How do Brandeis students choose where to study abroad?

Brandeis offers more than 200 study abroad programs in over 60 countries around the world.

The deadline for applying to study abroad for Fall/Spring 2021 has come and gone. On Feb. 13, around 40 percent of the sophomore class, myself included, turned in our applications with hopes of securing the adventure of a lifetime. From writing those pesky essays to meeting with Brandeis’ helpful study abroad liaisons, I hope you made sure you didn’t forget any steps before you hit submit! 

When I first started considering studying abroad, I had no idea where I wanted to go but kept an open mind. I began by browsing the Brandeis Office of Study Abroad website and their 200 available programs in more than 60 countries. 

I started my search by focusing on Brandeis-approved programs that had strong psychology departments, since I’m a psych major. While there were many programs being offered in east Asia, I have had previous opportunities to travel to that part of the world while visiting family. I wanted to experience something completely new. Then, the American University in Cairo, Egypt caught my eye. In addition to boasting an excellent psychology department, by studying there I would also be able to get credit for my Journalism and Legal Studies minors. Not to mention I would be able to experience living in a Muslim country, something that has been on my bucket list for a while as a Muslim American. 

Upon applying to the American University in Cairo (AUC), I began planning what my next year at Brandeis will look like in preparation for my travels. I started taking Arabic classes, something that I never pictured myself doing when I first started college. I have never had a knack for learning languages, but I find the Arabic program at Brandeis challenging and engaging, and Professor Hanan Khasaba has been nothing but patient and encouraging. 

When I made my first appointment with the Office of Study Abroad, the Associate Dean of Study Abroad J. Scott Van Der Meid walked me through what the application process would look like. He gave me helpful tips and insight, and soothed my anxieties regarding the process. As the application deadline approached, Scott was a great resource to shoot a quick email to whenever I had a last-minute question. 

While I’ve been daydreaming about eating ta'amiya, Egyptian falafel, and being able to practice my choppy Arabic, my colleagues have been busy doing their own research about what their study abroad experiences will entail: 

Lydia Begag at Stonehenge
Photo/Lydia Begag

Lydia Begag at Stonehenge

Name: Lydia Begag

Majors/Minors: Double majoring in Politics and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, minoring in Legal Studies.

Where are you applying to study abroad? London under the Hansard Society Scholars Program

Why did you choose this program? I went to London in 2018 during my midyear semester and absolutely loved it, but never planned on going back again so I could try something new. However, when I was researching abroad programs for my junior spring semester, I came across Hansard. Interning for a Member of Parliament and taking courses at The London School of Economics during such a critical time in British politics would be a unique, once-in-a-life time experience. 

How are you preparing academically for your abroad experience? I'm a Politics major and something I've been doing ever since getting to Brandeis is taking less American politics courses and shifting my focus to international relations/politics. I took Intro to International Relations during the spring of my first year with Professor Kerry Chase and now I'm working on research with him on declassified UN documents, lots of which were crafted by Great Britain! I think acquainting yourself with the history, politics and government of any region before you study abroad there is super important -- so learning as much as I can about UK politics from a more worldly perspective has been really beneficial.

Maya Walborsky in Morocco
Photo/Maya Walborsky

Maya Walborsky in Morocco

Name: Maya Walborsky

Majors/Minors: Economics major, double minoring in Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies and Arabic.

Where are you applying to study abroad? Hebrew University in Jerusalem

Why did you choose this program? I chose this program because of the location’s rich history and culture, as well as the fact that I would be studying at a top university. 

How are you preparing for your abroad experience? My double minors in Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies have prepared me culturally, as well as courses I have taken in Middle Eastern politics. 

Name: Jake Smith

Majors/Minors: Linguistics major, minoring in Latino American and Latino Studies

Where are you applying to study abroad? CIEE Liberal Arts in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Why did you choose this program? I really want to go to Brazil to practice my Portuguese and because I like the Brazilian culture. In addition, The Council on International Educational Exchange (CIEE) gives lots of scholarships, and I want to be able to take direct-enrollment courses so that I can improve my Portuguese.

How are you preparing academically for your abroad experience? I have been learning Portuguese by myself online since my senior year of high school, and I am currently taking two classes in preparation: LALS 1a Introduction to Latin American and Latino Studies: History; Politics; and Culture, and HISP 111b Introduction to Latin American Literature and Culture. These classes will help me have a better understanding of general Latin American cultures before I go abroad to Latin America.

Name: Simona Smolyak

Majors/Minors: Heath: Science, Society and Policy (HSSP) and Sociology double major, Hispanic Studies minor

Where are you applying to study abroad? SIT Chile: Public Health, Traditional Medicine, and Community Empowerment

Why did you choose this program? I am majoring in HSSP and minoring in Hispanic Studies so I wanted a program that incorporated both subjects. This is an HSSP study abroad program and also takes place in a Spanish speaking country. During this experience, I will not only get exposure to the culture, but also live with host families and get hands on experience with Chilean traditional medicine practices which seemed very intriguing and something I wanted to participate in.

How are you preparing academically for your abroad experience? I have been taking Spanish classes since I have started Brandeis to improve my Spanish skills. I have also taken biology classes and took a class about the sociology of body and health, which gave me a base of how human life works and how public health plays a role in it.

My classmates and I turned in our applications with excitement and anticipation. If all goes well, this time next year I will be immersing myself in Egyptian culture and continuing my college education at a world-class university. 

If you are interested in studying abroad your junior year, visit the Brandeis Office of Study Abroad to learn more about the available programs and get information about financial aid. 

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