Even though it was the first time she’d ever flown, she was fine until the plane landed.
That’s when it hit her. Colby Elliott was on her own. In London. An ocean away from home. And immediately, she was homesick for her family back in St. Louis.
“That would have to be the most challenging part of the entire trip,” Elliott says, joking that the thought of swimming back to the States crossed her mind.
But Elliot adjusted. This summer, she immersed herself in her courses at the London College of Fashion, an intense program that kept her busy during the daytime. In the evenings, she took her mind off home by exploring the city’s streets and shops.
And although she “absolutely loved” her studies, Elliott also realizes her greatest lesson happened outside of a classroom.
“I have learned that there is nothing in this world that I cannot achieve,” she says. “I have gained a new independence and strength within myself that I did not know I had.”
And that is the ultimate benefit of studying abroad, says Lynda Baumgartner, Study Abroad Coordinator at Stephens.
Baumgartner has spent the past four years focused on increasing the number of students who take advantage of overseas opportunities. While she prefers that students spend an entire semester abroad, she was thrilled to see 13 Stephens women venture out of the United States this summer.
The main benefit of traveling overseas, Baumgartner says, is that it forces students to step out of their comfort zones and into the world—and to realize they can succeed there.
“They’ve earned the ability to say: ‘I did it,’ ” Baumgartner says. “‘And if I can do this, what can I do next?’”
Navigating study abroad options—and then securing the necessary paper work and financial aid necessary to make one a reality—can be daunting. That’s why Baumgartner has launched an aggressive campaign to make sure students start thinking about their options as early as their freshmen year. While students can’t participate in Stephens’ Study Abroad program until they’re at least sophomores, they need to allow themselves plenty of time to hash out the details.
Stephens has agreements with five universities overseas and four study abroad program providers, allowing students to essentially study anywhere in the world. While London is a popular destination—especially for fashion majors—students have also recently studied in South Korea, Greece, Ireland and Costa Rica.
Hannah Dritt ’15 spent the summer at Oatridge College, a part of Scotland’s Rural College, after finding the opportunity with the help of Stephens equestrian faculty.
“I have always thought about going overseas, and when I started asking about programs, my teachers pointed me in the right direction,” she says.
Dritt took equestrian anatomy and equestrian fitness—coursework she says will benefit her as she continues her studies at Stephens.
“I fully intend to use the information I learned in both my job and in my classes back home,” she says.
Knowing how overseas studies apply to a student’s field is essential, Baumgartner says. Although she’d love to see more students study abroad, Baumgartner is adamant that students understand why they’re going and how the experience aligns with their academics and career goals.
“They have to be clear about why they want to go,” she says. “Potential employers are going to want to know specifically what the students got out of the experience.”
In addition to the elite courses she’s taking, Elliott’s cultural experiences in London are also complementing her studies back home.
“The most rewarding aspect so far has been learning fashion through a different culture,” she says. “London is so free and nonjudgmental when it comes to fashion, which has been a complete breath of fresh air for me.”
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