Like many college students, Samantha Phillips ’18, found going abroad to be a difficult choice, once the reality of it set in. The pressures of leaving one’s friends behind, needing to fulfill graduation requirements, being an ocean away from family, and missing campus festivities for a semester can leave even the most versed of travelers feeling nervous.
According to the Association of International Education (NAFSA), the number of students from the United States studying abroad for credit is only about 1.5 percent of all students enrolled at institutions of higher education and about 10 percent of graduates in the United States.
The Decision to Study Abroad
Against the numerical odds, Phillips made the last-minute choice to brave the journey. “Probably like one week before deadlines were due, I think it was September, I decided to go for it,” says Phillips.
One unexpected factor for Phillips’ decision was hearing about her peers’ study abroad experiences. “That was probably the biggest push for me, because no one came back without the most incredible experiences. Everyone loved it. So I knew I'd regret not going and traveling for this long of a time, later in my life,” says Phillips.
Once Phillips finalized the decision to go abroad, she was conflicted. “It was really sad to be leaving all my friends and family that I wouldn't be able to see for four months. But I was also really excited to travel and immerse myself in something I honestly never thought I'd be doing,” explains Phillips.
A London Experience
The program, Boston University in London, provided Phillips with the unique opportunity to gain international work experience and attend classes with time to travel. For the first half of her semester, Phillips took two courses—British Television Studies and British European Advertising Strategies—which aligned with her passion for media. She attended classes Monday through Thursday for the first half of the day.
“My favorite class was British and European Advertising Strategies. I absolutely loved the professor and all the topics were appropriate for the class and explained clearly with an interesting or fun twist. We would also go on an occasional trip instead of class to get a sense of real advertising examples out in British culture,” says Phillips.
This schedule both allowed Phillips to become familiar with the layout and sites of London and gave her the time to explore other European countries, such as France, Portugal, and the Netherlands.
“You are on your own in a completely different country. You make daily exploratory plans. You figure out how to get around. You learn the social cues and slang. You travel internationally. And it's all done on your own. It's not something many people will ever experience. It gives you a lot of confidence,” explains Phillips.
Hands-On Experience in Digital Marketing
“I feel more prepared for the real world because I’m able to travel and plan and work in a completely new country.”
For the second half of the semester, Phillips took an elective course on Mondays and worked at her internship from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm Tuesday through Friday. She worked for Kameleon, an award winning digital content marketing agency whose clients include Sony, Evian, KIA, and Procter and Gamble. “As a planning intern, I worked directly under the head of Planning, Asad Shaykh, and the assistant planner,” says Phillips. As she gained hands-on experience, Phillips absorbed the work culture of London.
Phillips, who is on an advertising and marketing track at Cornell, learned the ins and outs of digital marketing. “I feel more prepared for the real world because I’m able to travel and plan and work in a completely new country,” says Phillips.
For those who are considering studying abroad, Phillips suggests travelling both inside and outside of the country one chooses. “Travel is so cheap in Europe, so you have to take advantage of the free time and go to other countries to see and learn about everything and anything you find interesting. But, also make sure to travel inside where you're staying. It's your home for three plus months, and there is always so much to do. Don't ignore where you are! Go out and do something new there, too,” advises Phillips.
One surprise for Phillips was just how different each culture was. “Places you would imagine to be almost identical to the states are completely different, and those that you thought you'd never understand end up making so much sense,” Phillips says.
While she initially felt nervous about studying abroad, looking back, Phillips underestimated how confident she would become during her semester in London. “Adjusting to new areas and cultures doesn't take as long as I had imagined, as long as you're willing to try,” says Phillips.