Winchester alum heads
Study Abroad Society
By Doug T. Graham
As varied as the locations one can travel to on study abroad are, the preparations for one’s departure are almost the same for those bound for Western Europe as those set on studying in South Africa. Among the universal forms and procedures there are inevitably torrents of questions that all eager soon-to-be world travelers will mull over.
This time last year Fraya Andich, who is now the president of the Study Abroad Society, was mere months away from her study abroad experience at the University of Winchester in England and asking questions to whomever she could think of.
“What kind of shoes do I pack when I go to England,” Andich remembers asking. “I can’t bring that much stuff so I want to bring the right stuff. What’s the town like?”
Andich said she was able to have most of these questions answered by Office of Study Abroad staff and friends or family who had traveled before but did not have a community to turn to for guidance.
Ever since her return in America in December, she has been talking about her study abroad experience, which included weekend trips to Dublin, Paris and Rome. She said this made the decision on whether or not she wanted to be president of the Study Abroad Society easy.
“I really like talking about study abroad so why not keep doing it?” Andich said.
There is more to the Study Abroad Society than providing guidance and answering questions for nervous first-timers, but Andich said that is the part she personally looks forward to the most. She said each semester the Study Abroad Society hopes to host a send-off party to get future study abroad students in the same place as the veteran travelers that make up the executive board, as well as any members who wish to attend.
Andich said while it is important to allow new students to have their questions answered it is almost as important to provide a venue where students may make valuable connections to help get them through the journey ahead. Andich knows the importance a familiar face can have in a new place.
Andich said some of her American peers at the University of Winchester stayed with someone they knew through several degrees of separation. Her classmates in question spent a week living with a friend of her older brother.
Andich also knows what it is like to regret not making an overseas connection.
“My roommate, who I didn’t really know until this semester, her boyfriend was in Florence when I was in England, so maybe if I would have known I might have gone to visit,” Andich said.
In addition to helping future study abroad students feel confident about their study abroad experience, the Study Abroad Society also provides a place for students coming back to America a place to talk about their experience to those who know what it is like. Just as there are universal experiences that bind study abroad students before departure, those who return have plenty in common.
Many returning students describe themselves as being more outgoing as a result of studying abroad and Andich is no exception.
“I think I’m better at talking to people than I was before,” said Andich. “When I first got there I didn’t know anybody and I had to force myself I know to be really outgoing and really put myself out there.”
She said on the first day in England she had time to kill after unpacking and decided to go outside and see the nearly deserted campus for herself. She saw someone outside and said the situation allowed her to get out of her shell and try to communicate with him.
“We both kind of like looked at each other and (said) ’are you American?’ ‘Yeah, are you?’ and we ended up walking around the city together and we became pretty good friends after that,” she said.
This kind of serendipitous connection that can be accomplished on a study abroad experience is the kind of connection the Study Abroad Society seeks to foster here at Eastern.