Thinking of Studying Abroad? Don't Wait Until Junior or Senior Year

Pondering for months over which university I would attend, I thought long and hard about this decision. As my parents were both born and raised in Brazil, there was never an alma mater for me to fulfill here in the US. However, I always knew that I would study abroad. Always. If there is one thing my life pursuits absolutely must yield, it is a path of adventure and a mindset filled with a desire to see more and explore foreign lands. However, although I knew it would happen someday, in my head, I planned my venture abroad for my junior or senior year of college. Desiring to get properly settled in Tallahassee first, I experienced major fear of missing out on a “normal” freshman year. However, after much thought, research and speculation, I decided to pursue the FSA program (First Semester Abroad) through Florida State University’s nationally-ranked International Programs. Now that I look back, there is absolutely no better way that I could have commended my collegiate journey, and I am eternally grateful that I voyaged abroad when I did, for a MULTITUDE of reasons.

Most people I speak with desire to go abroad later in their college years for reasons quite similar to mine. Although it sounds like a good idea, there's actually a huge problem with this. As you develop through your major and the coursework for your desired career and academic field, your classes become more specialized, and less of these are offered in programs abroad. Study sites such as Valencia, Florence, Panama and London (through FSUIP) offer mostly gen-ed coursework, therefore making those locations a great option for freshmen and sophomores who need to complete these requirements.

For these reasons, juniors and seniors who already have these credits fulfilled might not find a vast variety of classes that pertain to what they need. However, many locations offer specialized programs just for specific areas of academics, such as Editing, Writing and Media in Valencia, Spain, Archaeology in Tuscany, Italy and Global Sport Management in England. London also offers an exciting and unique Harry Potter inspired course, called England at War: Harry Potter, Religion and Valor. The problem with specialized programs, however, is that these sessions are usually designed to occur for one and a half, to four weeks at most, paling in comparison in duration to a full semester or year abroad. For those who wish to be fully immersed in a country’s culture for an extended period of time, semester and year-long programs would be deemed the best option.

If you’re coming in with loads of credit through AP, IB, ACE programs, as well as dual-enrollment, you’re much further ahead already in your coursework than those who are not coming in with anything- congratulations on grinding out in high school! On the cloudier side of things, however, because you’ll be coming in with so many credits, it’s going to give you less time in your general education requirements. This means that you’ll have to pick a major(s) sooner than others and start that specialized coursework at an earlier date. Those who arrive with the maximum amount of requirements start classes within their major their first or second semester of college.

Furthermore, the friend group that I made when I studied abroad in Valencia, Spain is largely the friend group that I currently have here in Tallahassee. Of course, you can make friends however and whenever you want, and I highly encourage you to diversify your friend group and have relationships and connections with people from different organizations. Pertaining to the program, the people you meet when you study abroad are largely open-minded, independent and ambitious students with a passion for more. I always knew that I wanted to see the world through both my young adult life and later on as well, and meeting these people through Florida State University International Programs has been life-changing because I've been able to connect with globally-minded, adventurous spirits that I truly connect with. As you spend more time on campus, it becomes harder to leave, because you’ve become so comfortable, that it’s hard to seek discomfort. There is one promise I can make to you, however: this discomfort will expand you in the most beautiful of ways, and you will never be the same.

Of course, we haven't necessarily seen a pandemic as bad as Coronavirus in the recent years before it struck, however, one thing we know for sure is that the future is extremely uncertain. Planning to do things years from the present moment is great in many scenarios, and it is helpful to plan your trips and adventures as you desire for them to happen. However, when it comes to studying abroad, you should create a feasible, forthcoming plan that will allow you to get your adventures started as soon as possible. No more waiting!

"The mind, once stretched by a new idea, never returns to its original dimensions." - Ralph Waldo Emerson.

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