Studying abroad is an amazing opportunity; an opportunity one should take advantage of while in college. It can further expand your mind, and stimulate your ideas, and it can help you prepare for the real world mentally, and emotionally. Studying abroad can even open your eyes to new ways of learning, seeing, and understanding. Learning to adapt to life in another country is an experience all on its own, but studying in another country can give you the greatest gift of all- leadership skills and independence. While I find myself in the process of planning to study abroad, I have come across many obstacles that one should always consider. Here are the steps I took to assemble my trip. Consider these while planning yours.
Step 1: Pick a location
Think big, but be smart. Being smart about deciding where you want to study abroad is ideal. Ask yourself, is it safe? Does this place offer me the benefits I will need in my career? Is it feasible, financially? Most importantly, can you see yourself studying there? Remember, this is not a vacation, so when choosing a place to study, think about the connections this place has to your major. For example, my major is Graphic Design, so essentially I want to study in a place where there is a lot of art and design; therefore, I chose Florence, Italy. I had to think about what I want to gain out of this experience, which was to become more independent, and learn to deal with being out of my comfort zone. Ask yourself what do you want from this experience? How will this make you grow? How can this experience benefit you in the your following years at school, and in your career? So make a list, and set your goals!
Step 2: Find a school
Sometimes asking your school advisor for help is the best way to go about selecting your school abroad. When I was having trouble on choosing a school, I spoke with my academic advisor, and was recommended certain schools that the college was affiliated with; , this made the process a whole lot easier. This narrowed down the schools, and left me with the ones that offer my major. Speak to your advisor, ask questions like: Will my credits transfer from this college? Can I receive financial aid/scholarships? Will the aid I currently have now, stay the same abroad? These are all questions you must think about in order for this to be a successful trip.
Step 3: Contact the school
Every school has a representative that can further assist you in making your study abroad experience come true. Speaking with someone at your host school could be the best way to get the answers you want. Usually if your school is out of the country, its easiest to contact them by email, but in some cases the school you want to attend abroad will have a campus in the U.S. This means you can call the main line of the school in the states and communicate that way. Before contacting the school, think about the questions you have and ask about the study abroad program they offer. Consider asking: Is this an American school, or an Italian college? Who can I contact about the application process, and course descriptions? Make sure you write all of your questions down so that you do not forget to get any important information.
Step 4: Selecting courses
This is the make-it-or-break-it step; once you have found a school that has your major provided in their curriculum, you must then look into how their program is set up. Once you have contacted the school, it will be easier to ask about the course catalog, which contains the course descriptions. These course descriptions will allow you to recognize what the course will entail and what kinds of things you will be doing in that class. In most cases, the courses you need will be out of sequence, so you will need to ask your advisor and the host school representative if this is okay to do. Usually, in order to take certain classes out of sequence, there is an additional portfolio you must submit in order to be placed in an upper level class. When I was selecting the courses best suited for me, I had my faculty look over the descriptions to help me better understand if the classes were compatible to those I would be taking that semester at Moore. When I found the most compatible courses, I asked the Accademia representative about taking courses out of sequence, and if they will be available during my semester abroad. Once you have confirmed these courses with your faculty, advisor, and host school representative the last step is to get approval from the chair of your department.
Step 5: Financial Aid
Talking to your financial aid office will be the best way to better understand the fees and bills that come with studying abroad. Ask your financial aid advisor if you will be eligible for your loans while abroad. Also, if you have any scholarships, ask if they will be offered to you at another institution. In my case, my tuition will change regardless, and because my scholarships are school-based I am not able to receive that aid while attending another school. When speaking with financial aid, ask the following: How will my tuition differ abroad? Will I still be able to receive all my loans? If not, which ones am I eligible for? Also, when will this process be handled? Is there anything I must do to complete this process?
Step 6: Application Process
The last and final step is to begin the application process. When applying, take the time to make sure you don’t miss anything! Just like applying to college, the earlier you get started the better. Get ready to answer personal information, and be prepared to take the time needed to fully complete the series of questions. When completing the application form, I was asked personal information like, my address, social security, and emergency contacts. Concentrate, and stay focused. Make a check list to ensure you don’t forget anything! Make sure you the following as soon as possible:
–Letters of Recommendation:
A document usually written by a professor/faculty member to recommend you to a workplace, or in this cases a college program. It includes your qualities, characteristics, and capabilities to benefit the place that needs the recommendation.
This document shows credits and grades for all courses taken up to that date, including GPA. This is usually sent out by your college’s registrar office, or can be electronically sent as well.
A document, which gives you the approval to take the course listed abroad. This contains the approval of the chair of your department, and has the credits listed to be transferred once your time is completed.
Depending on what your host school wants you to write, this statement consists of goals, and expectations of the program, and a little background about you academically, and personally.
A legal document that is issued by the government to certify your entrance in another country.
A legal document, which allows the student to study at the institution in the issuing country.
This is a big step, and it’s the last step so stay on top of things, and start planning ahead. Certain documents will take time to be processed and received. Things like letters from teachers could only take about a week but documents like a passport or a visa can take months! Make sure you plan accordingly and don’t miss anything!