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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at CU Boulder chapter.

*Disclaimer: Every study abroad program is different! These are just my experiences with the application process.

As I write this, I’m sitting in the British Museum and reflecting on the fact that it’s almost already been a month since I started studying abroad in London (the time is moving by so fast!). 

If you had told me four years ago I would be writing this article, I wouldn’t have believed it. Spending an entire semester abroad and being able to visit world-famous landmarks like the British Museum in my free time? A literal dream come true. However, even though I’ve been loving every second of living in London, my journey to get to this point was a long process—and admittedly a little more stressful than what the glamorous pamphlets advertising study abroad programs had me believe. From starting the initial forms to getting my courses approved, it took about 11 months of preparation before I even stepped on the plane. While it’s important to know what to expect from the program itself, I think it’s equally important to understand what to expect from the application process. So, if you’re considering studying abroad, here’s what you might expect from the Education Abroad department at CU Boulder. 

Initial interest.

My first real desire to start the process of studying abroad began after my roommate and I decided to check out the CU Education Abroad Fair. Ambassadors from a wide range of programs occupied booths that stretched around the room, and we were showered in pamphlets, stickers, and other travel memorabilia. At that point, I had no specific plans for my abroad experience, I just knew that I wanted to be somewhere in Europe and at least somewhat related to my major. If you’re finding yourself in the position I was in, I highly encourage you to check out this event if you haven’t already. It was there that I got a better idea of what type of programs I should look into further and rule out ones that I was on the fence about. For example, the idea of living with a host family terrified me, so I was happy to see which programs offered independent living options and focused on learning more about those. 

Meeting with my Education Abroad advisor.

I scheduled my first meeting with an Education Abroad advisor towards the end of spring semester during my sophomore year because I wanted to give myself ample time to decide if studying abroad was right for me. Additionally, before I could even start filling out any applications, CU Boulder required that I meet with an Education Abroad advisor first. The program I wanted was not organized by CU, so after my initial meeting with my advisor, she opened two applications for me. One application was on the MyCUAbroad portal to get general approval from CU to study abroad, and the other was an application on the host organization’s website for approval to join their specific program. At that point, I wasn’t too worried about the application process, my Education Abroad advisor assured me that I would have no issues getting approved and that these were just a formality. Initially, I was really excited because my advisor was really nice and the application process didn’t seem too difficult. I even started to doubt starting this process so early, but looking back I’m thankful I did because there ended up being a lot more steps and waiting time that I didn’t expect.

Program applications and documents—so many documents.

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After the initial applications to get approved into the program, which I didn’t find too difficult, I was surprised when I was presented with heaps of tedious documents to fill out. I felt like neither the pamphlets advertising my program nor CU had warned me about the sheer amount of paperwork I was expected to complete. Over the next few months, I found myself navigating different requirements from both the MyCUAbroad portal and the separate portal from my host organization. Luckily, I had started the process at the end of the spring semester, so I could get a good portion of it done over the summer without worrying about classes. Both of my abroad advisors (I ended up having another one provided to me by the host organization) were also extremely helpful so by that point I had a good network of people to contact if I had any questions. However, one of the main hiccups I encountered during my application process happened when it came to declaring which classes I was interested in taking abroad…

Getting courses approved.

One of my main concerns with studying abroad was that it wouldn’t allow me to graduate within four years. Therefore, it was especially important that I was careful when choosing which classes I would take abroad. The Education Abroad website listed pre-approved courses by CU for the various study abroad programs. However, in my case, this list only provided a few classes for my program that lined up with my major. This lack of classes meant I needed to go through the tedious process of scouring course catalogs from the university I would attend in London, which were vastly different from the layout of the course catalogs at CU. Picking out classes that I hoped sounded relevant enough to be approved and would also count toward my CMCI major. To make this process even more difficult, at the time I filled out CMCI’s course approval application (Summer 2022), the document was very buggy and difficult to navigate. I was also informed that I would hear back from CMCI in 3-5 weeks, but it ended up being about 12 weeks and several emails later that I finally received feedback on the courses I submitted. Thankfully, my Education Abroad advisor was extremely helpful during this process by communicating with CMCI on my behalf for progress updates.

Final thoughts and advice.

Definitely my main piece of advice when applying to study abroad is to start early. As soon as you’re confident you want to study abroad, and the application window opens, I would start getting in touch with an Ed Abroad advisor. Especially when you’re trying to focus on completing your homework for the week, it can get stressful having to do paperwork on top of that. You also have more time to ask questions and still meet form deadlines even if you encounter a hiccup in the process like I did when getting my courses approved.

Mackenzie is a (now graduated!) article contributor for Her Campus at the University of Colorado Boulder. She enjoys writing about a variety of topics with a focus on Beauty, Fashion and Sex + Relationships.