID-19 also hindered the number of students looking to study abroad — especially for rising seniors who hadn’t been able to study abroad during the pandemic.

“A lot of us didn’t want to study abroad during our senior year because it's our senior year,” Gilbert said. “But we didn't have the option to study abroad before because COVID happened when we were freshmen.”

“So I think there was just a flood of people who just decided they really want to study abroad this exact summer,” Gilbert said.

Gilbert ended up getting waitlisted for study abroad but advises students to not assume they’ll get in because of limited spaces.

Shea advises students to look into studying abroad early if it's something they’re interested in.

“I think that BU needs to make freshmen aware, like their freshman year, there needs to be something like ‘if you want to study abroad and you are a STEM major or really any major, look into it now,” Shea said.


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