Should you study abroad….


So the other day my grand little messaged me asking a simple question, should she study abroad…… COME ON YOUNG GLIL. I’m obviously going to say yes. So let me give you the rundown on this wonderful opportunity called study abroad. *side note, this is my study abroad presentation in written form. So if you’ve heard it before you can skip this :)*

So what are my top reasons to go abroad?

1. Quality of Life

So I’ve told many people by now, I didn’t enjoy my first two years of CMU. Yes the people were great but overall I was burnt out by the end of Freshman year. For me, it wasn’t the classes but loads of extracurriculars I kept putting on myself like clubs and even working part time at the Exchange making sandwiches for pocket money. For the sake of transparency I looked through some of my old calendars and heres what I found

This was my calendar NOT INCLUDING 3-4 HRS OF CLASS EVERY DAY AND HW TIME. To be honest I enjoyed being so busy but this cost me my grades, my health, and my sanity.

Fast forward to next semester when I started studying abroad. Here’s my calendar. Notice the incredible amounts of free time I had along with classes only 3 days a week. Notice the random clubs I joined like Muay Thai because I was in South East Asia. As a typical CMU busy body this change SHOCKED ME. To have consistent four day weekends is practically unheard of as a Junior in college.

So imagine what I did with all this free time. I went on spontaneous trips all like the Tioman Islands in Malaysia with my Swedish and German roommates.


Tioman Islands, Singapore Study Abroad
An awesome spontaneous adventure with some of my housemates

The way this trip occurred went like this. Tanja (girl on the left) asked if I wanted to go this Island. I looked at my calendar and saw NOTHING PLANNED. I immediately said yes and in a few days I was on a bus to Malaysia alone in the middle of the night due to scheduling difficulties with my roommates. I got to the island and didn’t even have Malaysian money so I had to barter with a local to exchange for their currency. Once my roommates came we went snorkeling, ate lots of good food, and just relaxed on this practically private beach.

How common is this at school?

Ask yourself this important question. Would you have done the same thing at CMU?

If someone came up to you and said “GLil do you want to go to Philly next weekend? It’s one of the most historic places in the USA. Theres tons of great food and tourist sites. The ticket is like 30 bucks on a bus for four hours (not a sketch malaysian bus + sketch ferry to an unknown island).”

Would you say yes? DON’T LIE TO ME. I CAN’T EVEN HEAR YOUR THOUGHTS…. unless you leave a comment or something. 

Lets face it, I doubt it. Why? Cause I was the same. I had class, tests, assignments, clubs, interviews and all sorts of “responsibilities.” All of these things made me turn down tons of adventures because I was so caught in the CMU bubble you never look up and think is what i’m doing fun. Is this making me happy?

2. Meeting Awesome People

Rough Start

Half of the abroad experience is meeting people you never would have met otherwise. Allright story time, my first 24 hrs in Singapore was a COMPLETE SHIT SHOW, that was saved by an amazing Singaporean stranger I sat on the plane with. Flying alone I usually just plug into the movie and pass out but having done very little research on Singapore I started chatting with this guy next to me on a whim. Turns out he had been doing a semester exchange at my brothers university RPI and was returning to Singapore. Naturally we talked and once we landed we were devastated to learn both our bags were stuck in Dubai….. I WAS MORTIFIED. My carryon backpack contained my laptop some snacks and that’s it. No clothes, no toiletries, no nothing.

The guy I was talking to turned out to be an amazing dude who felt so bad for me that he took me on a tour. Him and his dad treated me to some local hawker center food, bought me a sim card, and even dropped me off to the hostel I was staying at. A complete stranger who hadn’t been home for months dedicated his first 4-6 hours being home helping me and making sure I would be ok in his home country.

Once again, would you have done this for a stranger?

I doubt it. I’m a New Yorker. We’re trained to look ahead and walk past anyone that seems to be a tourist and made snide remarks about how Times Square sucks. Sure I’ll point out where to go for a tourist but no way in hell would I offer to take them around. Until this experience showed me that everyone needs some compassion if you can share it.

So after that madness with the luggage, I had a hostel booked for one week and after that I had no idea where I would be living. (The university doesn’t have dorms for exchange students). So as soon as I had my luggage, I was scouring through the International Students facebook page of SMU and found a pair of girls who were looking for roommates. I met up with them and they were nice enough so I stuck with them for a day apartment hunting and decided to go with them. Skipping lots of stuff, but ultimately the next night I get a call and they decided that they wanted to live with some other people….. I had already given them my share of the deposit. Naturally I was pissed and nervous. Some random strangers have my money and I have no idea if I’ll see them again.

So I went back to the the beginning and kept looking through the Facebook for anyone who would want to take a lonely dude from America into their group. Finally someone responded and I met up with them and the rest was history.

My New European Housemates

Singapore Zoo
I lived with 5 European Exchange students in Singapore and it was amazing

From left to right

  1. Tanja: Awesome german roommate who taught me a lot about German culture besides the drinking and partying part.
  2. Ludvig: An eccentric Swedish guy who taught me there was more to Sweden than just Ikea. (He was a huge Bernie fan that shaped a lot of my thinking)
  3. Nathan: Wild Danish guy who showed me what it was like to live for a passion for acting and a passion for pursuing happiness
  4. Astrid: SHE’S A DUCHESS OF BELGIUM. NOT EVEN GONNA LIE. Hopefully she never reads this, but I found her on Wikipedia….
  5. Arya: Lastly my roommate who I clicked with immediately and I’m sure will be a friend for life.

I could talk for hours on our motley crew but I’ll save that for another post :). All you need to know is we shared lots of unique experiences together AND WE STILL MEET UP WHEN WE CAN.

Barcelona with SMU Friends
Barcelona with SMU Friends

Yeah that’s us the summer after meeting up in Barcelona. I then traveled for a few more weeks with Nathan and Arya all over Spain and once again one of my most incredible experiences.

Also shoutout to my boy Kenneth in the front. He was my SMU buddy that I keep meeting all over the world. Last I saw him was when he came to the USA to study abroad and we met up in NYC.

3. Traveling

So with my motley crew I got to see lots of South East Asia.

  1. Singapore
  2. Malaysia
  3. Thailand
  4. Phillipines
  5. Indonesia
  6. Myanmar

Wild times (I’m not going to put everything on this blog haha, buy me a drink first)

All of these experiences were super fun and some more wild than I expected…..

ONE MORE FUN STORY. Nathan, Arya, and I landed in Bangkok and we had no idea where we were staying the night (notice a trend with me). We literally googled top party street of Bangkok and we found an amazing place called Khao San Road. We spent 3 days there drinking, partying, puking out of cab doors (ok maybe that was just me), and exploring the temples/night markets of Bangkok.

Amazing Views EVERYWHERE

Amazing views in Indonesia

I’ll save the photo dump for another time but yes there were amazing views everywhere I went. one of my favorites is definitely the rice paddies in Indonesia. When I stepped out of the car we’d been in for a few hours, I thought I was in a movie. It was breathtaking and no picture can really do it justice.


So after preaching about my experience I am glad to say I managed to convert a few people into studying abroad. Some even went for one and then immediately went for another… (such a smart move). Naturally I’ve had tons of people argue with me why they didn’t go abroad and it always boiled down to a few reasons.

1. I’ll miss out on so much at CMU!

… I’m going to quote from my first traveling post here

After coming back, when I asked people “Hey what did you do last semester?”

Guess what answers I heard? BORING BORING BORING answers. The answers were generally “oh I took this class, joined this club, did this assignment, etc” and then I would tell them what I did and it blew them away.

I would tell them of how I visited ancient temples in Myanmar, relaxed on the beaches of the philippines, lived with a duchess of Belgium, puked in various countries after wild nights out, and many more wild stories. All of this while earning my degree, being on track to graduate on time, and spending less on tuition.

Think back to your past weekend and ask yourself, what would I miss about this weekend. Once again, you probably wouldn’t miss that much as I’ve found college often boils down into a cycle.

  • Mon-Fri: Hw, clubs, tests, sports, extracurriculars, etc
  • Saturday: Relax, party, whatever makes you happy
  • Sunday: Relax/ cry while finishing hw due Monday
  • Repeat till you graduate….

2. If everyone wants to study at CMU, why would I leave?

This right here is a pretty conceited ass answer. If you are a CS/ECE student fine. This is one of the top schools in the world ok fine have at it.

For everyone else and even CS/ECE kids guess what, there are Universities outside of the USA that are often ranked even higher than the school you are in. In 2017 U.S. News CMU is ranked #67. An amazing achievement, BUT GUESS WHAT. THERE ARE AT LEAST 10-20 FOREIGN UNIVERSITIES RANKED HIGHER. Lets list some

  • Oxford #6/Cambridge #7: ofc those are famous for a reason.
  • Imperial College of London #19: Awesome Chem E study abroad program with CMU. My friend Andrew did it and had an amazing time.
  • University of Copenhagen #49: I’ve been to Copenhagen. UGH ITS AWESOME. Happiest country in the world for a reason people.
  • National University of Singapore #50: Ok I didn’t go here because I wanted to party more than study…. fight me.

Get what I’m saying? If you go study CS at the top European university are you really missing out on a world class education? NO that’s just your pride speaking. If you’re in business do you need to be in America to learn marketing… NO. I’m doing marketing full time and I’ve only had 2 marketing classes at CMU and 1 Abroad.

3. Financial reasons

If you’re at a great university like CMU, chances are there are tons of programs in place to make sure you can go abroad. Infact generally you can save money going abroad. For CMU specifically people fall into a few different buckets of financial needs.

  1. Rich: Your families well off so you pay full tuition. Let’s do some basic math here. A semester at CMU costs $30,000. A Semester in paris costs $15,000. After doing some intense calculations I have realized YOU SAVE $15,000 GOING ABROAD.  This is what my friend Lynn did and with that saved money she got to live it up in Paris. You’re doing yourself a favor and your parents… what’s there to lose.
  2. Some Financial Aid: You pay a bit of tuition but get some financial aid. Awesome! did you know your aid transfers over? Some programs through CMU will just give you the financial aid money your due and let you pay the university abroad. GUESS WHAT YOU PROBABLY MADE MONEY. Once again Universities around the world don’t cost $60,000/year like in the USA.
  3. Lots of Financial Aid: So I was in this bucket myself. You’re definitely more limited in your choices as you can only pick partner programs with CMU b/c if they don’t recognize the school they won’t give you aid. Regardless SMU’s program was a joint exchange so I paid regular CMU tuition (which was mostly covered) and just went abroad.  This is definitely a viable option as in the end I still saved money. Why? COST OF LIVING BABY. CMU housing costs around $1000 a month. My apartment in Singapore costed $750 a month and it came with 3 giant pools, a gym, and proximity to public metro. Not only that food costs are super cheap in Singapore. Have you seen the $2 Michelin star noodles in Singapore. Yeah that’s the quality of food I would get for next to nothing. Of Course I blew most of my internship money traveling BUT that’s for another time.

4. It doesn’t fit my schedule because I’m trying to double major in XYZ, minor in XYZ, TRIPLE MAJOR IN XYZ, QUADRUPLE MAJOR IN ABC, etc

Ok here’s some real life advice you won’t hear at college. Noone cares about your major once you start your job. Sure it’s a fun fact saying yeah I doubled in XYZ or I minored in ABC. If you picked up a minor/double major to help you get a job. Great all power to you, but just remember interviewers don’t really care about that. They’d rather see you had work experience in the field and hope you have good interviewing abilities.

Trust me. I’m a business major who minored in Chinese. Am I ever going to use Chinese at Capital One… doubt it. Did I even learn anything in 4 years at business school….. not really (I’ll save this topic for another time).

You might say you’re doing this minor because you love XYZ. Great, if you love it so much do you need the little minor to show up on your diploma?

I was there too. I took classes in random stuff like BME because I was interested in it. I then dropped the minor because I realized my brain wasn’t made like an engineer. Regardless this became a fun fact that never really helped me in life besides being a fun fact to make me look cool compared to other business majors.

Ultimately, what I’m trying to say is, if these lofty goals of yours are interfering with this once in a lifetime opportunity, is it worth it? Chances are probably not. Even if it’s the oh so coveted CS double major/minor. I’ve met plenty of students who landed C.S. jobs without an official coding degree because they showed that they had the knowledge needed through side projects and other work experience. I had a freshman friend who landed an internship with apple after taking the most basic coding class. Yes she was an anomaly but it goes to show, you don’t need the degree.

SO YOUNG GLIL. GO ALREADY. See the world, make new friends, and more importantly have fun. You only get one Undergrad experience.

Finally, don’t be an alumni who says “my biggest regret is not studying abroad.”