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3 Reasons to Study Abroad Freshman or Sophomore Year

by Laura Viarengo
Student abroad in Barcelona, Spain

Calling all incoming freshmen and sophomores, this one’s for you! Today I wanted to review three reasons why you should study abroad as early as your freshman or sophomore year.

I myself studied abroad as a sophomore during the Fall semester of 2018 in Barcelona, Spain. Studying abroad was by far one of the most life changing experiences I’ve ever had, and I am extra grateful that I got to study abroad as a sophomore for several reasons.  

If you haven’t looked into studying abroad yet, I want to remind you to plan ahead — it can take about a year or so to finalize your program, so start as early as possible! When I first arrived at my home university, UC Irvine, as a freshman, I immediately visited my study abroad center on campus and started planning my study abroad journey so that I could study abroad as a sophomore.

Here are a few benefits of studying abroad in your freshman or sophomore year.

1. Fulfill General Education Requirements

One of the most time-consuming parts of planning your study abroad journey — aside from picking the program, of course — is deciding what classes to take. To ensure you’re on track to fulfill your graduation requirements, picking your study abroad courses is an important topic to talk to your Academic Advisor about. Luckily, studying abroad early in your college career can make it easier to pick classes — odds are you’ll have general education courses to take, and those are available in almost all study abroad programs! Why take those at your home university when you can take them abroad?!

Being able to pick from a wide variety of general education courses when planning my study abroad classes definitely made the process faster and easier. 

2. Defining Your Career Path Early

When I did my study abroad program sophomore year, I was surprised to find out that only one other person on my program was a sophomore — everyone else was either a junior or senior! In fact, most people I talk to now always seem to be looking into studying abroad from their junior year onwards.

While I was in Barcelona, I got to take some business courses that were not offered at my home university. These courses, specifically my marketing courses, allowed me to discover my love for marketing, which helped me determine my career path early on in my college career. Had I not gone abroad — particularly early on in my undergraduate career — I would have never been able to take those specific courses and set my sights on a marketing career!

3. Going Abroad Multiple Times 

Many people don’t realize that if you study abroad early on in college, you’ll come back to your home university with enough time left in your undergraduate experience to plan another study abroad program, if you want to do one!

When I got back from my semester in Barcelona, I immediately started looking into how to go abroad again, and thankfully, I was able to study abroad once more before graduating. I’ve spoken to tons of returnees who studied abroad their junior or senior year and wished they had done so sooner so that they could study abroad again! 

So there you have it, if you are curious about studying abroad as an incoming freshman or sophomore, this is your sign to start planning your study abroad journey right away!

In addition to those that I have highlighted here, there are so many more benefits to studying abroad early in your undergraduate career. I am forever so grateful that I was able to to do so myself. So why wait? Start planning now, and don’t hesitate to reach out to me, other Alumni Ambassadors, or AIFS staff if you have any questions!

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