Patrick Rochelle: Make D.C. your study abroad destination

It’s already October. And while that means for most students it’s time to start preparing for midterms, for others it means the deadline for spring semester study abroad applications is fast approaching.

But, as a campus four blocks from the White House, steps from the National Mall and a Metro ride away from both the Library of Congress and the Folger Shakespeare Library, I can’t help but think about how GW is a destination in and of itself.

Study abroad is not as necessary as the University and campus culture makes it seem; there is enough to do at GW and in D.C. to easily fill four years.

Students at GW live in one of the political and cultural capitals of the world, and yet nearly half of all undergraduates leave at some point during their college careers to study abroad.

One reason going abroad is so popular at GW is due to the University’s strong message that it is part of a student’s college experience.

But that hasn’t always been the case.

In 1997, only 324 students went abroad, but 10 years later that figure jumped to 1,651, according to the Office of Study Abroad.

But why does this institution place so much emphasis on its abroad programs when this city – and by extension, this campus – is already a playground of opportunities?

For many students from other colleges and universities, D.C. is the place they come to spend their semester abroad. And who could blame them when there is so much to do and take advantage of right here in the District?

A lot of students go abroad thinking it is their last chance in life to travel and explore the world. But this assumption is both naïve and untrue. If anything, you’ll find more time – and dare I say money – at your disposal to travel later in life.

Aside from the fact that students who decide to stay in D.C. benefit from the seemingly endless possibilities of internships, let’s not forget that students who go abroad miss out on the vibrant campus life GW offers. In the past few years, there have been all sorts of wonderful surprises, like Girl Talk at this year’s Fall Fest, a week long apocalyptic snowstorm, annual cherry blossoms in the spring and the frequent storming of the White House and National Mall for rallies and speeches.

These are aspects of campus life that other colleges and universities – as well as study abroad programs, for that matter – can’t offer their students.

Coincidentally, many students return to GW thinking they are on track to graduate when in reality they’re not. Students sometimes return to campus to find that the courses they took abroad do not count towards their graduation requirements or did not adequately prepare them for the upper-level courses the take upon returning.

Study abroad often doesn’t offer the courses GW does. Students in the School of Media and Public Affairs and the School of Engineering and Applied Science also have trouble going abroad, as those kinds of specialized courses are difficult to transfer credits for.

Now, I’m not saying don’t study abroad. But the truth is, there is much this city has to offer for college students.

A big reason we came to GW is to be in D.C. And this city has a wealth of opportunities that can’t be found anywhere else.

Be careful not to waste it.

Patrick Rochelle is a junior majoring in English.

The Hatchet has disabled comments on our website. Learn more.