Studying Abroad...How do you get there?

This time of year everyone is always asking the people returning from their semesters abroad about their experiences. They get bombarded with questions about how their time abroad was and how they’ve changed. People always think of it as an unreal experience. But no one ever discusses the process of how you are able to go abroad.

I have always wanted to go abroad, so I went into this process already having decided it was part of my plan. I think there is a bit of a misconception of what it takes to go abroad. Before I began the process, I was totally blind to the work, time, and commitment involved. I really didn't realize that it required essays and tons of research. Not gonna lie, it felt a bit like I was applying to college again. This, however, did not cause me to waver in my decision to go through with the process.

I first had to figure out what my goals were and what I wanted to get out of my time abroad. I then I had to do some research and read about the programs that offered what I wanted, which was an immersive French language experience. I then had to dig even deeper and clarify what I wanted academically, personally, and professionally. I have to say this was the most challenging part. Having to condense my goals and specifically speak to all of them in relation to the program was challenging, but work I’m glad I did. It helped me start to fully understand where I stand academically, personally, and professionally, which is something I probably wouldn't have spent time on had I not had to do this. In the end, I landed on three very similar programs in different regions of France; Lyon, Caen and Pau. All 3 programs are intense French language immersion programs with relatively high levels of support to satisfy my personal and academic goals.

Having just finished the first leg of this process I can attest to the fact that it is not an experience without its stressors. For me, there was pressure around how good my essays were and trying to figure out what my chances of getting into a particular program were. There was the question of how many backup options do I give myself and did I really do the best that I could. And even after the application was submitted there is the stretch of time where I just have wait to see where my fate lies for the next fall semester. I have to admit, I felt a little dèja vu with all of the goal and challenge oriented essays I had to write. But what really got me through the process was that idea that if I put my best foot forward and gave it the time it deserved, I would hopefully be able to go somewhere that would give me a new exciting experience. After all this work, I feel as though I have learned a lot about myself, while simultaneously freaking myself out about the whole thing.

There is much work still ahead, though I am excited to see where this adventure takes me and excited to see where I’ll be spending my next Fall semester.