Lauren Bridges, '16, and Sara Oppenheimer, '16, in Copenhagen, Denmark during the spring of 2015. (Courtesy of Lauren Bridges)

Q&A: How to make the most of study abroad

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As the semester comes to a close, some Lehigh students are preparing to embark on their study abroad experiences. The Brown and White sat down with study abroad adviser Lorraine Roth and several abroad ambassadors — Lauren Bridges, ’16, who studied in London; Ryan Biggins, ’18, who studied in Athens; and Sara Oppenheimer, ’16, who studied in Copenhagen — to ask them what advice they’d give to students traveling abroad.

Q: What is the best advice you could give a student that is studying abroad this spring? 

Lorraine Roth: Think beyond the immediately practical planning and to start to research the history and culture of that country. Start to follow the news about current events where you will be living. Look into any holidays that will occur while you will be studying there. Read about the history and politics of the country and region. Any research you can do beforehand will help enrich your experience.

Lauren Bridges: My best advice would be to step out of your comfort zone and try it all. Travel when you can and explore other countries, but don’t forget to really explore your own city. It’s unique that you get to live in another country for four months, so make it feel like home.

Ryan Biggins: I know you’re expecting great things, but it will still exceed your expectations.

Sarah Oppenheimer: Keep an open mind and try everything at least once.

Q: Is there anything you would advise students to be wary of while abroad?

LR: There are two main types of things I would advise students to be wary of while abroad. First, and most importantly, I would strongly suggest that students consider their own personal safety while abroad. Students should remember all of the things that they have learned here as a Lehigh student and, combined with their heightened on-site cultural knowledge, act responsibly and make good choices. Second, I also caution students to be wary of staying in a bubble of other students from the U.S. It can be easy and comfortable to just hang out and spend time with other American students. However, part of studying abroad is getting out of your comfort zone and students need to not be afraid to join (activities) that will help them make friends with locals or other international students.

Q: What is one thing you wish you had done while abroad that you didn’t?

LB: I wish that I had made friends with some locals. I was on an American program, so we had to go out of our way to try and meet British people. I think it would have added to my experience had I been friends with British students my age.

SO: I wish I kept a journal. I’ll always have my amazing memories, but I wish I had a journal to read through all of my experiences in more detail a few years down the road.

Q: What is the best thing you did while abroad?

LB: All of my trips were definitely highlights of my time abroad. I loved exploring new countries and cultures, especially trying all of the food. My favorite trips were to Prague and Amsterdam. But I think the best thing about studying abroad was always coming back to London — it really felt like home.

RB: I went cliff-diving in Santorini, took a beautiful boat ride around the caldera; swam in hot springs; climbed a volcano; visited the Acropolis; walked through an oregano field; explored a Venetian castle on top of a cliff of 999 steps; hiked into the depths of the Cave of Zeus; saw some wild peafowl; made some incredible friends with my classmates and explored all that Paris had to offer for 3 days on my own. I can’t say that any of those things are better than the rest. They were all (equal).

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