Richmond, VA
French and Political Science


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Study abroad & why Richmond does it best

September 22, 2017

Hi friends and future spiders!

Welcome back to school, welcome to reading Spider Diaries, and welcome to University of Richmond! To give the quick overview from my past two years of posts: my name is Ellie Palazzolo, I’m a junior at the University of Richmond and originally from Richmond, and I’m studying French and Political Science (but also still contemplating a last minute major change because liberal arts college). While this year I’m abroad in Paris in the past on campus I have been active in ultimate frisbee, residence life, the sophomore scholars in residence program, peer advisors and mentors, volunteering with the Center for Civic Engagement (CCE), and undergraduate research. All this to say that my profile is more or less in-line with the average Richmond student.

If any of the above activities caught your interest, you can find more information about almost all of them looking back in my blog archives, in addition to a number of posts related the city of Richmond, classes at University of Richmond, and more. In retrospect, though, this post is certainly a continuation on a common theme in my Spider Diaries related to travel and study abroad. The past 2-3 years at Richmond have proven absolutely incredible with regards to providing and facilitating domestic and international travel and I would recommend UR to anyone who loves exploring their world and having a wonderful home base to come back to. Since starting at UR I have gone with groups or programs affiliated with the University to Bar Harbor Maine, Chicago, San Francisco, and two different times to France. I have friends who have gone to Los Angeles, New York City, San Diego, New Orleans, Vancouver, Nova Scotia, Cuba, Belize, Italy, and various Scandinavian countries on school trips alone not to mention all across the globe for study abroad. Again, the opportunities abound.

However, seeing as I’m currently in Paris for a year abroad and I have had about a month already to settle in and also meet students on exchange universities today I’m going to focus on why UR’s study abroad program is, well, better than those at other schools.

1)    The Office of International Education (OIE) is very helpful, but not at all controlling. For example, this summer the study abroad office checked via e-mail a few times to make sure that I was finding or thinking about finding lodging in Paris, which was a very nice reminder. However, they were not at all stifling about forcing me to choose one living situation over another, whereas I have friends who were required to live in a host family, etc. The same goes with course selection: my exchange university offers classes in both French and English, and while some of my fellow exchange students must take, say, all of their classes in French, the OIE really doesn’t mind what you take and leaves the decision to you and your academic advisors.

2)    University of Richmond will reimburse you for a ton of things. $500 for cultural events/excursions within your home country per semester meaning that you can go to concerts, museums, city tours, theater productions, cooking classes (without alcohol), trips put on by student organizations at your exchange uni, a cheese tour in the town of Gruyere, etc. and be paid back in full. $200 for gym memberships and sports fees so I subscribed to the gym down my street (we’re talking closer than the distance between Lakeview and the Weinstein Center) and joined the rugby team at my school and got (almost) entirely reimbursed. This is on top of a $600 deposit per semester into your student account to assist with airfare, books, and the likes. It’s really amazing if you’re on a student budget to not be limited in exploration or learning by the often quite high Parisian expenses and taking advantage of this offer from UR can really augment your time abroad.

3)    Because you’re a name and not a number at University of Richmond, it’s easier to stay in contact with faculty and administration while you’re away. Just last week I sent an email to my freshman year French professor about having visited a certain farmers market we studied in class and had a nice little conversation. Before I left one of my professors reminded me that she would be happy to email or Skype this semester if I wanted to talk about research, school, life, etc. It’s nice not to feel detached while abroad and to know that it’s hardly any trouble to continue conversations about planning ahead for next summer or senior year or just general curiosities or touching base.

4)    Not totally sure whether this is unique to UR but even while abroad you continue to have access to all of the Richmond services. @BoatwrightMemorialLibrary looking at you, because its awesome to still have all of the journals and digital books and stuff like that especially if you’re too incompetent to figure out how the French edition works.

To be fair I don’t really know how this stacks up to other American universities, but one thing that’s certain about UR is that a lot of students study abroad, especially junior year. A LOT. This reality actually leads into a series of advantages:

 5)    The campus culture is very well oriented to working with students while abroad, which spans from academic departments to clubs and extracurricular activities. For example, this year I will work with the history department to propose a senior thesis from abroad and perhaps even Skype into a required class this spring. For example 2, my frisbee teammates are absolute angels about checking in and if all goes well they will in fact ship a care package with my preferred peanut butter included.

 6)    Especially in Europe but really regardless of where you go there are friends nearby that you can meet up with! From Paris, I am lucky enough to have friends scattered throughout Italy, the UK, Germany, Spain, other parts of France, the Netherlands, Denmark, and more which is fantastic when it comes to planning weekend and fall break getaways!

Hope you guys enjoyed the basics of some of the advantages of study abroad! Over the next couple of months I plan to post a bit more on the role of study abroad in the UR education and some of the different things I learned that I hope to bring back to campus from my time here, in addition of course to a heart-wrenching account of all of the things that I do miss about being on campus and no number of chocolate croissants could possibly compensate for :)

EP ‘19

Greetings future Spiders! My name is Ellie, I'm 20 years old and born and bred in Richmond, Virginia. I'm a serious student and die-hard member of the Richmond Red Hots, the womens club ultimate frisbee team here. In my precious free time I enjoy jogging, reading anything, and afternoon naps. Other hobbies are traveling, hiking, and pretending to be a foodie. Some of my preferences include black coffee, Saturday morning farmers markets, and music in foreign languages that I do not know. My academic interests are broad and constantly changing, however, as of now, my majors are Political Science and French. My two most ambiguous and most descriptive qualities are wanderlust and indecision.

Over the course of the year, some of my goals as a Spider Diarist include exposing little-known or underappreciated things on campus and around Richmond, giving a thorough review/copious list of suggestions for food and coffee in campus and around Richmond, and portraying a genuine first year experience here at UR in terms of campus culture, everyday life, and landmark events. Tag along as I rediscover Richmond from the point of view as a college student in my hometown. I'm so proud of the RVA and always excited to show off the wealth of things it has to offer to out-of-town friends as well as this blog's prospective student readership!

Why UR?

I am utterly, absolutely, and almost vehemently undecided about what exactly (or for that matter, vaguely) I want to do with my life. But hey, that's why I chose a liberal arts college. Even within that vein, though, there are a lot of liberal arts colleges out there, so back to "Why UR?" The University of Richmond is small enough to allow for intimate class sizes, in-depth peer-to-peer interactions, and strong relationships with professors.  At the same time, it is large enough to attract a student body with diverse ideas and backgrounds who all contribute different perspectives and ideas within the classroom environment and campus community. Richmond provides an indisputably spectacular academic experience, but the opportunities that the University offers to all of it's students are what really sold me. From volunteer positions and internships to research jobs and study abroad trips, the level of quality and personal attention that Richmond provides is unmatched. My crazy love with Richmond, the city, aside, UR is unique in (atleast) one more way: out of all of the colleges that I toured, I never went to one place more cheerful, comfortable, or welcoming. Come see for yourself! (WARNING: This blurb is abbreviated, see first post for details.)