While more and more Pitt students flock to London, Florence, and Buenos Aires for their summer study abroad experiences, one destination continues to reign supreme: home.
Marking the end of the spring semester, thousands of students annually disperse from Pittsburgh to wherever they begrudgingly call home. And even though programs do exist for the geographical minority from cities and rural areas, none are nearly as well attended as the one for kids from the in between.
Offered by the department of Suburban Studies, this study abroad opportunity places students in the homes of real suburban families (their own) to absorb the local culture and cultivate new perspectives on the world. But despite the many student participants, the program has not been well received.
“Everyone always says that study abroad is easier than real college, but this was not the case with Suburban Studies,” said Pitt junior Sarah Filiaria. “It was so much harder to smoke weed at home. I’d rather pick up a second major than have to trek into the woods again just to get stoned.”
The immersive 16-week program includes classes like Intro to Performance: Acting Sober in Front of Your Parents, Public Relations at Awkward Family Gatherings, and Long Story out of Context: Your High School Friends are Boring Now. Additionally, the Suburban Studies department guarantees an internship for most students at whatever demeaning, minimum-wage job they worked before going to college.
“It all seemed so foreign,” said sophomore Freddy Schmidt. “I know I used to live there, but I didn’t realize how terrible it was until I had to go back. Mowing the lawn, cleaning the gutters, making small talk with my parents’ friends. It was like I had no responsibilities but I was constantly busy with the most agonizing tasks. I thought I’d like the time away from school but holy shit it sucked.”
Despite his forthright contempt for the study abroad location, Mohr plans to return to the Suburban Studies program next year.
“I don’t want do it again, but I don’t have the money to go somewhere cool,” he said. “I’ll probably even return for my graduate program in Being Unemployed.”
The Suburban Studies department may not have designed the perfect abroad opportunity, but at least they’ve succeeded in giving new meaning to the word “homesickness.”