From studying British history over tea in London, to chasing lions in Kenya, approximately 60 percent of University of Richmond students have one thing in common: their decision to study abroad.
As the Jan. 27 application deadline for programs beginning in the fall of 2014 approaches, many students have found themselves making frequent treks to the Office of International Education to discuss their options for studying abroad with an adviser.
Chris Klein, associate director of study abroad, is one of four advisers who assist students with the application process. Klein's goal is to help students make good choices about study abroad, and to encourage them to take advantage of the irreplaceable experience that study abroad offers, he said.
"There are things you can only learn from life experiences, and study abroad changes the context of your life experience," Klein said. "Spending several months living there gives students the opportunity to learn how another country operates, how another society is arranged, how people think, which are things you really can't learn from a short trip or vacation experience."
Richmond is unique because it is a relatively small school with a very large study abroad program, Klein said. Much larger universities send about 12 percent of students abroad, and they consider that a good percentage, he said.
Part of the reason Richmond is able to send so many students abroad is because it offers such a high number of programs, which is unusual of a department with a staff of five people, Klein said.
Although there are programs offered spanning over 30 countries, some students still feel that their perfect program does not exist.
Sophomore Matt Brookman is a business administration major, but because the program he hopes to attend in the fall--Queen Mary, University of London--offers a limited selection of business courses, he will have to take summer classes to graduate on time.
However, Brookman felt the sacrifice would be worth it because of the experiences he hopes to gain in his city of choice, he said. Brookman hopes to one day live in London, so he wants to use his time abroad to familiarize himself with living in a large city, he said.
"I'm looking for a very different experience from being at Richmond," Brookman said. "Richmond is a bubble. The farthest we ever really go is Willow Lawn."
Venturing outside her comfort zone took junior Virginia Frediani to Kenya and Tanzania last semester with the School for Field Studies.
Frediani was born in Richmond, but lived in Malaysia, Milan and London for nearly 16 years. Because of her extensive experience in Europe, Frediani wanted to use her opportunity to study abroad to go somewhere unfamiliar, she said.
Frediani is an environmental studies major, and finding a program that corresponded with her major was important to her, she said. She spent three months studying and collecting data on wildlife management while interacting with elephants, zebras, gazelles and more.
Frediani's unique opportunity will be invaluable to her search for future internships and jobs, and she would encourage other students to study abroad because of the numerous personal gains she acquired from living in a distinctive culture, she said.
"I had such an incredible, unique experience that I want others to get the same feeling of accomplishment from studying in another country to thriving in a new culture," Frediani said.
Contact staff writer Erin Flynn at firstname.lastname@example.org