How I Chose to Study Abroad

Category Student Voices


Rafid Class of '25
Authored on December 19, 2023


Choosing to study abroad was one of the most difficult decisions that I have made in college. 

Growing up, I did not have a lot of experience traveling outside of the United States. On top of that, I was afraid of what academics would look like outside of Harvard – I had spent the past two years finally getting the hang of classes here, and I was worried about finding my groove in another country and academic program. I was also worried about leaving the organizations and clubs that I was a part of on campus, and I only had 8 semesters at Harvard. Did I really want to exchange one semester for studying abroad? 

My current answer to that question is a resounding YES. Although I will physically be at Harvard for one less semester, studying abroad provides a different and unique opportunity that can’t be gained from a semester here. The opportunity to live in a different country, to see a more worldly perspective through a student lens, and to immerse myself in a new culture is more than I could have ever hope for out of one semester in college. I also found myself having conversations with my mentors and advisors for clubs that I was worried about leaving, and I only received support and encouragement to study abroad from them. 

Another very important factor in my decision to study abroad was financial aid – at Harvard, financial aid can transfer to a term-time semester abroad. Thus, my study abroad program would be as affordable as another semester in college, making the opportunity extremely accessible. Thus, I began my search for programs.


Rafid catching the sunset with some friends while talking about studying abroad!
Discussing studying abroad opportunities with some friends! I'm in the middle.

When looking for programs to apply to, I primarily searched for Spanish-speaking programs in Latin America. As someone who had taken a year of Spanish to fulfill the college’s one-year language requirement, I was eager to use my Spanish-speaking skills abroad to solidify my knowledge. Additionally, I was interested in taking classes that would count towards my Earth and Planetary Sciences (EPS) secondary, specifically programs focusing on climate change and Earth science. After a good chunk of time spent researching, I settled on applying to a program that studied glacial melt, climate change, and local effects of the climate crisis based in Ushuaia, Argentina (the southernmost city in the world!), with excursions throughout the Southern Patagonia range, Chile, and Antarctica! 

After successfully petitioning the program through Harvard’s Office of International Education (OIE), I began the important steps of sending the program’s course list to both the Spanish and EPS departments to receive course approval for my language citation and secondary. After receiving approval from those departments, as well as my admission letter into the program, the process of pre-departure orientation began! I set up several meetings with amazing directors at the OIE, sat in orientation meetings, and began preparing for my future life in the southern hemisphere! I also began connecting with students from my program, and I could not be more excited for the semester that awaits me.

If you’re considering studying abroad, my advice would be to GO FOR IT! Whether you want to study abroad at Oxford or travel to Antarctica, the process can definitely feel scary and unfamiliar, but the OIE provides so much support for students throughout the entire process. I also recommend embracing that feeling of uncertainty and slight hesitation to new experiences in college. It is totally normal to feel unsure about traveling and studying in a new country, but who knows if you will have this opportunity again! Grasp on and lean in! 


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Rafid Class of '25

Hi everyone!! My name is Rafid, and I am a junior living in Cabot House (quad pro quo!!!), concentrating in a joint study of Astrophysics & Physics. My sister and I were born and raised in the United States, but my parents immigrated to the United States from Sylhet, Bangladesh.

Rafid Quayum