A Tale of Two Semesters

By Mary Cate Connors

Each year, Princeton undergraduates make the world their classroom by studying abroad. For most, this means spending a summer or a semester abroad. For some, two semesters is better than one. “Students who choose to take a full year abroad are focused and have clear goals,” says Nancy Kanach, director of the Office of International Programs and senior associate dean of the college. “Whether they complete the academic year in one location, integrating into the academic and social life of a single host institution, or use two semesters to explore linguistic and geographical diversity, they return to campus enthusiastic about what they have learned and ready to use Princeton’s many resources to continue their exploration.”

Learning the Language

Semesters abroad in Morocco and Jordan were the perfect pairing for Jasmine Robinson ’16, a Near Eastern studies concentrator who wanted to focus on improving her Arabic-language skills. In Rabat, Morocco, Robinson lived with a host family, traveled with friends on the weekends and took advantage of the city’s rich cultural scene. Most of all, she found inspiration in the classroom. A course entitled “Gender and Islam” examined Morocco’s family law code and served as the motivation for her junior paper and senior thesis topics. She continued her intensive Arabic training after traveling to Amman, Jordan. “The program was very rewarding in terms of my language acquisition,” says Robinson. “Since all of my courses were in Arabic and I was required to speak it all of the time, my language skills really improved.”

Connecting Countries

Alice Frederick ’17, an anthropology concentrator, wanted a culturally immersive experience where she could challenge herself personally and academically. She decided on study abroad programs in Bodh Gaya, India, and London, England. In Bodh Gaya, her days were filled with meditation, rigorous coursework and communal living and dining in a monastery. She was able to develop close friendships with her cohort, as well as with the on-site faculty. “The busy, cosmopolitan city of London was, in many ways, the total opposite of Bodh Gaya. While I was abroad, I learned a lot about disciplined, focused independent work,” Frederick says. “In both India and England, I honed the ability to be present in the moment and absorbed all that was offered me. I really feel like I was able to establish a life in two distinct places.”

A Home Abroad

A year abroad at the University of Oxford was just enough time for Alex Bi ’17, a civil and environmental engineering student, to settle into the University’s social culture and unique course of study. “The academic style and the culture were definitely different at Oxford. With fewer contact hours and less scheduled time, I learned to be a lot more independent academically and personally — and I think that will help me after graduation and in the long run,” says Bi. “I found a home at Oxford. At first I wasn’t sure about going abroad for a whole year — but a year felt like it wasn’t enough at the end.”