The Great Migration of Fall Semester Junior Year: When first-semester juniors flee the Richmond bubble for the winding roads of Barcelona, picturesque views of the Amalfi Coast and the urban street corners of Amsterdam.
Current sophomores have put the last-minute touches on their study abroad essays, finalized the requests for their academic letters of recommendation and submitted their resumes and transcripts for the University of Richmond study abroad application deadline.
Although the assistant to the dean of international education, Sara Rock, said that over one third of juniors go abroad, what about the other two thirds of the class? UR boasts about its acclaimed study abroad program, but many students pursue a non-traditional study abroad opportunity, oftentimes not through UR, or decide not to study abroad at all.
Sophomore Pamela Mulvaney said that although she felt as if dinnertime conversations always focus on who was going abroad and where, she had never felt as if she had to succumb to the same pressure to go abroad her junior year.
“I didn’t travel a lot when I was younger,” Mulvaney said. “So it just wasn’t something that was ever a huge ‘That’s what I’m gonna do in college.’”
Mulvaney, who is on a pre-nursing track and plans to graduate a semester early, said she had to take very specific classes in order to complete all her prerequisites before starting nursing school. This regimented academic plan limits her ability to go abroad, Mulvaney said.
Mulvaney’s family lives nearby in Mechanicsville, Virginia, and her best friend attends Virginia Commonwealth University, which she said made her feel more comfortable staying in Richmond while other juniors would be abroad.
“I have a lot here that I don’t feel the need to find something in another country,” Mulvaney said.
Mulvaney said that for her junior year, she was looking forward to getting to know people who had also decided to stay on campus and completing her clinical rotations for her pre-nursing academic path.
Sophomore Sally Watanabe made the choice to stay on campus for her first semester of junior year, but she plans to go abroad this summer. The program that piqued Watanabe’s interest is based in Copenhagen, Denmark, Watanabe said.
Watanabe said her mother had studied abroad during college and she had grown up hearing about her mother’s fond abroad memories and what a great opportunity studying abroad was.
Although Watanabe lived abroad in places such as Japan as a child and enjoys traveling, she joined ROTC her first year, which restricts students from spending a semester abroad during their time at UR, Watanabe said.
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Watanabe decided to look into alternate abroad opportunities. After hearing about a friend who loved her semester-long program in Copenhagen, Watanabe found a program through the Danish Institute for Study Abroad where she could study for 10 weeks and also take week-long study tours to different places, such as Budapest and Italy, she said.
“Already being in college for a year and a half has changed me so much,” Watanabe said. “I feel like now, if I went abroad, even though I did go abroad as a kid moving, I would have such a different perspective on things.”
After some self-reflecting, Watanabe decided she did not want to contract into the military for four years of active-duty service post-graduation and continue ROTC, thus opening up the opportunity for her to study abroad her junior year. Although this option became a possibility, Watanabe ultimately decided that was not what she wanted to do.
“I kind of realized I feel like I would miss out on a lot if I was gone for a whole semester here,” Watanabe said. “There is so much that this campus has to offer that I feel like I haven’t even begun to explore. I feel like junior year when everyone goes abroad during the fall, that that will be a time where I can focus on things I didn’t get a chance to do the past few years.”
Watanabe said she planned to spend time with her friends, join an a cappella group, volunteer and get off campus into the community during her next semester at UR.
Laurel Suchsland, a sophomore accounting and leadership studies major, plans to study at Bocconi University in Milan, Italy, an institution that is known for its business program and its classes geared toward globalized business, Suchsland said.
Suchsland is one of many current sophomores who want the chance to participate in one of the 70 or so study abroad programs offered by UR -- a number that tends to fluctuate each year, Director of Study Abroad Michele Cox said.
Because of UR’s emphasis on its study abroad programs during prospective student information sessions, Suchsland had been sure she wanted to study abroad when she decided to attend UR, she said.
“I can vividly remember in the info session saying how many kids study abroad,” Suchsland said.
Suchsland also said she would not take any accounting courses abroad because the standard was different overseas, so she plans to take courses such as finance and operations management that will aid her in her pursuit of working at an international accounting firm, and help her fulfill her requirements for the E. Claiborne Robins School of Business.
Vatican City, Munich and Switzerland top the places Suchsland said she was excited to visit next fall.
Students who applied for UR fall-semester abroad programs will find out their admission status on March 1, 2019.
Contact contributor Margaux Natiello at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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