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The Beginning of My Study Abroad Adventure

Next fall I’m planning on studying abroad in Madrid for a whole semester. I have a lot of expectations and just about as many hesitations—so, naturally, I figured I would share them here! I’m not sure how popular studying abroad is, especially at this exact moment, but as an International Business major, it’s something that I’ve been anticipating for quite some time now. 

I don’t know exactly when this goal of studying abroad landed on my radar, but for as long as I can remember, it’s been an experience my parents have encouraged heavily. I’m extremely lucky to have so much support regarding this decision, but it’s also been something I have very mixed feelings about. 

During my trip abroad, I’ll be in my first semester of my senior year. I know exactly what you’re thinking, “Who decides to live across the world during their last year of college?” I’ve gotten this reaction plenty of times. First off, there’s the obvious answer: COVID. I always planned on traveling during my college career, but I had originally planned for it to take place during my sophomore year. Obviously, 2020 didn’t have exactly the same outlook as I did. In fact, there really was a short period of time where I gave up on attempting my study abroad plans. As you could assume, however, this didn’t last too long. 

Now, I wouldn’t consider myself qualified or experienced enough in any regard to be giving advice about studying abroad, but I can give a few pointers that I wish I had known last year, last month, and even last week. First of all, know that the process is going to be messy and unpredictable. Even as I finish finalizing all my applications, I still have so many unanswered questions that realistically may not be resolved until I arrive in Spain next year. It’s taken me a while to be comfortable with this, simply because, like so many other college students, I am not a fan of uncertainty. Although it may feel like it at times, you’re not being left in the dark, it’s truly just a matter of understanding that this process is foreign- both literally and figuratively.

Secondly, I feel that it’s important to share that even though I’ve been living with this dream of studying abroad for the past four years or so, I have no idea what to expect, and in fact, I avoid creating any expectations or fears through assuming what my experience will look like or feel like. Another piece of advice I’ve learned is that it’s never too soon to start planning. I was just lucky enough to jump back into the planning stage at the right time, but planning your academic stay abroad is not a quick task. There truly is so much help here at ISU to be utilized, but definitely put time aside to really figure out what it is that you want to get out most from your trip. 

Although I’m beyond grateful to be going on this journey soon, I still have a lot to learn. Stick around and maybe I’ll keep updating once it gets closer to my anticipated departure date, but for now, I encourage anyone who is curious about studying abroad to learn more! There is no time like the present, and there are so many places waiting to be seen by you!

Eileen Quinn

Illinois State '23

Junior at Illinois State University studying marketing and communications.
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