The Ups And Downs Of Studying Abroad At NEU


So, anyone who has even heard of Northeastern will know just how important the global experience aspect is. It’s literally plastered everywhere on their website, in orientations, it’s like an ominous presence that will always follow you everywhere if you study in NEU. You have your traditional study abroad , there’s also global co-ops, and the ever confusing N.U.in programs. Keep reading for the many ups and downs of studying abroad with Northeastern.

1. You will not have enough time to do every study abroad you want.

You might want to go through the massive entity that is Northeastern’s Global Experience Office’s website (GEO for short). It is an online catalogue of all the Dialogues of Civilisations, Study Abroads, and Global Co-op. It is so jam-packed with pure opportunity that it often lags my laptop to frustrating proportions.

Starting with N.U.in, you can study and live in 8 different countries, with 12 different locations. This includes; Shanghai, Berlin, London, and Rome. N.U.in’s main program is in the Fall, but they have since expanded their program in the spring with fewer locations available.

Now on to the more pretentious sounding program – dialogues of civilisations. Dialogues are simple, you follow a small group of students and a professor to a foreign location to learn about a topic that is more geared towards that location, usually in the summer. You could study Fashion in Paris, Social Entrepreneurship in India, or even observe the United Nations in Geneva. Dialogues give students a more intimate experience with not only their professor and peers, but the subject itself. They are often more immersive and more compelling as you live amongst what you learn. Each dialogue has its different requirements from major to GPA, but there is a dialogue out there for everyone. For those with more financial concerns, GEO offers scholarships, grants, and fellowships to those who wish to pursue a Dialogue.

If you do not wish to go on a crazy Magic Bus adventure with your kooky professor, there is still the option of a traditional study abroad. There is about 172 study abroad opportunities ranging from Morocco to South Korea. Study abroads are a little bit more flexible as most occur more than once in a academic year. You even have the chance to study at Oxford! I don’t know about you but I believe every British colonist dreamt that my people would one day be able to even spell the word Oxford, so I am extremely worked up about that.

The world is literally your oyster!

2. You meet a ton of new people all at once in a completely new place.

This could be good or bad depending on your personality. If you were unfortunate enough to have missed the pre-departure orientations and group flights (i.e. me because I live in another country) you would often be faced with this sudden influx of strangers. Now, some people would shine and buzz around, and some may be a little shy, but don’t worry it often ends well – even though you have to play the weird and kind of lame orientation games your RA’s or head professors set up for you.

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3. Because of close proximity, you create long-lasting friendships.

My N.U.in group to Germany was really really small, like they told us 50 and it was more like 32. So, being in a new and foreign country, not really knowing anyone else, and just generally not wanting to walk around alone, you tend to craft better and more stable relationships with the people you are with. I stayed in a pretty cool quad, and we’re all still amazing friends now – we even share custody of a Build-A-Bear named Garbage. Jokes aside, it is really nice to have people you can trust and rely on and just experiencing the amazing new things around you with. Those in the N.U.in programme would usually be especially close, just because we enter school at a different semester from everyone else.

P.s. this may not always be true for everyone, I know some people who did not have such great experiences, so no pressure!

4. Missing home can hit some people like a tornado hits some cows.

Many of us are just dying for an adventure, away from the confines of our parents and the societal pressures of the greedy capitalist system. However, you may never know when homesickness may hit. For some, it came immediately, and for others I know it comes gradually. It’s usually the small things that hit close to the heart – like my friend got really homesick because of ketchup! But, mostly the Thanksgiving period can be pretty tough. As a non-American I don’t quite understand it, but my friends generally missed their families, the comfort of their houses, and just the traditions. It’s good to keep in mind that the country you are going to would most likely not have those weird foods that Americans like: tofurkey (???), sweet potato and marshmallow bake, green bean casserole, etc.

Tons of the people in my programme were getting awesome care-packages full of mac-n-cheese and proper peanut butter, which is rubbish because my parents barely sent me anything! But if you are resourceful enough you could get a bird with your mates and grab some beer!

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5. The Drinking Age being 18 instead of 21.

Going on a study abroad has one amazing up! You can drink with no fear of being caught (not like I nor you really did much hiding before). Most of the places you would go to will actually have realistic drinking ages. Gone are the days of getting your older brother’s best friend to buy you some schnapps for a ridiculous up-mark or using some cruddy fake to get into sub-par clubs. You’re a grown up now, you can enjoy your vodka coke with sophistication at an ok-bar.

Although, beware. Our RAs warned us that we should be cautious around alcohol, just so we do not become over-reliant on alcohol for socializing. We thought, “pfftttt, as if“. Fast-forward to the present, in Boston, where you have to be 21, some of the people I know actually do struggle a little. We are so used to sitting in bars and hanging that it is weird not to!

6. You get to travel to nearby places that you may never have thought of.

Best thing about being in places like Berlin or Sydney are the surrounding area. During the period of my N.U.in program I was able to travel to so many places for cheap (look out for Interrail while you’re in the EU)! You can really get the feel of a place by exploring the many places available to you.

Although, fair warning, check with your RAs and program coordinators what your overall schedule looks like. You do not want to book everything and then discover you have a mandatory trip at the same time – this happened to me, and I wasted a lot of money booking a last minute flight.

7. You will have what seems like a million orientations.

Let’s be honest, orientation can be quite a bore. From pre-departure orientation, on-site orientation, and the week long orientation you will have after N.U.in just to recalibrate you into the Northeastern ecosystem, you’ll probably get pretty tired of hearing the words “welcome” and “global experience”. I personally hate orientations, and the last one I was at before Northeastern was in Kindergarten. But, if you are an international student, I advise you to pay attention to the special orientation you’d have once you’re in Northeastern. Being an international student already comes with every complication, and safety is quite a problem now in the states.

Northeastern is a liberal and understanding school. For those international students who are a little scared of today’s America, I believe Northeastern will help you. For instance, during the whole “Muslim Ban” chaos, Northeastern held many seminars and talks, linking us up with immigration lawyers and professionals on the subject. It might not be much, but I believe it is an added safety net that protected me as an international student.

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At the end of the day, studying abroad is an experience. It’s something you’ll have with you forever – especially those who do one semester in France and comes back with that phony French accent. NEU has so many opportunities just waiting for you, and there are people who will help you get to where you want. Sure there will be ups and downs, but what’s better than a roller-coaster ride? Well, I guess studying abroad.
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