Studying abroad: About experience or grades?

Erin Elfeldt

This past semester I had the privilege to study abroad in another country, become friends with people from numerous countries, and submerge into a culture that although is very similar to our American ways, it’s blend of “Old English traditions” with a vivacious population truly makes it one of a kind. However, I am not sure I was able to fully experience all London had to offer due to my 12 credit course load and the perpetual concern to keep my grades up.

“Granted, this past semester I had the highest G.P.A. I have ever had, I know I still would have done well and probably had the chance to take part in more cultural related events, had I not been as tied up in my grades,” Jessica Hurst, a junior psychology major who studied abroad in London this past semester, said.

With London’s young, multicultural city as its capital, it is not surprising that statistic’s show the United Kingdom to be the most popular choice among U.S. study abroad students, according to the Institute of International Education. However, more then half of the universities that send their students abroad only require the transfer of credits back to the home institution and only a “C” or above grade in each course taken while abroad.

Quinnipiac still finds it best to have grades be among student’s top priorities while abroad. “It assures students understand that study abroad is first and foremost an educational experience. It was never meant to be a vacation from the pursuit of self improvement,” Patrick Frazier, Director of the Office of International Education here at Quinnipiac, said.

However, the grades which are given while abroad may transfer back to Quinnipiac at a different level due the different academic standards that exist among various countries. Ultimately, study abroad students are given their grades by someone other than the professor who saw their work and taught them in the classroom.

In recent years Quinnipiac University decided to add itself to the extensive list of universities around the world taking part in this unique opportunity that will certainly expand the student body’s knowledge on matters too large to address in a classroom. “In 2002-2003, 32 students from Quinnipiac studied abroad. Two years later the number of students has increased 143 students,” Frazier said.

As the number of students who choose to study abroad continues to grow, Quinnipiac needs to be sure they are providing its students with all the studying abroad experience has to offer.

“I think I could have benefited more from my time in London if I was able to dedicate less time reading textbooks almost identical to those back here in the states and more time to going to museums and shows that I could only see over there,” Hurst said.

There are so many things we can learn that come from places other then the textbooks, and although a “formal education” is beneficial and should more often then not be a priority, when studying abroad it may be O.K. to put on the back burner. Satisfaction with a C, rather then striving for an A in the classroom, can be a good thing when we are in living in an once in a life time experience for a few months, that has the potential to facilitate our growth as individuals, in ways no teacher or textbook could ever achieve.