Posted by Ani Lordkipanidze
Skidmore's 136 study abroad programs allure a new and increasingly large batch of students each semester. The national Open Door survey conducted by the Institute for International Education, ranks Skidmore No. 2 among baccalaureate institutions with an estimated 65 percent of students studying abroad for one semester in 2009-2010. Diana Baron '13 and Chaoer Chen '13 volunteered some recent experiences abroad.
Baron chose Berlin, Germany, as her destination because she fell in love with the city when she first visited the country a few years ago. Berlin offered a departure from the atmosphere of Saratoga Springs. As the capital city of Germany, Berlin houses a population of 3.5 million and offers more mobility. "It was so easy to get around the city since it's easy to walk and there is a fantastic public transportation system. On the weekends, the trains run all night, and on weeknights, when the train stops, there are night buses," Baron said.
Chen, like Baron, fell in love with Italy on a prior visit. "Two years ago I visited Rome with my family. I felt in love with that city and since then wanted to visit Italy again." Chen chose Florence rather than Rome for her semester abroad.
Chen, as a Sociology major, focused on fulfilling all-college requirements while at the Lorenzo de Medicci University. She praised the program for the strength of its art classes. However, Chen advised students interested specifically in language to at least consider other Italian cities, such as Rome or Milan. "Language was a barrier. My Italian is not very good. There is a big separation between foreigners and local Italians. The problem in Florence is that it is very popular place for American students," Chen said.
Chen also shared advice for prospective abroad students. "Learn more Italian before you go there. It's a country in Europe where less people speak English. If you like art or art history, you should definitely go there and you should also respect the country, people and their history."
Baron explained that language barriers did not detract from her time in Berlin, as many residents speak English. Baron took an introductory course to German while abroad, and she is currently continuing her German studies at Skidmore. "Berlin was also a great place to study art history since I'm mostly interested in modern and contemporary art," Baron said.
Baron had a positive home-stay, living with a family during her time in Berlin, which she said helped her adjust to life abroad. "It really helped that I had amazing friends on my program and a great host mom in my home-stay."
Baron offered some parting advice for students who are considering the abroad experience. "Visit Berlin! I cannot say enough good things about it. At the end of the semester I got upset because I realized how many things I had missed in the city –it's a good excuse to go back though. But in general I would say take advantage of all the chances you get, even if it's intimidating. Explore new things and immerse yourself in the local culture," Baron said.
Despite her love of the Italian city, Chen expressed nostalgia for Skidmore's food. "Nothing compares to the cookies in D-Hall" Chen said.
For a more information on study abroad and a detailed list of forms and deadlines visit the OCSE webpage at http://cms.skidmore.edu/ocse.