The most important advice I have received so far on study abroad is the advice on thinking about whether to study abroad in large groups. The teaching assistant in my Global Engagement course, McKenzie Cowlbeck, was the person who brought this topic to my attention. McKenzie Cowlbeck’s relation of the differences of her experiences in a large group versus in some smaller groups has definitely changed how I thought about this topic.
I had previously not particularly put too much thought about the group sizes. I had more thought about things like where I wanted to go and how much it was going to cost me. I have had, and still do have, worries about studying abroad financially, so that was the only critical thoughts about the topic that I had had. Mostly, the main question to me was where to go first. I am very excited about study abroad and was not really worried about anything besides money.
Once McKenzie Cowlbeck discussed how much better her experiences in smaller groups while studying abroad were than her experiences in larger groups, I realized that I needed to think about this topic. Would I like to study abroad with a larger or smaller group? The benefits to a larger group include a decreased likelihood of getting lost or having to go somewhere by oneself because it increases the likelihood of someone else being interested in doing something. Another benefit is that one would have a lot of Americans with them and that could make one comfortable and less isolated from one’s home.
However, the large groups could restrict many activities because of the unwieldiness of large numbers of people. Also, one would have a decreased likelihood of developing close relationships with the people on the study abroad with them, since one would be in less contact with them. Third, a large group of Americans is likely to attract a lot of attention and crowd out a lot of potential positive aspects of study abroad, like getting to know locals.
Based on the comments made by McKenzie Cowlbeck, I have been able to decide that I would probably prefer a smaller group size, though I acknowledge potential benefits of a larger group.