If you’re thinking about studying abroad, don’t think twice. Just go.
That’s the mindset I have right now about finding a study abroad program and applying. Today I want to give you all some tips for deciding to study abroad and choosing a program. Then I want to tell you about the program I’m applying to!
Being abroad for a mission trip was one of the most rewarding times of my life and I cannot wait to experience being abroad on such a great scale. So, when I decided to study abroad, finding the right program was a challenge. Here are some tips if you have decided to study abroad.
How to Decide to Study Abroad
1. Decide how long you want to study abroad. My school has winter month-long trips, semester programs and summer trips. You can also travel abroad for a service project during the fall, spring and winter breaks. Narrowing the time down helps you narrow down your options. For me, I have to choose a program my university approves versus through other organizations. Basically I chose from a list. I debated between a winter program and a semester program. But I can say that I’ve heard so many great things about semester trips and being abroad for a longer time. If you have room in your schedule to go for a whole semester, I would recommend it, based on what others have said. I will let you know for sure after I study abroad of course!
2. Read study abroad blogs. This has been so helpful in choosing a program. I spent hours and long nights reading blogs from my classmates and others who I’ve never met before. It really helped me narrow down my country and my program. Study abroad blogs become so addicting. There are so many out there, so I recommend reading some, because there are so many things I didn’t think about when I thought about going abroad. Blogs give you a personal story and they are also full of advice. So are vlogs–which can be even more fun!
3. Talk to other students who went on your program. Sitting down and talking to a senior who traveled abroad was so helpful. I could contact her through our study abroad office at school. She ultimately convinced me to go and I could even friend her on Facebook and see all her photos from Europe.
4. Find a program related to your major. That way you can study something you love and something already familiar to you. You can also get credits out of the way and it will look relevant on your résumé.
5. Develop your study abroad goals. Are you going to learn a new language? To have a different experience? To travel? To follow a dream? To help out with your career? Make a list of all the things you hope to get out of studying abroad. Then you can choose a program that aligns with these goals. I debated pros and cons and made lists!
6. Save your money and work. I’m working to save to have spending money abroad. Prepare to make the most out of your time there and having the right resources helps you feel less anxious when applying and going through the orientation process. Think about it this way, would you rather spend money on a coffee at Starbucks or spend it on gelato or pizza in Italy with friends?
With those tips, here’s a little bit more about my process with selecting a program.
First off, I looked at all of the options for studying abroad, narrowing it down to Spanish-speaking countries because I studied Spanish in high school and then later, I decided to minor in it.
Last year, I applied for a winter study abroad program in Peru for January 2013. It was my absolute favorite program, but it only lasted for three weeks. So I regretfully denied my acceptance into the program so I could save money and time for a semester abroad. Travel has been a desire God placed on my heart, so I knew I wanted to have the experience I really getting to know a country and its people.
So that started the research into semester programs.
To be honest, I wasn’t satisfied with any of the programs my school offered at first. Which is ironic because I chose my school because they had a good study abroad program! But finally, as I talked to some people and thought and prayed about it for a good 10 months or so, I have decided to apply to Spain.
The program is in Sevilla, Spain and it is from January 2014-May 2014. It also goes along perfectly with my major, communications. I’m very excited to experience everything Spain offers and improve my Spanish. I will be doing a home-stay with a family and all of my classes will be in Spanish (scary!). I will most likely take a magazine class and photography class as well as some other electives!
Choosing this program was hard, but I knew that I had to choose a program that my school approves so that way it would be a cheaper and easier process so I could receive credit. While I had my heart set on Peru and Latin America, I realized I don’t know that much about Spain and Europe and that God was calling me to pursue my desire for travel and learning in a very different place. I have experienced Latin America before, but I am ready for some newness. I’m also excited to visit other European countries while I’m there including Portugal and maybe Italy and Greece! There is also a trip to Morocco planned!
So, overall, I would say trust in your gut instinct for choosing to study abroad. But think and pray hard about it. Be realistic, but also realize that college is a time to try new things. It’s a time to try scary things. Plus, when would you get the chance to travel around Europe or another country again?
UPDATE! Read ALL about my adventures studying abroad, including a list of countries, cities and sites–complete with photos and video!