Thinking about studying abroad?


Taryn Lamb

Taryn Lamb and friends sitting on a rooftop enjoying a beautiful summer sunset in London. Some of Lambs favorite memories from Studying Abroad were nights like this out on the town.

Graduating high school means the start of so many new adventures. One thing that i’m most excited for is to travel and see the world! Studying abroad provides that opportunity to college students, and is a perfect way to experience another culture, while continuing your education and being surrounded by a community. By living in a foreign country students have the unique opportunity to be immersed in a culture completely different from them. 

Not only does studying abroad provide a way to travel the globe and expand your worldview, but it also provides career opportunities and education in a different language. International experience will impress your future employers and immersion is the most effective way to learn a language. With all of this plus the lifelong friendships and memories you’ll make, who wouldn’t want to study abroad? 

It’s also easier than it seems. There’s tons of scholarships and grants available for interested students and by completing a work-study, volunteering abroad or working as an au-pair the cost will go down tremendously. Still on the fence? Well, have no fear because I have some Wildcat grads who were super excited to share their travel abroad experiences and give you some insight. My interviewees include Sam Blohn, who is planning to study in Florence, Italy and is from the Wildcat graduating class of 2020. Jonah Gomez, who is attending college in London, and is from the Wildcat graduating class of 2019. Kristen Burke, who studied abroad in Galway Ireland, and lastly Taryn Lamb, who studied abroad in London, both from the Wildcat graduating class of 2017. 

Question #1 “What does a typical day look like for you as a study abroad student”

Since each Wildcat had very different experiences and traveled to different places, I wanted to know what their “Day in the life” looked like. 

Taryn gave me a run down of her study abroad routine: 

-8AM Wake up in my dorm (although it was more like a hostel).

-Go downstairs for breakfast (english breakfast which is beans, eggs, sausage, tomatoes, etc.) 

-Walk to class, which was about a 10 minute walk through Bloomsbury

-Have my first class (sports journalism) for two hours. The professor was with an ex-reporter for the olympics and world cup sports reporter!

-Lunch break. We would usually go to this little deli and get sandwiches, (English food was really not that good)

-Second class (video journalism) where we would learn to shoot and piece together content like a full-production of a broadcast. We even got to visit the BBC!

-When school’s over, we would go back to our dorms and work on homework, or take the Tube (English subways essentially) and go to a pub, watch sports, drink, eat, and then typically go out to bars afterwards. 

-If it were a Friday, we were usually leaving for a weekend trip (Paris, Barcelona, etc.)

-We would usually all walk home from the bars late together and stop and get Mcdonalds, and then do it all over again the next day!

Kristen shared her day to day in Galway: 

-Almost everyday I woke up, went to my favorite coffee shop, went to my classes and ate lunch at a campus cafe. 

-Then I would go on a walk, do homework downtown, go home and make dinner with my roommates. 

-At night we’d go out to a pub to listen to live music and socialize. 

-I volunteered at a tutoring company, which I really recommend because it gets you involved in the community, where I helped students with their English. 

-I also tried to do small trips around Ireland and the surrounding countries on weekends.

Jonah shared his typical day in London: 

-First  I wake up, eat and drink some tea. 

-I commute on the tube, which is the underground train system, and I also walk a ton. 

-I have been online all year but worked at an architecture firm last year so I would usually go to work. 

-After that there is tons to do in London, I’d usually go for walks in the park or just through the city. 

-I liked going to art museums a lot and would usually do that a few times a week. 

-Finally I’d make dinner. I tried to cook as much as I could but London has so many good restaurants so every now and then I would go to a cool place to eat dinner.

Question #2 “What was the ultimate factor for deciding why you wanted to study abroad?

Many of these students’ colleges have amazing study abroad programs that influenced their decision. Sam explained “It’s the same price as attending university on campus.” 

Kristen revealed “I always knew I wanted to study abroad so a main factor for choosing Linfield was that I could fit it in with soccer, track and school.” 

Jonah has a unique situation and he explained “My family is from London so I wanted to experience that part of my history. I also love art and London is one of the best places in the world for art which made me want to be there.” 

Taryn mentioned “I love traveling and my parents had taken me to Europe multiple times before, so they really urged me to study abroad.”

Question #3 “What is some advice you wish you had known before studying abroad?

Before traveling abroad there are definitely some things you need to know and be aware of. Kristens advice was to “Go out and do something new everyday, whether it’s visiting a new street or trying a new food spot. Get to know the city as much as you can! Also start saving up money about a year in advance because you do blow through your bank account fast.” 

Taryn added “Go somewhere more culturally different. Although I loved London, it was very expensive and the culture wasn’t anything like being in Spain, France, Amsterdam, etc. The places where different languages are spoken it just feels like more of a culture shock than London does. London was awesome, but not super different from your typical large city.” 

Jonah noted “Write your thoughts out. My mind was usually racing with all of the new things I was experiencing. This caused me to be flustered for a while so I started writing my thoughts out and documenting my experiences. It made things a little less crazy and will be cool to look back on.”

Question #4 “What has been your favorite thing about your experience studying abroad or what are you most excited for?

With such a broad range of interests and areas of study I was super interested in hearing about these Wildcats’ favorite experiences. Jonah revealed “I really like the art, especially the museums. You can see so much cool stuff, famous and ancient but also new and underground. It’s everywhere which I love.” 

Kristen indulged, “My favorite part of my study abroad experience in Ireland was listening to the live music either out in the city or in a pub. It was a huge part of the Irish culture and made me feel more connected to the community. I also loved how cheap it was to travel outside of the country. It is extremely easy to find cheap flights and hostels to stay at and makes the experience so much more fun.” 

Taryn shared “My favorite thing about my experience was how much I matured while there, having to rough it, like for example just to save $200 I had to take a bus from LONDON TO PARIS overnight for 9 hours, just to spend 48 hours in Paris and then take a bus 9 hours back. I had to stay in a hostel in Barcelona that looked like a prison and shared a bathroom with a bunch of strangers. It was terrifying. But all these experiences were new for me and really helped me grow as a person.” 

Question #5 “What is your favorite place you’ve visited while studying abroad or where are you most excited to visit?

Each student had incredible favorite destinations, it makes me want to visit them! “In London, probably the Tate Modern, it’s a really cool museum. I went to Italy for a bit and that was really nice too.” Jonah remarked. 

Kristen spilled “Where I was living (Galway) was always my favorite place to be when I was abroad, but Amsterdam was my favorite place I visited outside of Ireland because I stayed with an old friend and her family.”

Sam shared “I am most excited to visit Cinque Terre, a hike where you visit 7 coastal Italian towns. The Study Abroad also offers weekend trips to different countries. I am also excited about the Budapest trip and the Poland trip” 

Taryn exclaimed “I absolutely loved Paris and Amsterdam. I can’t really decide which one was better, but they’re both AMAZING.”

Question #6 “How is quarantine and corona situation here or how has it affected your plans to study abroad?

Travel has been impacted severely due to Covid-19 therefore many students’ plans to travel abroad last year were sadly canceled. Sam fills us in “My school had to cancel all travel in 2020 spring, 2020 winter, and 2021 spring so far. I hope it comes back by 2022 spring as that is when I plan to go.” 

Jonah sadly said “London is in lockdown so I’m home till the spring.”

Question #7 “What is a new food that you fell in love with there?

When traveling, trying new foods is one of the most exciting parts so I wanted to know about my interviewees’ faves. Kristen mentioned, “I surprisingly loved the Irish breakfasts that consisted of sausage, bacon, black pudding, eggs, and baked beans (so weird). Their coffee was also unmatched to anywhere else I couldn’t go a day without it.” (Omg yum coffee i’m so jealous). 

Jonah announced, “Probably tea. It’s not really new but I never drank it until I went there and now I drink it all the time.” 

Sam declared “I am excited to try the lasagna in Italy!” 

Taryn mentioned “Indian food. London has the best Indian food EVER.”

Question #8 “What is some new lingo you’ve picked up from studying abroad?

Experiencing new languages or learning new slang words is one of the really unique things about living in a different country. Kristen explained “They use the term “craic” (pronounced crack) for the word “fun” or having a good time. So whenever we went out we would always say “where is the craic?” or “there will be a lot of craic” which I thought was just hilarious.” 

Jonah shared his new phrase, “Peng. Instead of calling a girl attractive you can call her a “peng ting” it pretty much means the same thing.” 

Taryn replied “”Queue” which essentially means what we call “line” (standing in line) they would say “let’s get in the queue”Also using words like “brilliant” and “charming” to describe things”

Sam said “I hope to learn some new phrases. I had an Italian exchange student on my soccer team during high school and I picked up some phrases already which I continue to use.” 

Question #9 “How different is the culture where you are studying abroad?

After asking about the culture compared to home, Jonah replied “London is very diverse so I’ve experienced tons of different cultures which is a nice and refreshing change from Wilsonville.” 

Kristen added “The Irish culture was so vibrant in Galway. Irish art was everywhere and celebrated constantly. There were always people dancing and singing in the streets. It was also very laid back and relaxed. People love to go out and socialize both during the day and at night which made it extremely welcoming when I first got there!” 

Taryn shared “In London, the culture is not too different. There’s definitely some differences, like how it’s incredibly rude to yawn in front of anyone. But for the most part you don’t feel a culture shock. In other places, such as Portugal, I definitely felt the culture more but Europe is so trafficked over the summer with tourists you really don’t feel that out of place when you’re in big cities.”

Question #10 “How challenging is the language barrier?

One of the more difficult parts about living in a foreign country would certainly be if you couldn’t understand the language. But I wanted to know how it affected these students. Kristen explained “They mainly spoke English in Ireland so I had no issues with a language barrier. Every sign was both in English and Irish and made it very easy to get around. Irish is a super hard language to learn, so it was nice that I could speak English the majority of my time there.” 

Sam answered “We have to take an Italian class prior to going to Florence and Gonzaga has a program where students go to an Italian family’s house so they can help us with Italian and we can help them with English.”

Question #11 “Did you ever feel homesick?”

Another pretty big challenge when being away from home is feeling homesick. This is a harder challenge to overcome for some people but overall our Wildcats didn’t let it get in their way! Taryn exclaimed “No I never felt homesick, I could’ve stayed for a few more months!” 

Kristen commented, “At first I really struggled with the culture shock of being so far away from my friends and family. I definitely felt homesick at times, but every time I just reminded myself of how lucky I am for this incredible opportunity. Whenever I felt homesick I would go on a walk or hang out with my roommates who were also exchange students from different parts of the world who were feeling the same way. We really supported each other which was super nice.” 

Jonah remarked, “It was weird but I liked being alone. I missed my bed and my mom sometimes but didn’t get too homesick.”

Question #12 “Who is the most interesting person you’ve met while studying abroad?”

There are endless stories I could ask about these Wildcats experiences but being in a foreign country, you’re certain to meet some really cool people. Kristen told me “The most interesting person I met in Ireland was my friend Macdara. He was a busker, meaning he sang music in the streets and in the pubs in the city. He showed me many new places and made me feel so welcome and comfortable in Galway. I think every day I would go listen to him sing and play his guitar. I met so many new people and got really familiar with the city because of this.” 

Taryn had a similar experience “One night, while at this bar in Portugal I met this man who was a waiter there. He was sooo friendly, and after he got off we ended up running around Albufeira (the town’s name) and he showed us all his favorite spots. He told us all about his life in Portugal and his girlfriend back in the UK. It was just a cool experience because it truly felt like we were hanging out with a local.” 

“I met a man with a wooden leg, an eye patch and a hook for his hand. I didn’t get to meet many people because of covid though.” Jonah announced.

Question #13 “What is the largest challenge you’ve faced studying abroad?”

Although studying abroad is packed with super fun exciting events, we all know that in life sometimes things can go a little sideways. Jonah said his biggest challenge was “Getting home from the UK when the US went into lockdown.” 

Kristen shared “The biggest challenge for me was being away from my family for five months. We lost somebody in our family at the beginning of our trip and it was really hard having to deal with that by myself and not being able to support my family at home.” 

Taryn responded “Budgeting. Make sure you have plenty of money to spend because all the expenses add up. Then again, I went to an expensive city. London is VERY expensive. But, eating every meal out, transportation, and accommodations really add up so either go with a budget in plan or have money to spend! I found myself calling my parents every 4 days for money because it goes QUICK.”

Question #14 “How is the living, dining and school situation where you are? Do you have a lot of free time?”

In case anyone wants some insight into the living conditions of a student studying abroad, here’s some answers. “I took 5 classes when I was in Galway so I was on campus pretty much every day, but I also had a lot of free time too. The professors there were really accommodating to international students and knew that we wanted to get out and travel and explore, so when I missed class due to this they were all very supportive of it. I also lived off campus in an apartment about a twenty minute walk away so I made my own meals everyday which I really loved.” Kristen divulged. 

Taryn shared “We only got one meal for free (breakfast) and I believe most study abroad programs don’t supply all your meals. The living situation was ok. Felt like a hostel, but was fairly clean and in a good location. Don’t expect anything too nice because you probably won’t get it. Plus, they live very small, so don’t expect your space to be big either. The school situation was good, we had homework but nothing too overwhelming. In my situation, you cannot skip class. We skipped one to go to Paris and had to lie and say we had food poisoning, but they definitely knew. You have free time, when I look back on it I definitely had a lot more free time than I did in class. They go easy on you because they know you want to do stuff.” 

Sam confirmed, “In the Florence Study Abroad program we live in a building called a pensione and they bring in an Italian person to cook for the people in the building, which is supposed to be delicious.” (Lucky!)

Question #15 “Would you recommend studying abroad to up incoming college students?”

When asked if they recommended studying abroad these Wildcats agreed “Yes absolutely 100% DO IT.” 

Kristen added “ I think it’s the perfect opportunity to broaden your education while also getting out to see the world we live in and experience new cultures.” 

Some words of wisdom

Finally some advice to upcoming highschool grads. Sam shared “Make sure to look at all the options for where you can study abroad. Tell your counselors you are interested in studying abroad so that they can get you on the right course to be able to go.” 

Kristen exclaimed, “Get good walking shoes, try new foods, get out of our comfort zone, and do as much as you can! Every single day I look back and wish I was still there, so make the most of this once in a lifetime experience.” 

Taryn said “If you’re thinking about studying abroad, DO IT. Even though it’s a little scary, it’ll be the best time of your life and before you know it you’re 22 and wishing you could go back. I suggest you go somewhere you’ve always wanted to go, with a good culture and GOOD food. Some places we went had “eh” food. Also, go with friends because it makes it so much better (don’t go with a boyfriend) 🙂 Hope this helps!”