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  • Zoe Fisher

Summer Study Abroad: What to Know


Sophie Schneider and fellow students in her program / Via @cieeberlin on Instagram


Many students view summer study abroad programs as an opportunity to explore their dream destinations, pursue an interest, or simply enhance their college application. These programs are often expensive and a large time commitment, leaving students to wonder if these programs are worth the investment.


Walls students who have participated in study abroad say that study abroad programs can be a mixed bag. The location, company, and co-student travelers are all variables that can transform one’s study abroad experience.


The main component that can make or break a trip is the other people in the program. This past summer, Seojin Kim (‘25) went to Barcelona for three weeks to study Spanish language and culture with Putney Student Travel, a high school study abroad company unassociated with Walls. Her experience left much to be desired. She explained there were good parts of the program, but, “there were enough things that were iffy that I don’t think I could recommend it to someone in good conscience.” Kim explained how her peers and instructors disrespected the locals in various ways. “One night, kids from across the hall were throwing rocks at people on the street,” Kim shared. Furthermore, a student in her program made fun of the locals in his final presentation for not driving more. This was in part made possible by the instructors’ inattention toward student behavior. Cyrus Powell (‘25) had the opposite experience. He studied business and entrepreneurship in Berlin with CIEE, a study abroad program that has an established relationship with Walls.


Powell loved his experience. “The opportunity to go explore a brand-new city with smart, interesting, and fun kids your age was extremely gratifying and felt like a small taste of what college might be like,” he said. After his morning classes, Powell had freedom to explore the city with his peers and create “life-long friendships.” The ability to develop long-lasting relationships is primarily dependent on the program and group. However, getting to go to a new place alongside people with shared interests can help create a strong and unique bond.


One clear indicator of the type of students in a program is the price. Many of the CIEE and Putney Student Travel programs can cost anywhere from $5,000 to $8,000. Most study abroad programs have scholarships, but the price can still give a clue to the amount of privilege students may have at home.


“The majority of the people on the trip were very well-off private school kids,” Kim explained. She attributes this to their lack of respect for culture, as she claimed they lacked some worldly perspective.


Sophie Schneider (‘25) also traveled to Berlin to study German language and culture with CIEE this past summer. Schneider explained, “Studying abroad is undeniably a privilege, so everyone in my program had some degree of privilege, but there was still diversity and variety in perspectives among the people I met.” She found that this was crucial in making her experience so positive as she was able to learn from — and create deeper relationships with — her peers.


Similarly to Schneider, Powell said, “the students in my group seemed really humble and down-to-earth. Although most were wealthy, they never let it influence how they acted or treated others.”


The next important factor in making or breaking a study abroad trip is the subject matter. All three students said they did not enjoy the “school” part of studying abroad as much as they had hoped. Both Powell and Schneider referenced the, “rigid daily structure” of their program. Powell explained that at times he was annoyed “to wake up early to go to class like if you were back in school.”


Kim and Schneider each studied language and culture in their respective countries. Kim said, “there wasn’t much actual speaking Spanish being done.” Most of the students in her program were ready to be immersed in the language, so the classes were disappointing as more English than Spanish was spoken.


Schneider also was not challenged by the German classes provided by CIEE. She was already nearly fluent in the language, so her less experienced peers held her back. Schneider continued, “I did not feel particularly immersed in the local culture … I felt very much like a tourist. But my host family was amazing, and they gave me some insight into daily life.” Her host family is what made the trip meaningful, according to Schneider. Kim was not with a host family, which made it much more challenging for her to practice the language and embrace the culture as Schneider did.


“Studying abroad broadened my perspectives by giving me insight into different peoples lives, beliefs and attitudes, but it was also a fun way to spend my summer,” shared Schneider. She would definitely recommend it to another student, especially a program with a host family.


Powell concluded that study abroad is “an absolutely life-changing experience, and you are almost guaranteed to have a blast while doing it. The memories I got from my trip are going to stick with me forever, and I’m extremely grateful I signed up for it.”



Schneider traveled to Berlin to study German language and culture / Via @cieeberlin on Instagram

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