Studying abroad is opportunity to explore

The essential USC experience can often be reduced to a few key activities: going to football games and frat parties, enjoying the sun while eating Lemonade in the Campus Center, and having brunch at Bottega Louie and Urth Caffé.

But for a growing contingent of students, experiencing somewhere off campus — somewhere completely foreign — for a semester, a summer or even a winter break, can play just as big of a role in the undergraduate experience.

Studying abroad is an increasingly popular option for students all over the United States. According to the Institute of International Education’s most recent Open-Doors report, in 2012-2013 more than 289,000 U.S. students studied abroad for academic credit, which was a record high. In fact, in December, the White House even hosted a Summit on Study Abroad and Global Citizenship at which the creation of a Study Abroad Office within the State Department was announced.

USC is no exception to this trend of students going overseas. According to the Open-Doors report, more than 2,000 students from ’SC went abroad during the 2012-2013 school year. Dornsife College alone offers 55 programs in 30 countries. Other schools, including Annenberg, Marshall and Viterbi, offer unique programs for particular majors to ensure that all students who want to can study abroad and receive credit for it.

For me, going abroad was something that I knew I wanted to do. Although I knew I would love USC, I was excited by the prospect of spending a semester in a different country. Given my foreign language skills (or lack thereof), my love for Europe, and the journalism program that was offered, London seemed the obvious choice.

While I was quick to decide I was going to study abroad, the preparation took a lot longer. I spent many hours last semester daydreaming of everywhere I would go and everything I would do in London. And now, as I sit here writing this at a cute European cafe near my school, having just returned from a trip to Belgium, I still cannot believe that I am here. I only have a few months to soak up all I can in London and Europe, and I plan to make the absolute most of it. I have already planned seven trips for my first 10 weeks here (Brussels, Copenhagen, Paris, Edinburgh, Dublin, Lisbon and Amsterdam) and hope to spend the rest of the time that I am not in class exploring my new home base.

So far, I have visited the British Museum, the National Gallery and the National Portrait Gallery. I have gone to a few of the many markets lining London’s streets, visited Kensington Palace, seen the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace, and experienced London nightlife.

You could say that I am still in tourist mode, but it’s hard not to be with the countless things London has to offer. But my experiences in London are just that, mine. Just as study abroad is a very different experience from being at USC for a semester, each study abroad experience is unique in itself — even for students in the same country or the same city.

To highlight some of these experiences, six of us will take turns writing this biweekly column on some of our personal adventures everywhere from Paris to Argentina. Though we might not be on campus reading the Daily Trojan, we’re still a part of the Trojan family. And if one thing is for sure, the Trojan family is truly an international one (just ask the USC London Alumni Club).

If you’re especially interested in our adventures abroad, check out our Troy Meets World blog online, where our trusty contingent of abroad writers will be filling readers in weekly on just about everything their foreign country has to offer. If you’re considering studying abroad yourself, are reminiscing on past travels or are just curious, it’s a great place to check out a variety of viewpoints. And, if nothing else, it will be a great way for us writers to remember what is sure to be an unforgettable time in our lives.

Isabella Sayyah is a junior majoring in print and digital journalism. The column, “Troy Meets World,” runs every other Tuesday.