I Decided to Study Abroad!

August 31, 2016
Serena Zheng

Hello and Happy New Year!

I hope you are all excited for 2016! I'm certainly looking forward to the new year –  I'll be spending the first 5 months studying abroad!

Why, might you ask, would I want to leave Princeton and my beloved friends for an entire semester? 

Well, let me explain, as I have to many questioning family and friends over winter break:

Whenever I talk to alumni or graduating seniors, they always speak fondly of their time at Princeton, and I, seeking advice on how to make the most of the Princeton experience, will ask: “Do you have any regrets?”

Overwhelmingly, almost all of them list not studying abroad among their missed opportunities.

Their regrets are certainly not unfounded, for Princeton offers incredible opportunities for students to go abroad and, even more impressively, supports them financially. Princeton extends full coverage of financial aid for semester study abroad, provides fully-funded opportunities like class field trips and the Bridge Year program, and offers all kinds of grants, fellowships, and special funds for language courses, global seminars, internships and research abroad.

I’ve always wanted to take advantage of these Princeton-funded opportunities to travel abroad, but never got around to doing so. However, this fall, I realized that it had to be now or never; I was more than halfway through my time at Princeton and needed to start taking advantage of these opportunities before they soon disappeared! Not wanting to be regretful, seeking adventure, and mostly longing to escape the stresses and workload of junior year within the Orange Bubble, I decided to apply to study abroad for the spring semester.

My process to choose a study abroad destination was simple: Since I wanted to make sure that I could get credit for COS classes, I googled “top computer science universities” and went down the list to check 1) if I could speak the language of the school and 2) if the application deadline had passed. Voila! The University of Edinburgh was my top choice.

Thankfully, Edinburgh also matched my additional criteria for an ideal location; the university is located in the center of a beautiful, vibrant, international city with plenty of outdoor exploration opportunities in the surrounding area. It’s also a huge school with many departments and a much wider range of classes than Princeton; in many ways, it offers everything that Princeton doesn’t.

I went ahead and applied, and the whole application process was quite straightforward. The Princeton study abroad advisers recommend that you only apply to one school – isn’t that crazy compared to the college admissions process!?

Now, I find myself across the pond, starting a new semester at the University of Edinburgh, where I’ll be a visiting student until the end of May. However, much like my fellow Princeton students, who are returning to campus for Reading Period, I’m still working on projects and studying for Princeton exams. Yep, that means I’m working on two semesters of classes simultaneously – what a way to escape stress, eh?

Nonetheless, I’m so extremely grateful for this opportunity to study abroad, and, once these two weeks of finals are over, I’m excited to live and learn in a different educational environment and have an adventure abroad!