“One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.” ― Henry Miller
Study Abroad. Those two words may be daunting, exciting, or indifferent depending on who you are and what stage of life you’re currently at. If they’re daunting, you’re probably in the process of obtaining your visa or getting your courses approved by your home institution. If they’re exciting, you’re just starting the process or you’ve just completed it and are therefore feeling carefree (for now). If you’re indifferent to study abroad, you may have a couple years to think about it or maybe you haven’t thought about it at all. Regardless of your situation, there is one thing I want to tell everyone who is thinking about studying abroad and that is: do it.
Study abroad is more than just a 4 month Euro Trip, a free for all, or a semester to forget about school work. It is SO muchmore than that. A study abroad experience will change your life, and that is a fact. Besides making you grateful for constant hot water and free bread before dinner, it may be the only chance you have in life to live in a foreign country for an extended period of time. Imagine waking up for class and instead of walking into a lecture hall with 100 people, you’re walking into the Roman Forum with thousands of years of history. Where in the US can you get that kind of hands on experience in the “classroom?”
Study abroad gives you the opportunity to experience a different style of learning – about a culture, about yourself, about others, and about your educational requirements in a more interesting way. In just one month at John Cabot University in Rome, I have gained more knowledge than I ever could inside a typical classroom. A study abroad education is unlike anything you are used to, and that is exactly why it is so beneficial to students.
For me, study abroad was factored into my 20 year plan since before I could walk. For your average person who doesn’t enjoy planning quite as much as I do however, it may be something that gets put on the backburner. If that’s the case, listen carefully right now: take the thought off said backburner, transfer to front burner, and follow these 10 easy steps to a smooth study abroad process.
STUDY ABROAD 101
- Plan. In. Advance.
- Research programs based on the classes you need/want to take, this is the easiest way to narrow it down.
- If you are working on becoming/already proficient in a language, choose a country that speaks that language.
- If you have no foreign language background, don’t go to an English speaking country just because you’re afraid the language barrier will be too much. Most major cities are completely accessible for English speakers – and when in doubt, you can always use your hands.
- If you have no idea where you want to go or have trouble narrowing it down, choose a city with a major airport to make weekend travel easy. (Hint: Rome, Paris, Berlin, London, Madrid)
- Get at least 7 classes approved by your home institution before applying to your program, this will ensure that all of your credits transfer back when you return.
- Ask your home institution or study abroad provider if they will process your Visa for you. This will prevent many future headaches.
- Even if you don’t have to personally appear at the Consulate, the paperwork is still one of the most time consuming processes you will ever endure. Start early, or you will be running to FedEx at 6:56 for a 7:00 pickup to overnight your papers to California the night before the deadline. Or so I’ve heard…
- Apply for every scholarship you’re eligible for, there is a surprising amount of aid given to study abroad students.
- Try not to go abroad with your entire class, your best friend/boyfriend, or your college roommate. If you are daring, go alone and opt for the random roommate option. Watch in amazement at how easy it is to make friends with some of the greatest people you’ll ever meet.
- Ask questions. Your study abroad advisors are there to help ease you through the process.
- Do not give up because it seems like too much of a hassle to study abroad. It will be worth it, I promise.