During my junior year of high school, I visited many colleges through my great touring quests and found myself consistently asking my guides about potentially going abroad in college. Perhaps this fascination stemmed from an experience I had in high school when I was able to attend school in the Swiss canton of Fribourg for a bit of time. Going abroad to me represented an adoption of a new perspective of living.
Coming to Penn as an LSM student, I had quite a few realizations about my academic calendar. Unless I almost perfectly planned out my courses and forewent the possibility of flexibility in my schedule, it would be unlikely I could study abroad for a semester. Moreover, there is so much I wanted to explore at Penn itself both socially and extracurricularly that I didn’t want to miss out on.
When I heard of Wharton’s Global Research Internship Program (GRIP), I thought this was the perfect opportunity to have an abroad experience over the summer while still staying at Penn during the school year. The program itself is an incredible opportunity that funds you to conduct research anywhere you want in the world. I personally decided to go to the London School of Economics (LSE) which is situated in the heart of central London offering an incredible location.
While I had an amazing experience, I definitely was surprised to know that summers abroad are rather different than a typical semester abroad. Firstly, unlike many Penn students, I wasn’t taking summer classes but instead was working independently on a series of projects. Meeting people in a foreign country without a basis for a community is significantly different from finding friends at Penn through clubs or mutual connections. Moreover, Penn students typically stay within a few blocks’ distance of the campus, whereas abroad, you can be completely dispersed in a large city.
However, if you’re willing to challenge yourself, I think a summer experience can offer more personal development. Fending for yourself when you know almost no one and are forced to create a home of your own from scratch is empowering. To know that you are able to build your own environment and sustain is especially helpful at Penn. My interactions with people after I have come back are more nuanced and targeted. We at Penn oftentimes look for our groups, our “mini-homes.” Why not develop them yourself?
Ultimately, the most important thing for me was knowing what to expect. Once you figure out your lifestyle in a new place, there is so much any opportunity abroad can provide. Thankfully at Penn, there’s so many to choose from.