Fresh Place, Fresh Start!: Tips for Studying Abroad Freshman Year


Why wait to study abroad? Here are 10 reasons not to! When you start applying to colleges, you are most likely not thinking about studying abroad right away. Perhaps you have thought about studying in another country at some point in your college career, maybe during your sophomore or junior year. However, you are probably expecting your first semester at a university to be traditional, starting with orientation, move-in day, and adjustment to the typical college life. I am here to tell you that the ordinary freshman year experience is not the only option and not even necessarily the best.


Whether or not you have heard of people studying abroad so early on in their college career, it has become increasingly popular. Northeastern University’s program sends students to one of six international locations his/her first semester. The University of Delaware World Scholars Program includes studying abroad freshman year in Rome, Italy or Madrid, Spain. Countless other institutions offer spring admission to their universities as well, with the option of spending the fall semester abroad at one of their partner institutions. There is also always the option of seeking a degree at an abroad university.


When I was applying to colleges, studying abroad first semester had never even crossed my mind. Truthfully, I hardly even knew that it was a possibility. However, I was informed of this opportunity when I was admitted to my top university second semester. I have always loved travelling and knew that I wanted to study internationally at some point during my four years at college, but going abroad my freshman year definitely seemed daunting at first. When I finally enrolled for the spring semester at my university in the United States, I applied to three different colleges abroad where I would potentially spend my first semester and ultimately chose to go to Rome, Italy. I have been here for three weeks so far and have already discovered many of the benefits of studying abroad first semester. Here is a list of the ten things I have learned so far about studying abroad and why I believe you should do so if you can, even your freshman year!


  1. The growth in maturity you experience while studying abroad is impressive. I have already noticed a change in my level of maturity, and I have been in Rome for less than a month. You will find yourself adapting to your new environment every day, and you will grow confident that you can continue to do so while travelling on weekends. If I could learn how to do laundry, cook, and navigate so quickly in Rome, you can too.


  1. Another benefit of studying abroad in a country with a different main language is that you get the chance to practice this language with locals! I took Italian for three years in high school and am taking it again this semester in Rome. Being exposed to Italian speakers every day has helped me immensely in my study of the language. Even my friends who only knew two words in Italian upon their arrival here have improved so much over these past few weeks. If you are really concerned about the language barrier, you are bound to find people who at least speak a little English. Plus, the majority of the music played here is American music, including great throwbacks, which is a major plus.



  1. One of the best parts of studying abroad is the ability to travel on weekends. Living in Europe or on another continent in general for four months makes it much easier to see the places you have dreamed of visiting. Also, when you make friends who want to travel as well, they will often introduce you to new places that you might have never otherwise seen. For instance, two of my friends and I wanted to take a day trip during our second weekend, and one of them found a place called Tivoli in Italy, which was only an hour train ride away, costing a mere two Euros. We went the next day, had a great time, and left with amazing new memories. The chance to be spontaneous in travelling is one of the highlights of studying abroad, and it gives you not only a crazy story but also a sense of independence.


  1. You will find that your sense of direction has improved dramatically within days. Living in a place with different types of roads and fewer street signs, you have to learn to get around somehow early on. Within my first three days here, I learned to find my way around pretty well. Now, having already taken weekend trips, I have realized that this skill has transcended Rome. I am now able to navigate my way through a new town or city within hours.



  1. One of the most enjoyable parts of studying abroad is meeting locals on a daily basis.  They are often very friendly, welcoming, and willing to try to communicate with you. You are bound to have a bunch of local friends on Snapchat by the end of your semester! It is incredibly interesting to live temporarily in the place they have lived their whole lives and to see how this place has shaped them. Don’t be afraid to strike up a conversation with them and to practice your language skills! You just might gain an Instagram follow or a Facebook friend in the process.


Like-minded People

  1. When you study abroad, you are introduced to a group of people with whom you are bound to have a lot in common. You will meet people with such interesting stories and will have the opportunity to build strong relationships with them, especially since you will most likely travel with people you meet while abroad.

Crazy Opportunities

  1. You will have such unique opportunities while studying abroad! I can go to class on a Monday afternoon and hang out and enjoy gelato at the Trevi Fountain on Monday night. I was introduced to an app called Scooterino, which is essentially a type of Uber used in Rome. However, instead of picking you up in cars, drivers pick you up and take you to your destination on a vespa. When I had to go to a bookstore to buy my textbooks, I was dropped off on a vespa. It was insane.

*Spontaneity is key. On a Sunday night, I got out of bed to grab a water bottle from a vending machine downstairs when a few girls told two of my friends and I about a music festival taking place down the block. I sprinted to my room, grabbed my purse, and we ran to the festival in our pajamas. We ended up spending the night dancing and singing outside in a piazza next to the Tiber River and making one of our favorite memories so far.


Food :P

  1. You will be exposed to some of the best food in the world while abroad! You can find unique, delectable dishes no matter where you choose to go. Some of the most delicious pizza and pasta are down the street from my apartment. Trust me; I take advantage of this daily. Then, there’s the gelato. Enough said.

On-Site Classes

  1. Another really cool aspect of studying abroad is the chance to take on-site classes. My art history class is based on the art and architecture of Rome and Florence during the Renaissance period, and we get to go as a class to visit the monuments we learn about in class. We even have a mandatory weekend trip to Florence with the class! These classes are not only interesting, but also incredibly informative. The feeling of walking down the streets of your new home, recognizing different buildings, and knowing about their past is nothing short of incredible.

Learning Outside the Classroom

Classes are important, and you should still do your homework, even if you are in another country for the semester. However, I have found that I have learned even more outside the classroom here than I have in my classes. Literally, I have been able to visit and learn about museums and sights like the Coliseum and the Spanish Steps, but I have also learned so much about myself and my ability to adapt to new settings. My confidence has grown in my capability of balancing my time and keeping myself on track in my daily schedule while living on my own in a foreign country. The best part is that these skills I have been developing will surpass my time here and my time in college as a whole. Being thrown into a foreign country, especially when you are a freshman in college, might sound intimidating, but with the help of friends and mentors, you will be in for one of the greatest experiences of your life!



Investing in Yourself: Choosing the Path of Your Own Future


Family, finances, fear of failure, and friends: the four main sources of academic pressure. As you’re surfing the waves of the high school and college experience, you’ll come to realize that making decisions that will greatly affect your imminent future and possible career path will be anything but easy. With relatives constantly asking you want you want to do with your future and pressuring you to do well in school, the heavy costs of college tuition, the little devil on your left shoulder telling you that you’re not good enough, and your peers always making remarks about how they have their whole future planned out, deciding what path you want to take after high school is one of the most difficult, yet important decisions you’ll ever make. However, if you keep these pressures at the forefront of your mind, you may lose yourself in the heat of it all. You may end up taking a left turn, and drive along a road that you never wanted to take in the first place. Here are ways to make sure you take ahold of your future before others do. pduzzrvrmruidvz6wuym.png

Make Yourself a Priority

When considering all the factors that contribute to deciding your career path, you should always remember that this is your future; no one else’s. The decisions that you make will impact you, not your grandparents, not your teachers, and not your friends. For some, the opinions of loved ones play a huge role when making choices about one’s future. However, in the case of choosing colleges and career paths, you may have to make your own opinion a priority above those of your loved ones because like I said, this is your future.


Finding What You Love

So many people end up pursuing career paths that they aren’t completely happy with because they didn’t have enough confidence to do what they really wanted to do, or they didn’t think it would be enough to keep them financially stable, or because their family is expecting them to carry on a legacy of a specific career; the list could go on and on. There is a plethora of pressures, fears, and risks that come with deciding what career path you want to take, but it is important that you go through with what you want to do regardless of these fears and risks. You should decide upon a career path based on something that you enjoy doing. Pursuing a job that you love and enjoy is one of the most rewarding things in life. Think about all of your passions and your hobbies. Take into consideration what you want to accomplish in life, your interests, and your values. What do you find exciting? What kind of working environment do you prefer? What’s important to you? What do you excel at; what skills do you have? Combine all of these aspects and create a list of possible careers that fit your criteria. Maybe even consider fields that you’re not so familiar with but are interested in pursuing in the future. Which of these things can you see yourself doing for a living? Once you’ve narrowed the list down, research the remaining topics as careers. Look at how many years of school are required/recommended for a degree in those fields, the average annual salary for employees, and all of the aspects and positions of the job. When you’ve done your research, choose one, or maybe two, careers that you think will satisfy your desires and needs. Keep these career fields in mind as you continue your high school and college journeys, and participate in things that you think might help you in grasping a better understanding of them. Interested in going into politics? Join the debate team! Want to be an engineer? Enroll in an engineering course and/or a physics course! Interested in becoming a photographer? Join the yearbook staff, or join a photography club! Participating in these things will help you determine whether you truly enjoy certain subjects or not, and possibly help you decide what you want to do in the future.

Dodging the Bullets

Like I said before, this process comes with many pressures, fears, and risks, but it’s essential that you dodge these challenges when it comes to your future. Perhaps you’ll disappoint your parents by deciding to pursue the arts when they wanted you to become a neurosurgeon, or maybe your peers will ridicule you for wanting to become a psychologist, but in the end, doing what YOU want to do and following through with it will make YOU happy, and that’s all that should matter.



How I Spent My First Month of College at USC 


1. Moving in and decorating my side of the dorm room

I really wanted to make my dorm as comfortable and reflective of my personality as possible so I went all out on my decorations.

Watch my College Dorm Haul here and Move In Day Vlog here.

2. Participating in Welcome Week activities

After moving in on August 15, freshman participated in a week of programs and activities to get accomidated to living at USC. The residents of Birnkrant Residential College went on a trip to a Los Angeles Angels baseball game to kick off the week.

Welcome week also included an activities fair, social events, and more fun things to fill our schedules.

3. Meeting the man in charge

USC president, Max Nikias, came by the honors residential college to take photos with us. 

4. Going to Santa Monica Beach...twice

One of my favorite places is the beach and me and a few girls on my floor took advantage of the beautiful Santa Monica. We sunbathed, ate cheeseburgers and shakes at Pier Burger, and went shopping.

5. Seeing amazing performers on campus

Visions and Voices is an on campus arts initiative that brings famous arts performers to campus. Events are free for all students. At their kick off events I was able to see Javon Johnson, a spoken word poet, and take pictures with him after the event.

6. Seeing Mike Will Made-It live right outside my dorm

Every year the USC concert committee throws a welcome back concert, free to all students. There was a surprise appearance from Jerimih and other collaboratives with Mike Will.

7. Attending events for organizations I care about

During the first month of college you spend A LOT of time going to club meetings and figuring out how you want to spend your time in college. Here I am pictured at a reception for the Black Alumni Association.

8. Attending the Kicks film screening before it released in theaters 

Kicks is a feature film that was just released in September 2016. It won awards at the TriBeCa Film Fest and other film festivals. I got to see the film before it hit theaters and have conversation with the director, Justin Tipping, and two actors from the film.

9. Purchasing a cruiser to get around campus 

A large portion of USC students use bikes, skateboards, penny boards, and long boards, to get around campus. I decided to join the bandwagon and get a bright yellow cruiser.

10. Attending my first game at the Colesium

We played the Utah Aggies and beat them big time! The game was at 11am so it was extremely hot in the stadium. However, fans, alumni, and students were still all around campus tailgating at 6AM. Tons of free food, souvenirs, and good times.

11. Listening to the Young Turks during their on campus live show

The Young Turks produce a show for Fusion based on political topics that Milleneals care about. They are currently traveling across the country visiting college campuses to see what issues students care about. Watch the show they recorded at USC Annenberg here and look for me in the audience!

12. Utilizing my unlimited dining hall swipes to eat icecream every single day without shame

There is no better way to finish the day off than with a cone! (Don't worry it is froyo.)