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.
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:
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.
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!
Brenai recommends the following next steps:
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.
Can't wait to see your progress.
- 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) Pick one program over the other
- 2) Do two summer study abroad sessions - one for psychology, another for Spanish. Great, more affordable options to do both
- 3) Perhaps adding a Spanish minor so your Spanish classes count?
- 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.
- Do a Psychology program that is in a Spanish speaking location so you can earn psychology credits and work on your Spanish skills!