Study abroad: the best decision I almost didn’t make

“I remember my professor’s wife telling me that this was only the beginning for me, and she was right”

Sabrina Prioleau refutes the idea that short-term study abroad doesn’t have an impact on students, describing how her own experience has inspired her to do a PhD in international education.

While in graduate school at Webster University, I noticed the wonderful study abroad opportunities that were offered to undergraduate students. I remembered saying to myself I wish there was a two week study abroad option, however I quickly recanted and said, but they would never have such a short program. To my surprise, I received an email in November 2011 from Webster’s main campus in St. Louis, Missouri. The email encouraged me to add international experience to my resume by participating in a hybrid course, which consisted of 6 weeks of online course work and two weeks abroad.

As I read the email I was so excited, because this was the opportunity I had been waiting for. As a fulltime employee I could not take a full semester off, but I could save my vacation days and take two weeks off. I immediately contacted the coordinator at Webster’s study abroad office to find out the application process. Once I was registered and my financial aid was in place it was time to go, or so I thought; then a family emergency took place and I questioned whether I should go. I remember one of my best friends saying, “Not going is not an option, this is what you’ve been preparing for, so you’re going!” I realized that she was right and agreed to go. I continued doing my coursework and preparing for travel. The day of the trip, I was excited and anxious. My friend spent all night helping me pack, since I’d never flown before.

“All I could think about was that I was about to fly to London by myself and meet students and faculty, whom I’ve only communicated with online”

As she drove me to the airport, I was overcome with emotion. She tried desperately to calm me down. All I could think about was that I was about to fly to London by myself and meet students and faculty whom I’ve only communicated with online. Did I mention I had never flown before? My stomach turned as we had lunch, and then I made my way through security and onto the plane. Flying from Charleston to Newark was a little interesting, but not bad at all. Once I arrived in Newark and exchanged my money, I became excited about this adventure! I boarded my flight and had dinner. The next day…

I woke up in London! I took the long walk off the plane, through customs and the underground to make my way to Regent’s Park. There I met most of my classmates and it was such a surreal experience. I was able to share what it’s like living in the South, what degree I was pursuing and what I was looking forward to the most. During the next week I got to meet human resource and employment law professionals and participate in cross-border staffing issues discussions, tour the city, enjoy great restaurants, shop and go to Wimbledon, yes Wimbledon!

Geneva was also amazing, with beautiful scenery! I participated in a global HR discussion and met several HR leaders. I got to meet several expatriates as well during our July 4th picnic. I remember my professor’s wife telling me that this was only the beginning for me, and she was right. Since my experience I use every opportunity I can to share how much my life was impacted and why students should seize every opportunity to study abroad. Two weeks changed my life; imagine if I studied abroad for a semester! In fact, my experience was so informative that I’m planning to pursue a PhD in International Education and transition into the field.