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The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UFL chapter.
girl sitting on rock in front of city
Original photo by Cathleen Rabideau

Studying abroad was one of the best decisions I have ever made. And before you stop reading because you think this is just going to be me bragging about all the amazing food I ate or the people I met, I promise I won’t do that. Rather, I want to be transparent about my experience, the cost, the logistics, the stress and all the other things you always wonder about when you see your entire timeline in Europe over the summer. While it will be impossible to not share some of the incredible experiences I had while abroad, I hope to not only make the experience more realistic but also more approachable, especially for students who may not think it is an option for them. I hope you can walk away from this article, not annoyed, but empowered to pursue studying abroad:

I might want to study abroad, but where do I even start? And when?

Birds Eye view of European town in forest
Original photo by Cathleen Rabideau

If you hear yourself asking this question, I was in your shoes not too long ago. I did not know anyone who had studied abroad so I was flying by the seed of my pants trying to figure everything out. In my experience, the first thing you need to do is decide when you want to go. Depending on your major and your career goals, it may only make sense to go abroad during the summer or during your senior spring. Whatever the case may be, try to decide this as early as possible if you have any desire to study abroad. I can only speak to my experience as a pre-med student. Many medical schools do not accept pre-reqs from international schools, making it difficult to go abroad during the fall or spring. For this reason, I decided to go abroad during the summer. Additionally, I knew I might want to study for the MCAT or maintain continuity with my extracurriculars later in college, so I decided to go abroad after my sophomore year. There really is no right answer. Do not let the experience of others influence your decision and make the choice that is best for you and your path.

I encourage you to decide when you want to go early so that you maximize your options for where you can go. Programs for the summer open as early as the August before the trip. Many programs admit students on a rolling basis so it is important you start looking early. That being said, don’t rush into deciding on a program because you don’t want it to fill up. I definitely wouldn’t procrastinate, but this is a big deal. Gather as much information as you can and make an informed decision about the program you choose. I personally wrote around 20 emails to my program advisor with all kinds of questions. It helped me have peace of mind when making my deposit and later when I went on the trip. Also keep in mind that even though programs start opening in August, not all of them are open at this time. If you do not see something you really like, wait a little and keep checking the UF International Center (UFIC) website for updates.

When a program or two finally catches your eye, it is important that you make the final decision entirely for yourself. Do not commit to a $5,000+ trip because you think medical schools will like how it looks on your application or because it will look good on your Instagram. Choose a program that genuinely interests you, in a place that is a dream destination for you. Additionally, you do not have to confine yourself to your major or career interests. Any experience abroad is beneficial to you as a person and as a professional. I know many pre-med students who took a trip through the business school because it was in a location they wanted to experience. Please, do not make yourself miserable by choosing something for others.

View down alley in European town with mountains in background
Original photo by Cathleen Rabideau

Okay, I really love this program but how am I going to pay for all of this?

This is an extremely valid question and not something that is freely talked about enough. My trip was roughly $6,000 for a three-week trip to Europe. If this is something you or your family can pay for independently, that’s great, one less thing to worry about! If not, that’s okay too, there are plenty of ways to finance a study abroad trip. Another reason it is important to try and decide on a trip as early as possible is to work on scholarship applications as soon as possible. The UFIC has a variety of scholarships that you can apply to through one application. The application does require some writing and a letter of recommendation so plan this out early. These scholarships however, will not cover all of your expenses. There are a variety of other ways to cover the leftover costs, but I will just share my experience. I knew studying abroad was something that was very important to me and it was something I had wanted to do for years before coming to college. Therefore, I was confident in my decision to take out a small loan to cover the costs as I could not afford the trip myself. I knew it would be a worthwhile investment and likely not something I would regret down the line. Additionally, I do intend on pursuing medical school, which I will also have to take out loans for, so I was not extremely intimidated by this small loan when I plan on going into debt either way. I used this loan to fund almost my entire trip.

This being said, I was very aware of my spending while abroad. I went to some of the most expensive countries in the world, so I made an active effort to splurge on cultural experiences that were important to me while saving in other areas I wasn’t as interested in. These priorities will be different for everyone so it is important you go into your trip with a rough guide for what you will and what you will not spend money on. I cannot speak for other trips, but I was very lucky with the people who were on the trip with me. Everyone was very respectful of others’ choices and I never felt pressured to buy something I did not want to. This can change based on the trip, but it is likely there will be a group of people who are respectful of your choices.

European town with greenery in foreground
Original photo by Cathleen Rabideau

How do the trips work? Is it a lot of time at school or by myself?

Every trip is structured a little differently. The trip I chose to go on was more based in experiential learning than classroom learning. We also moved around a lot more than some other trips, which is both a blessing and a curse. These, along with many other logistics, are important things to ask in Q&A sessions or directly to your program director as every trip works differently. These features can drastically change your experience so make an informed decision about what may work best for you. My trip consisted of moving to a new city every 2-4 days. This was a great experience in terms of seeing different parts of the country, new people and unique cultures. However, this did make some days quite exhausting. Additionally, we did not necessarily get a feel for what it would be like to live abroad in one city for a prolonged period. We also were never in a classroom but instead visited a variety of museums, universities, research facilities and organizations. I personally thoroughly enjoyed this structure as we could interact with professionals and see first-hand renowned institutions and technology. Overall, it depends on what you want to get out of this experience.

When it comes to getting to and from your destination, this too can vary. I was again very lucky with the group of people on my trip. We coordinated flights and a large group of us were able to travel to our first country and back to the US together. We were not allowed to really venture off individually without permission throughout the trip, but everyone got along well so I didn’t mind sticking with a buddy. If you are nervous about being by yourself, in Europe at least, you should be okay. I traveled alone for a week after my trip ended, which included taking an 8 hour bus in the middle of the night, a three hour train and exploring major cities all by myself. While I remained very aware of my surroundings and did not go outside much past dark, I never felt in danger or uncomfortable. Studying abroad and exploring countries independently is such a unique and exhilarating experience. Looking back, some of my absolute favorite memories were made when I was alone. It also helps you develop cultural skills by forcing you to interact with people who may speak a different language than you or navigate transportation systems in a different language. Traveling by yourself, or without people you know well, helps to develop interpersonal skills that can really add to an application. So even though I said you shouldn’t do this as a resume booster, studying abroad undoubtedly sets you apart from other applicants to any field because of the unique skills and cultural competencies you developed while abroad.

Studying abroad was the best decision I made while in college. I have never regretted spending a summer away from school and exploring new countries and experiences. I have made life-long friendships and created some of my favorite memories. When people do not stop talking about their experience abroad, I honestly do not blame them. It is such a life changing opportunity. I had never left the country before studying abroad so this was a big jump for me. Of course I was nervous about financing my trip, if I would make friends, if I would be safe or if this trip would disrupt my timeline to medical school. But despite the nerves and hesitations, I went on the trip and had the time of my life. I hope you decide to take the same leap of faith!

Sunset behind mountains in Europe
Original photo by Cathleen Rabideau
Class of 2025 Bachelor of Health Science Student at UF I am a pre-med student who loves learning about science, but also enjoys being creative and connecting with others. I want to be a surgeon one day but currently enjoy learning about the human condition and I am exciting to write about it and share my perspectives. I am involved in the Undergraduate American Medical Womens Association, UF College Democrats, and Phi Delta Epsilon on campus. I also do research in pediatric cancer and volunteer with kids at Shands. Outside of school, I love traveling and want to live in Europe for a year after I graduate. I am also a big Harry Styles fan and enjoy movies/shows like Pride and Prejudice (2005), Gilmore Girls, Greys Anatomy, Game of Thrones, The Hunger Games, and the list goes on.