After two years of cancellations, reopened study abroad programs expand educational horizons

Oct. 2, 2022, 3:38 p.m.

After suspending or substantially reducing its programs for five consecutive quarters, the Bing Overseas Study Program (BOSP) re-opened study abroad opportunities last winter. Though COVID-19 restrictions still forced many to alter their study abroad expectations, students were grateful for the renewed ability to continue their education through new avenues and in new environments.

Julián Rodríguez Cárdenas ’24 participated in the Berlin BOSP program for the first two quarters of 2022 and is currently participating in his second Krupp internship this summer as a neuroscience intern at Charité University Hospital. After studying abroad in the winter, Rodríguez started an internship with the ReDI School of Digital Integration in the spring. 

Rodríguez said a significant factor in his decision to study abroad was being burnt out from the pace of classes on campus.

“The study abroad programs have good quality classes, but they’re not as academically intense or rigorous as regular classes at Stanford,” Rodríguez said. 

Despite wanting to pursue a career in science his entire life, Rodríguez said experiences of burnout, including a remote summer internship in 2020, left him unsure of whether he wanted to continue studying neuroscience. But his internship at Charité renewed his interest in the field, and Rodríguez is now considering even pursuing a Ph.D. in the subject.

Lilly Towe ’24 also described a shift in their strengths and academic interests after their immersive study abroad experience. Towe is a French language learner but, due to limited opportunities to take classes their sophomore year, worried they were out of practice for their spring quarter in Paris. However, BOSP’s program is “very good at helping you, and in the immersive environment, you’ll learn so quickly,” Towe said, assuring prospective students they would be met at their level in language courses.

Towe participated in an internship at a French primary school and enjoyed working with children and teaching them English. 

“I would let them play with my earrings — they always felt my earrings were funny,” Towe said. After spending their morning at the primary school, they would take a French class in the afternoon. 

Towe said studying abroad was an opportunity to try new things. They encouraged students studying in Paris to look beyond their course of study, for instance venturing into the arts. “I would say that was the biggest mistake that some of my peers made, not making a trip to the Musee d’Orsay,” they said. “It’s not free, but it’s absolutely worth it.”

According to Towe, there are a lot of valuable study abroad opportunities that come without an additional cost. Stanford provided train cards that were “essential” to travel around Paris and the city’s surrounding areas, Towe said. 

Some students pursued experiences abroad not directly through Stanford. Carolina Borbon Miranda ’23 spent her summer in Tijuana working for Al Otro Lado, a nonprofit that supports “refugees, deportees and other migrants in the US.” Borbon is from Tijuana and applied to the position as both a point of personal interest and a way to spend time with her family.

Borbon worked closely with asylum seekers, who were not allowed to enter the United States unless they had a medical reason due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“American citizens could still go on vacations, and they did, but for everyone else — who were refugees hoping to request asylum, which is a human right — [they could] no longer do that,” she said.

Borbon said her work this summer involved working with migrants to receive an exemption to Title 42.

These students’ experiences also taught them valuable lessons they will bring back to campus with them. Rodríguez described the responsibility of feeding himself without access to a dining hall as a hard adjustment. 

He said that in the BOSP program, students are provided with a food stipend, but it is up to them to figure out what to eat. “You can either eat like a 12 year old and just eat whatever, or you can take care of yourself,” he jokingly said. 

In addition to expanding culinary horizons, Borbon and Towe told The Daily their in-person experiences after a long period of online classes were academically and personally rewarding. Towe said their internship provided a valuable opportunity to directly engage with French society and contemporary issues.

Similarly, Borbon said working to help people navigate the immigration system was a great experience. “[At Stanford] I feel detached from the news, and I only ever hear about the bad news of what the American government is doing or all the challenges that migrants face in order to reach safety or reach a better life,” Borbon said.

Like Rodríguez, Borbon’s experience in the legal field with Al Otro Lado, something she did not have the chance to explore in depth at Stanford, also made her reevaluate her future academic goals. “It’s made me reconsider going to law school in the future,” Borbon said. 

Borbon also said her experiences abroad changed her values. At Stanford, everyone is “always doing such amazing things,” she said, and it can be easy to focus on what work would look best on your LinkedIn or otherwise feel like you are falling behind your peers. 

Borbon recommended that future students study or work abroad to gain a more nuanced perspective on their goals. “I would encourage people to take a step back and think about what values they hold and what they want their work to do in the world,” she said.

Shelby Sveiven is a high school student writing for The Daily's journalism workshop.

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