Universities report that students are opting out of the traditional semester abroad and in to fly-by European tours lasting as little as a week. So basically, they’re learning something like Roman culture by waving at the Coliseum as their group is herded to the next attraction. And their version of bonding with locals is saying, “Excuse me” as they knock into them while trying to keep pace. This is what I call the Twitter version of study abroad.
These students are shortchanged in so many ways. Some of my best European memories came only after I had spent serious time in a location. When I lived in London, I thought I knew every inch of downtown. Then I discovered a gem tucked away in the arts district.
This restaurant is listed as a favorite in my book, The Single Girl’s Guide to Meeting European Men. It’s shaped like a miniature theater, complete with a stage and acclaimed opera singers. Patrons dine at tables in the balcony, boxes, and orchestra pit. A total no-miss, right? Oddly enough, none of my friends were interested. I didn’t let that stop me. I made a brunch reservation for one and the host seated me at the only table onstage, right next to the pianist.
This was my waiter. By the sixth delicious course, I was completely in heaven but totally stuffed. He thought I had stopped eating because I was unsatisfied with my roast, so he brought me a complimentary chocolate mousse cake!! I made so many friends there that I forgot I had come alone. I wouldn’t have found this gem if I’d been moving through England like a freight train on a one-week trip.
The Wall Street Journal’s Melissa Korn said of the new, abbreviated study abroad, “Those trips may not be much cheaper than a semester or full year abroad, once financial aid is factored in…” She’s right. And at many universities this is true even if you don’t have financial aid. In my book, I tell how it’s done.