A historic election season made last fall an exciting time to live in D.C., and the number of GW students who chose to leave the country and study abroad during that time was notably lower than in past years.
Director of Study Abroad Rob Hallworth said that 351 undergraduates went abroad last semester, lower than the typical fall average – between 400 and 450. Many students reported that last fall’s presidential election and the upcoming inauguration made choosing to go abroad a difficult decision.
Ashley Wells, a junior who will spend the spring semester in Madrid, said she felt missing the upcoming inauguration was acceptable, after working for the Obama campaign last fall.
“Though I am devastated about missing inauguration, I feel that working for the campaign was a much more valuable experience,” she said. “I know that while watching the inauguration ceremonies abroad in Spain, I will feel that I gave my best efforts to put Barack Obama in the Oval Office on that day.”
Arden Beesley, a junior who plans to go to Denmark this semester, expressed similar sentiments, but is eager to get a foreign perspective on American politics.
“It was very exciting to participate in the election and that was very important to me,” Beesely said. “I am looking forward to seeing how people abroad feel about Obama and watch the first few months of his administration from afar.”
Hallworth agreed that the election probably affected students’ decisions to go abroad.
“I think events of this magnitude can certainly have an impact,” Hallworth said. “We were anticipating a drop in study abroad participation for the fall due to the election and suggested ways that students could stay involved while studying abroad.”
Slightly more than 500 students are expected to go abroad this semester, which Hallworth said falls within the normal range.
Darcey O’Halloran, a junior currently in her second semester at the London School of Economics, said choosing to go abroad was a difficult, but ultimately good decision.
“I was very hesitant that it was a year-long program and I would be missing both of those events,” she said, referring to the election and inauguration. “In the end though I realized it was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up and I have not felt like I have made any sacrifices.”
Some students who studied abroad in the fall said Election Day made them feel like they were missing out.
“I realized that Election Day was the moment I felt homesick the most while abroad,” said Sean Mooney, who spent the fall in Beijing.
Vaishali Khatri, who studied in Paris during the fall semester, said she got an interesting perspective on the election.
“Very early in the morning on the day after the election, I had various French people saying ‘Yes we can’ to me,” Khatri said. “Europe is obsessed with Barack.”