Study Abroad – Just Do It!
Even though you have probably already heard this from everyone you know that has gone abroad, I am going to echo the sentiment that you should ABSOLUTELY spend a semester studying abroad in a foreign country!
If you think you don’t have time based on your major, 4-year-plan, or any other academic reasons, I urge you to explore your options further. At the time I went abroad, I was an education major and they really discouraged us from studying abroad. This is because most people typically study abroad their junior year and that’s when I had to take all professional sequence education courses that I couldn’t take anywhere else. So what did I do? I went abroad during the spring semester of my sophomore year. I thought I was going to be the only one who wasn’t a junior, but surprisingly enough there were several other people my age on my program. I also know people that have gone in the fall or the spring of their senior year. There are also lots of shorter programs you can do during the summer or even over winter break. If you can’t spare a whole semester, look into a 2- or 6-week program. There are some pretty cool options, like China, India, or Costa Rica. And don’t just limit yourself to looking within your major program! Check out RSOs with travel opportunities. My friend is going to India this winter break through a club at U of I! So even if you think you don’t have time to go, do yourself a favor and think again.
Another concern people have is cost, which I totally get, I was worried too! But one nice thing is that tuition is actually cheaper than normal for your semester abroad. One of my friends told me her parents joked and asked if they could send her back to Spain to save some tuition money! So that helps, but if you are still worried about your financial situation, you could consider applying for aid, grants, or scholarships. There are about a million different study abroad scholarships out there, just dive into the depths of the internet. They might require you to write an essay, but be smart about it. See if you can write one response and reuse it for different scholarship applications. Kind of like you did when you were applying to college… Don’t lie, we all did it. Aside from academic cost, you’re definitely going to want to have spending money for traveling and fun stuff, like souvenirs and snacks. If you already know you want to study abroad, be smart about your money. Start saving it up now, get a job, ask relatives for money to put towards your trip for the holidays/your birthday. All of these things can help defray the final cost.
Even if you are concerned about all things I just mentioned, I STILL urge you to explore the possibility of studying abroad. It is such a singular, unique, and incredible experience. There really is nothing like living in a foreign country for an extended period of time. You convert from being a tourist to being a resident, especially if you are there for a whole semester. You have to learn to rely on yourself and the kindness of others to survive and get by and maybe even to just get where you’re trying to go. But these are experiences everyone should have in life. Not only will you get the chance to learn about another place and culture, but you will learn about yourself. I truly hope all of you get that opportunity at some point in life. Studying abroad changed my life and it could change yours too.