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Study abroad

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Most students who study away from the Williams campus do so during half or all of their junior year, though a few do studying abroad during their sophomore fall or spring every year, especially to Mystic. Studying away from campus for credit is not allowed during freshman or senior year except by special petition to the Committee on Academic Standing.

Below are details about some places and programs where Williams students have studied abroad.



Opinions on the foreign lands in which Williams Students have studied.


The Egyptians call their country "the mother of the world," and in a sense this is true. At times Cairo feels like the third world, and at times it feels like the first, the original, the birthplace of human civilization. Of course, human civilization behaves a little differently in a city of 17 million and can be a harsh transition after leaving Williamstown. If you don't see this coming, you're not very smart.

The American University in Cairo is probably the best option for studying abroad (at least in a traditional university setting) in Egypt and all of the Middle East (there's always the American University of Beirut, if you like to live dangerously.) For Political Science, Middle Eastern Studies, and of course Arabic, AUC can't be beat. The language of instruction is English, and the language of administration is also English, but the academic and administrational systems move at completely different paces. If you are the type to stress out about your student visa, paperwork, drop/add, student IDs, etc., then either get over it or go somewhere less interesting. Cairo pace is certainly not New York pace.

That said, for those seeking active involvement and a certain degree of immersion, AUC is fabulous. Student political groups are available for all sorts of different activities (still haven't seen the pro-Israel group, though) and athletics (at least rowing) is actually fairly involving and competitive, although certainly not at the level most are used to at Williams. Egyptians are amazingly friendly and helpful, especially if you can speak even a little bit of (colloquial) Arabic. The exchange rate is about 5.7:1 Egyptian pounds to the dollar so food is cheap; come here and find your cafes and restaurants and make yourself a regular and you'll find plenty of locals who will be happy to help you with your Arabic and give you colorful political commentary. Not a lot of Bush fans though, and again, if this suprises you, Cairo really isn't the place for you.


Probably the best academic experience you'll find abroad. Fun pub scene, more penetrable cultural barriers, and a great place to explore Europe from.

Really high cost of living though, especially in London.

Consider all your options before setting your heart on Williams-Exeter. The programme is fun and convenient, but it's also pretty selective and offers less of a chance for immersion.


India is a goddess. Don't expect to be more than a speck resting on her varied garb. Also don't underestimate the value of this position. If you are hoping to see the world from a different angle, going to the other side of it is a good start; India's people, religions, cities, and fantastic geography do the rest.

If you're really interested in going, but for some reason or the other, can't go, you should read this book to get a sense of what true India is really like: Malgudi Days by R.K. Narayan (available in Sawyer Library). Its a collection of short stories based in the mythical village of Malgudi in India, but its really representative of the rural charm of the sub-continent.....if you can imagine yourself in a different setting while reading fiction, this is a book you MUST read! Also, check out A Fine Balance by Rohintin Mistry for some excellently written history (Emergency era, Indira Gandhi) and Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie for a memorable take on Independence.


Like England and Scotland but with even better pubs and accents! In addition to the friendly and fun-loving people (who love Americans) the cultural experience can't be beat. They're proud of their traditional Irish music, dancing, and native Irish language--still the primary language spoken in parts of the country. Ireland is fascinating and beautiful; easy to explore through public transportation with cheap youth hostels in every town.

Expect rain.


Like England, but so much cooler. The people are nicer and have awesome accents and the whole country oozes character. Get your culture and pub-hopping fixes in Edinburgh and Glasgow and then head to the Highlands for some of the most breathtaking scenery in the world. Also, St. Andrews features, according to legend, the highest pub-student ratio of any college town, anywhere.


The two largest cities are Madrid and Barcelona. Madrid is better known for its authentic Spanish culture. Barcelona, on the other hand, is part of Catalonia and has a much more European feel to it. People often cite the fact that Barcelona has one of the highest petty crimes rates in Europe, but anyone with a modicum of street smarts will have nothing to worry about.

Other places to study in Spain: Sevilla, Granada, Salamanca.

Go abroad to Spain and have the time of your life. Spain is kind of like the poor, lazy, and proud little brother of the rest of developed Europe. As a sidenote, Spanish people are really rather obsessed with ham. You can find lots and lots of it in Madrid at the Museo del Jamon, a chain restaurant that has hunks of pig hanging in the window. Hot.

Programs in Spain

Hamilton College Year Abroad in Spain

This program is based in Madrid and largely made up of from students from schools such as Williams, Amherst, Swarthmore, the Claremont colleges, and a few other small liberal arts institutions. The program is unique because it requires Spanish to be spoken at all times during the semester/year, and although at first this just leads to a lot of awkward conversations in hideous Spanish, ultimately it does make a difference. The key is to try to stay speaking Spanish only as long as possible.

Classes take place in a converted mansion/building near one of Madrid's private universities, SAN PABLO CEU (read: beautiful, rich, and less academically inclined Spanish women). Students live with families that don't speak any English. Your host family can either be a fun family that includes you all the time or a grandmother who lives alone in a private museum of antiques. It can really be hit or miss. Classes are all in Spanish but taken with the other Americans; it is possible to take classes at the university next door.

The Hamilton Program is expensive and most host families receive around 900 euros a month per student hosted. Of course, there are tuition and other costs just like regular school. The money does go to good use because the program sponsors several excursions each semester with transportation, hotels, and food all included. Yeah, you already paid for it, but after travelling with your friends as cheaply as possible it's nice to stay in 4-star hotels and eat multi-course meals with all the wine you could ever want.


Syracuse Program in Madrid

Probably the best part of the program is its flexibility - if you want to take courses directly at a Spanish university, you can. If you want to take classes at the Syracuse program center in Madrid, well, you can do that too. You can take classes in English or in Spanish, and the course offerings are fairly extensive. SU will even help you find an internship in Spain! In general classes are very easy, but the quality of instruction is decent - if you try really hard, you might even learn something!

Host families are, like everywhere, hit or miss. The program is made up mostly of Syracuse students - apprarently the SU Madrid program is where all the rich kids go if they want to slack and party like crazy for a semester, if that helps give an idea of what a lot of the students are like. Don't expect deep class discussions.

The orientation programs at the beginning of the semester were interesting, and after 2 weeks of hard travel it felt really nice to settle down into a real house (well, apartment) and actually unpack. Mare Nostrum is probably the more academic orientation program, but it's also fairly difficult if you actually care about the grade (which you probably don't, so no worries!).

Overall, don't worry about your Spanish not being good enough for the Spanish classes - you would probably be fine taking all your classes in Spanish even with only two semesters under your belt. Unfortunately the Spanish classes at the program center aren't that hot, but it's pretty easy to pick things up along the way.


THE BEST. Who wants to go to Europe!? The culture is fascinating, and the food is amazing!


La vita bella, great wine, gorgeous countryside, best food, and probably the most beautiful language ever spoken. Quality of life is not an issue here, the Italians believe first and foremost that life is to be enjoyed with family and friends and good food!

Also, Siena is the best city in Italy, and can kick Firenze's butt at soccer any day.

Also, if you speak Italian well enough I would encourage you not to go through American program but enroll at a local Italian university directly. Why? Being a student in Italy is not particularly hard, you get to know more fun people, you improve your language skills 1000 times better and it’s CHEAP! Did you know that a public university costs around 600 euros per year (approx. $800)?

Although nothing improves your language skills like living with an Italian family. Plus the food cooked by your host mom is a million times better than what you can cook yourself, and you get included in lots of family outings and experience what living in Italy is really like.

Other Programs

Study-abroad programs, including those that are local or involve travel to multiple countries.

Sea Education Association

Spend six weeks in Woods Hole, Cape Cod, taking classes in oceanography, nautical science, and maritime studies, followed by six weeks sailing on one of S.E.A.'s 134' Brigantine schooners conducting oceanographic research. Port stops typically include 1-3 foreign countries. When Williams-Mystic does its 10-day sailing portion uses S.E.A.'s boats. A fantastic program, for science-majors and non-science majors alike. Contact 07kal for more information.


Live co-op style in Mystic, Connecticut, in a charming old house with 3-6 other students (some from Williams and many from other schools). Get 24/7 access to Mystic Seaport, just across the street; you can visit this huge maritime museum with an impressive collection of buildings and even more impressive collection of boats any time you want. Take fascinating, Williams-caliber classes and conduct independent research, plus get to know 20 students and 5 professors really well. Get college credit for sailing a 133' tall ship off the New England or Florida coast, visiting the Pacific coast, and visiting Louisiana; get Winter Study credit for demonstrating sail handling and other traditional maritime activities in the Seaport, or learning blacksmithing, maritime music boatbuilding, sailing, or celestial navigation. What could be better than that?