Students newfound independence: studying abroad

By Amethyst Martinez

Studying abroad seems like a far out concept since the start of COVID-19, but Rider students aren’t letting that stop them.

Natalie Leclair, a junior musical theater major, is one student taking advantage of the opportunity by studying abroad in London.

“I had the idea to study abroad since the fall of my freshman year, and I’m so glad it was able to happen despite the global pandemic,” said Leclair.

Leclair has been in London since September, and will be returning to Rider in the spring.

“London is truly a global city. It is like a more approachable [New York City] for me… I take public transport for up to two hours everyday to get from my flat, my school and my internship, which has been it’s own adventure. It has been an incredible semester. It has been so interesting to discover the theater world here, as well. I would love to live here one day,” said Leclair.

There are many places where Rider students have traveled to while participating in a study abroad program, such as the University of the Sunshine Coast in Australia or Edgehill University in Ormskirk, England.

Hannah White, a graduate assistant at the Office of International Education, said, “This semester we have about 12 students abroad… and then we have students who are signed up already to study abroad in the coming spring [semester]. One student is going to Barcelona, one student is going to Costa Rica.”

There are many reasons why students study abroad, such as internships, opportunities or something to cross off the bucket list.

Leclair is currently in a study abroad program called CAPA, which specializes in global education opportunities for students. She has an internship at a fringe theater in North London called Upstairs at the Gatehouse.

Leclair said,“I chose to study abroad because I may never have the same opportunity to live in a foreign country again. I think traveling and putting yourself out of your comfort zone is so important for self development.Traveling and living in a completely new place forces you to question where you’ve come from, what you like, what you don’t like. It also gives you a fierce sense of independence, knowing no one, figuring it out yourself, where you want to go, what you want to do.”

White followed with the same sentiment as Leclair regarding independence, since she also traveled abroad during her undergraduate studies.

“Studying abroad inherently boosts self-confidence because it’s a very individualized experience. You go abroad by yourself and you’re by yourself for five, six, months, and you’re forced to lean on yourself, forced to be your own advocate when you’re abroad… because of that, [it] boosts your self-confidence and helps you grow as an individual,” said White.

Normally, over 30-40 students study abroad at Rider each year, according to White.

“COVID definitely played a big impact in studying abroad at Rider and every university in the world. Students [came] home early in the spring semester [of] 2020, when everything started happening. We didn’t see any students abroad for fall 2020 [and] we didn’t see any students for spring 2021. Our first student who went abroad again went abroad in the summer of 2021,” White said.

However, many students are going abroad in the future and are currently abroad, despite the hit traveling has taken due to the pandemic.

“This is actually our biggest year for our short-term programs, which is awesome and exciting. And I think students are feeling a little more comfortable,” said White.

When asked what they would say to students who are interested in studying abroad, White and Leclair agreed: do it.

Leclair said, “You will never have this type of experience any other time in your life… I have created memories to last me a lifetime.”

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