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Is it a bad idea to pursue a study abroad program that will neither apply to my major nor provide me credits that I don't already have?

I am a psychology major and am currently interested in applying for 2 very different study abroad programs. One is a psychology program and the other is a Spanish program. I ask this question because I already obtained all the language credits I need from high school but I still wish to learn and practice Spanish to a more advanced level because it's simply a strong desire of mine to become a more fluent speaker. What better way to do that than by immersing myself in a culture that speaks Spanish as its primary language? At the same time, I constantly wonder if it is a waste trying to pursue the Spanish program out of mere interest instead of sticking to applying for programs that will go towards my major.
#study-abroad #language


It is never a waste of time when one is being driven into another direction to enhance there culture and broaden there horizon. It can only help you and put you another category making you more marketable competing with others in your eventual field of study. In the interview process we are always intrigued by individuals that have shown the ability to venture out and have the courage to making themselves better and more interesting as a human being. So do as want and not as you think. To much thinking causes delay. Good luck. Joseph Ford

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Katherine’s Answer

I wouldn't be too short-sighted. With languages, the most important thing is that you have mastery of the skill. Immersion via study abroad, regardless of whether your coursework is "Spanish" or "Psychology" is definitely going to help your language abilities, provided you seek out opportunities to use the language with native speakers, rather than, as many students who come in a group do, isolate yourself in your comfortable student social bubble. My first study abroad participation was a four-course summer "anthropology field school" in Mexico. I already had quite a bit of informal knowledge of Spanish, but this experience combined Spanish classes and Anthropology (my major) classes. My professor told me other students were actually jealous of me, because I was really trying to use the language and wasn't with them all the time. They thought I was showing off. Guess who learned a lot more Spanish? Also, there's just so far language classes can take you. If you feel like you've taken plenty of Spanish classes, that may not be what you need in the study abroad course. I know I got to a certain point where the only way I was going to improve my learning and comfort level was through realistic immersion. I eventually studied my doctorate in Social Sciences, Sociocultural Epidemiology in Mexico on a Fulbright, all in Spanish, including my 300-page dissertation. So you see, pursuing your professional discipline and your language skills are not mutually exclusive.

Katherine recommends the following next steps:

Reflect on where you are in Spanish. As far as your skill level (not credit requirements), do you need more language classes?
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Think about which course you're more interested in.
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Make a commitment to yourself to actively seek out opportunities to use and build on your language skills, especially during your study abroad experience, but also at home, before and after study abroad. There are plenty of ways to connect with Spanish speakers.
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Enjoy your studies and study abroad! Don't just aim for minimum credit requirements.
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Katherine has hit the nail. I moved from Brazil to Ireland 11 years ago to 'learn English' (and initially de-focus from my career in 'marketing' at the time). Fast-forward to 2019 and I'm a senior manager in online communities at VMware. The life-lessons I learned in these last 11 years were incredible and I would never had learnt them in school. Life can play tricks on you! Ed Giansante

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Alejandra’s Answer

I did two study abroad programs one in England to fulfill a humanities and social science requirement and another in Brazil really for fun (the program was about beginner Portuguese and business Brazilian culture) . My major was business administration management. Traveling was something I always wanted to do and I knew it would be cheaper to travel in a school program to spend a lot of time in each country.

There are a lot of things to think about financially, credit wise, and time wise. Some people may not agree with you about taking unnecessary courses and even you may have some convictions because they do not count towards your major but you can always apply the experiences and some skills that you've learned abroad to apply towards our life. And those life lessons are the ones that truly matter. Go towards your dreams. Travel while you are young. Have an open mind.

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Maria’s Answer

Hey Kimberly! First of all, it’s super great that you want to study abroad! I myself had an amazing experience. In terms of credits you got from high school, I totally understand because I was in the same boat as you. Nevertheless, it was actually somewhat tricky to pick my classes abroad because I had already taken most of them. Even so, that didn’t stop me! What I would recommend is going to a place where they predominantly speak Spanish. A lot of my friends that I studied abroad with also took a Spanish class to help them get more practice. Sometimes, there are also student exchanges where you can interact with native-speakers and practice your Spanish. It’s also good for you to talk to your advisor, and/or the study abroad coordinator because they can also help you figure out a schedule to work if you go abroad. There’s always a solution for everything, so I hope this helps!


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Joyce’s Answer

It is always helpful to develop language skills. A program that would enhance your Spanish would be very helpful in almost any profession as the number of Spanish speakers in the U.S. is large and is likely to rise. If you choose to become a counselor or social worker or decide to work in a business organization language abilities may increase your likelihood of being selected for a position you want and allow you to work well with a larger number of people.

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Brenai’s Answer

I think it greatly depends on your program and it’s credit requirements and how close you are to completion. My first step that I took when deciding on my study-abroad program was speaking to my Academic Advisor. You should try to your best to go abroad even if the program doesn’t technically benefit you. In the words of my abroad program director experience teaches you more than any book. If this means you have to take a heavier load when you return or take specific courses that fulfill some minor general requirements like I did. For an example, Italian Culture/ Lit counted for a senior English requirement and a fitness course fulfilled my fitness, as well as tailoring, it completed an arts requirement. I attend a liberal arts school, and my study abroad program in Italy was mainly for art or English majors or minors. I am a psych major I made it work and I am graduating in four years! You can make it work for you if you are down for the experience!

Brenai recommends the following next steps:

Since you have established that the program does not fulfill any of your courses consider a minor while abroad to been
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Lillian’s Answer

No, it's not a bad idea! Studying abroad is beneficial regardless of whether or not it helps further your graduation. If you are able to study abroad without any huge detriments, you definitely should! It'll not only give you an amazing experience (seriously, have you ever heard anyone say "wow, I really regretted studying abroad"?), but you'll also get several transferable skills out of it! Things like resourcefulness, adaptability, openness, cultural sensitivity, humility, communication skills, flexibility, etc. Talking about these things on a resume, cover letter, or in an interview can be just as valuable (if not more so) than your major-required courses.


If you have the money and you have the time, GO! You will not get an opportunity quite like this again.


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Kris’s Answer

I did not have the opportunity to study abroad so when it came time for my daughter to consider it, I was completely behind it. As a parent, we appreciate our children taking a long term view of their life. A study abroad program is going to help you throughout your entire life- and it doesn't matter if it isn't in your field of study. Studying abroad is about personal growth more than anything else. If you can swing it financially, go for it.

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Jasmine’s Answer

First, I am sooooo proud of you for following something that ignites your soul! Yes pursue it! Listen, you have all your credits taken care of...now is a great time to pursue something that pulls at your personal passion, which in this case is Spanish. Go for it! Set a goal for yourself. What does success look like after this trip? How will I know it was worth my time? Maybe you love inspiring women in leadership so you help a small business in the area who have women leaders. Maybe you love teaching English, so while you're there you help children become bilingual. Perhaps you love culinary arts and you find amazing chefs or local cooks on IG who you meet with and learn from. Short answer... GO! Long answer... define success for yourself.

Can't wait to see your progress.

Best,
Jasmine

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Jackie’s Answer

  • Hi Kimberly. It really is up to you, whether psychology or Spanish is more important to you class-wise. I studied abroad for a semester based on location and what was best for my majors. Are you willing to possibly not graduate on time? There's a few different options you have:


  1. 1) Pick one program over the other
  2. 2) Do two summer study abroad sessions - one for psychology, another for Spanish. Great, more affordable options to do both
  3. 3) Perhaps adding a Spanish minor so your Spanish classes count?
  4. 4) Find a semester or year long program that offers both Spanish and Psychology classes - there are lots of study abroad programs. Maybe expand your search to other Spanish speaking cities/countries to find the best option.
  5. Do a Psychology program that is in a Spanish speaking location so you can earn psychology credits and work on your Spanish skills!

Hi Kimberly, Studying abroad can provide so much more than course credits alone. By studying abroad in either a Spanish or Psychology focused program, you are going to acquire a number of skills you can articulate in future interviews after graduation. Some of these skills include cultural appreciation, initiative, experience working with diverse populations, problem solving skills, a different world view, and so many others. If you decide to pursue Spanish, you will have daily experience practicing conversations and pick up slang or local colloquialisms that you likely would not have learned in high school. Engaging in unique experiences such as study abroad will give you stories to relate back to when speaking with future employers, regardless of the classes you took. Angie Persello

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