A Successful Semester Abroad Fosters a Love of Travel

Schar School junior Maggie Reier sitting and smiling in front of a building in Budapest
Schar School junior Maggie Reier visited various cities, including Budapest, while studying at the University of Oxford.

Even before arriving at George Mason University, Maggie Reier knew she wanted to study abroad for a  semester. The Schar School of Policy and Government helped her achieve that goal. 

A San Francisco Bay native, Reier wanted to be in the Washington, D.C., area for college—location was key for the current junior double majoring in government and international politics and integrative studies with a concentration in social justice and human rights. Following graduation, she plans to attend law school and study human rights law.

“I knew I wanted to be somewhere that would provide a lot of job and internship opportunities for what I wanted to do, and Mason just fit the bill,” she said. “Not to mention, the government degree was unique to Mason, and really appealed to me.” 

As far as studying abroad, that notion was homegrown. Her father traveled extensively for work as a photographer and her mother and sister both studied abroad while in high school. 

“I grew up hearing about their experiences and I wanted to experience traveling abroad for myself,” she said.  

When the Global Education Office sent an email to students advertising a study abroad opportunity in Oxford, England, Reier immediately got in touch with her Schar School advisor to apply.

A semester at Mason is structured differently than a semester at the University of Oxford, according to Reier. Instead of the usual five classes a semester, she took two tutorials: The Politics of Human Rights and Comparative U.S. and U.K. Law.

“I am given readings and discussion questions, and sometimes an essay. Basically, I do the work over the course of the week, and when I meet with my tutor, we talk about what I read and/or wrote,” she said. “My tutors aren’t afraid to put me on the spot; that’s really helped to improve my ability to answer questions and recall the readings.”

Although the changes were an adjustment for Reier to make, she says that the differences improved her academic abilities.

“My writing has also gotten better in terms of speed and conciseness,” she said. “The learning system forces me to time manage more efficiently than I have before.” 

She credits her Schar School classes for helping her to prepare for the content covered at Oxford.

“The Nonprofit Sector in the U.S. class was heavily research-based, so that was helpful in preparation for the amount of research I have to do in my tutorials,” she said. “Constitutional Interpretation gave me a foundation for my comparative law tutorial because the subject matter requires you to be thoughtful and analytical when looking at cases and decisions.”

Outside the classroom, Reier liked to travel across Europe with her peers. She spent a lot of time traversing the United Kingdom, specifically the city of London.

“There’s just so much to do, and I’ve barely scratched the surface,” she said.

Reier also visited Rome and the Vatican. Her favorite city to explore is Budapest.

“The city is so cool, and I wish we could’ve had more time there,” she said. “We went to St. Stephens Basilica and Heroes’ Square. We also saw Fisherman’s Bastion, a lookout point on the Buda side of the Danube. We spent a lot of time on the Pest side in the Jewish quarter and it was my personal favorite part of the trip.”

Reier encourages any student interested in studying abroad to take advantage of the opportunities that Mason offers and shares this advice: “It’s important to understand what your priorities are in terms of what you want to get out of your study-abroad experience. If travel is important, try to pick somewhere that’s accessible to other countries. Try to plan as much as possible—don’t be afraid to reach out to the GEO office to talk about their different programs. I found that meeting with someone to get more insight into the different programs was helpful in figuring out what program I wanted to do and when I wanted to do it. Once you’re abroad, just make the most of it. Take advantage of what’s near you and try to get out of your comfort zone.”