The Basics of Studying Abroad

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Paris, London, Peru, South Africa — studying abroad during college can be your ticket to exploring the world. By deciding to take a semester, month, or year overseas, you not only gain the chance to change how you view your major, but you open yourself up to changing your life. Before you book your ticket, though, read on about some of the basics of going abroad for classes.

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  1. “Study Abroad” Varies By School

The term “study abroad” can mean one of a couple of things, and can apply to a myriad of programs. For example, it may be a formal educational program through your university or school in which you attend regular classes at a sister school in another country. On the other hand, it may be hosted by a private program in which your classroom may be a field experience – such as touring the architecture of Rome.

Leaning Tower of Pisa, Pisa, IT

  1. Consider Time & School Credit

That being said, it’s important to know what your program will entail when it comes to credits and time off.  Programs hosted through your school will most likely treat your study abroad as it would a regular class on campus. Private programs typically have an understanding with the universities it works with, in order to allow you the time off and to give you credit for your work. However, there are some programs out there not recognized by your campus which may require taking a leave of absence. In this case, you may want to opt for a summer program instead of a school year term.

  1. Choose Wisely

It can be difficult to pick the right study abroad program with so many options out there. That’s why it is best to treat it as you would picking out your classes at your own university. You most likely will want to find a program that is similar to your major or career goals and that provides you an immersion experience. On the other hand, if your priority is simply to get travel experience, a program that is just through a sister university may allow you the time to see the region or country independently.

 

  1. There’s Funding Out There

One of the biggest myths with study abroad is that you’ll pay more. Not (necessarily) true! Many university-sponsored programs come with some assistance or scholarship you may qualify for. This is especially true if your program has a special purpose, such as service-based programs, or you’re interested in a specific application of your major. Private study abroad programs may not offer you funding, but they may have more flexible payment terms, such as paying a deposit and then making monthly installments, all of which can lessen the financial blow.

 Tower Bridge, London, GB

  1. The ‘When’ Doesn’t Matter

One thing that keeps many students from applying to study abroad is the idea that they are too young or too old. But the truth is far more complicated. Study abroad programs can be great for any level of college student, whether you’re a second-semester freshman or a graduating senior. Your advisor will almost certainly need to sign off, but barring any significant academic issues, you are free to travel when you’re ready. Just look into the program and find out if it seems right for where you are academically.

While it may seem like a lot, study abroad can be one of the most rewarding experiences you can have as a college student. Seeing the world while studying with new peers, new professors, and new families can expand your world in ways you never thought possible. Now, the only question you should have is, “Where to?”

 

“Revised” Study Abroad Packing List

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With fall semester quickly approaching and my spring study abroad trip still on my mind, I thought I would put together a “revised” packing list for those of you getting ready to head abroad in a few weeks. Previously, I put together a packing and essentials list before I headed across the pond back in January. Now that I’ve returned from the experience, I wanted to make a few adjustments to my packing list and essentials based on what I found was really necessary compared to what I thought I needed before I left.

A Journal and/or Blog

For me it was super important that I documented my experience. Because I already had a blog, it allowed me a platform for my travel posts. Blogging about my travels was beneficial in a couple of ways: not only was I able to share everything easily with my family and friends, but I also have a collection of entries I can go back to and relive. If you don’t have a blog you can easily set one up at WordPress or Blogspot for free.

Along with the blog I think it’s really important to keep a journal as well. There were a lot of emotions, feelings, and opinions I had about certain things that happened that I didn’t want to share publicly on my blog. In my journal I could write down everything without having to worry about censoring it. The journal then becomes very personal, it recounts your true experience and raw stories.

If you don’t want to do both, at least do one or the other. You’re going to want to remember your time abroad and the best way to do that is by writing everything down.

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Photos from Home

When I got to my room, it was completely bare. I didn’t think to bring anything with me to put up as decorations. Thankfully my family sent me lots of cards so I was able to put those up to create a “homey” feel. When all the other girls brought photos from home and put them on their walls, I really wished I had brought some too! Keep in mind they are easy to travel with. Because a photo is flat, they don’t take up much space in your suitcase!

Camera

When traveling, it’s important to have a separate camera aside from your phone. Since cell service is spotty, there is almost no need to have a cell phone out at all. Depending on what type of camera you bring, it can produce better quality photos with more control over settings. I always had my camera hanging around my neck; it became a part of me. Now I have all these wonderful pictures to remember my travels by.

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Clothes for Layering

It can be difficult to know what to pack in terms of clothes. My best advice is to bring options that are good for layering. I found that while traveling you should be prepared for any type of weather. For example, we encountered an unexpected snow storm in Prague when it was mid April! My favorite layering piece during my travels happened to be an oversized denim button up. It was super comfy and still looked cute for photos, so it’s a win-win.

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Gum and Favorite Snacks from Home

Lastly, it is important to remember they don’t sell some of the same products abroad as they do in the States. Take gum for example…it’s just not the same over there! I went over with a lot of gum to begin with because I chew at least a piece a day. Eventually, I was starting to run out and I caved. I purchased a pack there and it was the worst decision I made…it was gross, horrible, repulsive! Definitely buy  gum to bring with you!

Also, if you like ranch dressing or peanut butter, you better bring that too. Commodities like these are hard to come by, and when you do, tend to be much more expensive.

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Those are some of the key things that I’d be sure to pack if I was heading back abroad! What will you be packing for your trip? Happy travels!

Cheers.

7 Packing Tips for a Semester Abroad

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With your passport in hand and your itinerary set, get ready to head out for your semester abroad. While a great adventure awaits you, figuring out what to pack—and how to pack it—can be challenging. That’s why it’s important to pack smart using these seven pro packing tips.

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Tip 1: Study Where You’re Going

The biggest rookie traveler mistake is not doing the proper research on where you are headed. While it is easy to look up average weather and climates, do you know what it is really like to live in this new geographic location? For example, have you studied up on the little details such as if you will be walking on cobblestones (which may mean disaster if you have a suitcase full of high heels)?

Continue your research by reading past student experiences from your program or a similar program in your new region. Take note of important information such as if they unexpectedly needed a ton of rain gear or relied on walking to navigate their new city.

Tip 2: Make a Complete Shopping List

Some academic study abroad programs offer traveling students helpful shopping lists that give a good idea of the necessities. However, those whose programs don’t may want to create a complete, organized list of needed items before starting the process. Start by writing down everything and anything you may think you will need—including extra school supplies, an additional blanket, or backup batteries for your electronics. Once you have your list, use your research to pare it down. For example, if past travelers noted that their dorm room felt unsafe, pick up a suitcase lock.

Tip 3: Find the Perfect Travel Luggage

Your packing is only as good as the bags and cases in which you store your items. Your luggage should be extra-durable to travel over a variety of terrains and light enough to lift and carry easily when packed.

You should also note any luggage restrictions your airline or program may have. Some only allow two large bags of a certain weight and size. Failure to heed these restrictions may mean charges or fines.

Tip 4: Roll, Don’t Fold

Any packing pro will tell you the secret to saving space in your suitcase is the “roll” method. Simply lay your clothing out flat in a stack of several items (such as three pairs of jeans, ten t-shirts, or five or six dresses) and then roll tightly from the bottom up. Lay the rolls vertical instead of horizontal to conserve even more empty area in your suitcase.

Tip 5: Use Every Bit of Space

Your suitcase’s tiny pockets and unused inches are prime real estate when packing for a semester abroad. Wrap the rolled up clothing with scarves or other cold weather gear. You can even go as far as stuffing your socks and underwear in your shoes.

Tip 6: Forget the Purchasables

You may love your expensive shampoo or worry that your new country of residence will not have a supply of your favorite soap. But do not be tempted to pack these items unless absolutely necessary. Purchasable items such as razors, toiletries, and other personal items can be bought when you arrive and will help you cut down on bulk and weight in your luggage.

Tip 7: Avoid Stacking

If you’re a reader, or if you are required to purchase your textbooks in advance, you may have to consider just how to get these space wasters from one country to the next. Where most travelers go wrong is by placing books on top of books. This only creates heaviness that will make your bag harder to lug around an airport. Spread out your essential books in various bags instead, and even consider carrying on a book in your arm to save even more room in your handbag.

Packing to study abroad does not have to be a scary ordeal. By anticipating your needs, planning properly, and following some simple packing tricks of the trade, you can cut down on what isn’t necessary and focus on the essentials. With lighter suitcases in hand, you’ll be ready to bring back great souvenirs and even better memories.

What are some of your packing tips for students traveling abroad? Share your best packing secrets in the comments section below!

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Pros and Cons of Spending the Summer Abroad

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Finals are almost done, dorm rooms are almost packed, and everyone is talking about their summer plans. Fortunately, it is not too late to jump on a time-honored tradition among many college students: spending the summer abroad. With so many destinations and types of trips, students have nearly endless possibilities! But before you book your plane tickets, take into account these three pros and cons of spending the summer abroad.

3 Pros

1.   Make the Most out of Your Summer

For many, summer vacation is a perfect time to sit back, relax, and spend days outside of the stressful classroom. For others, this kind of vacation can be boring and repetitive. Electing to spend it overseas in a study abroad program is a much more appealing option for those with an adventurous side who want to make each moment of free time count. From backpacking through Europe, to volunteering in South America, or taking summer courses in Asia, there are plenty of options that can enhance a résumé and provide an exciting schedule for students.

2.   Vacation Cheaply

Studying abroad during the school year can have mixed impact on your wallet. Some programs cost the same as if you stayed on campus, while others with hidden fees and activity costs make you feel like you’re paying a second tuition. For increased savings, elect to stay in a hostel, use your student ID to get discounts on transportation and sightseeing, and visit countries with low costs of living. You’ll get the same experience as someone who does an educational experience during the school year at half the cost.

3.   Shorter Study Abroad Experience

While some students have passports that are filled to the brim with experiences, others may just be getting their airline wings for the first time. If you are concerned about being prone to homesickness, choosing to travel in the summer limits the time you are away from the ones you love.

3 Cons

1.   Miss out on Summer Opportunities

That internship is not going to be around if you decide to travel independently. The same goes with a temporary job or the summer course you have been dying to take. Make the right choice for where you are in your life. If you can afford to miss an academic or job experience, then do so.

2.   Overall Expense

While you can travel relatively cheaply, international travel will still cost you at least several grand depending on your destination. Saving up for airline tickets, hotel and hostel costs, food expenses, and general travel will also take you time—a luxury you may not have if you are saving your pennies to pay tuition. In addition, you will have to be sure to have extra money in your savings account for travel emergencies that are hard to predict.

3.   Less Adaptation Time

Summer travel overseas may remind you of vacationing with your parents when you were younger. There just isn’t enough time to see and do everything on your list! While students who study abroad during the school year have an adjustment period and the ability to travel leisurely, a summer provides you with only a handful of weeks to get the entire experience.

Making the decision to venture abroad is a huge one. It may change your life and open up new doors. But even with all the positives, there are the downsides, such as the expense and limited time table. Your decision to travel may not be an easy one to make, but it is worth the lifetime of memories once you have.

Did you study abroad during college? If so, was it during the summer or for a semester? What would you recommend for students looking to travel?

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Taking the Plunge to Study Abroad

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A few weeks ago, I embarked on an adventure to backpack through six cities in Europe. A trip like this requires thoroughness and above all, patience.  Initially, the planning process was daunting and extremely time consuming, but the end result was implausible. The two girls I went with were seemingly “the planners,” while I was more concerned about trying every flavor gelato, being a part of history in Vatican City during the Canonization, and climbing the Eiffel Tower. This was the Eat, Pray, Love moment I’ve been waiting for. Truth be told, the whole reason why I entertained the idea of crossing the pond was because my virtuous sister was studying abroad in Southern France. I have always wanted to visit Europe, but this gave me a good excuse to take the plunge.

Backpacks

Looking back on my college years, the only thing that would have made it superior would have been studying abroad. The experience one receives when transporting into another country and culture is inconceivable. It is quite intimating thinking about navigating a foreign city, eating unique cuisine, all while working through the obvious language barrier.  With that being said, if given the opportunity to study internationally, the answer should be an immediate YES.

Eiffel Tower

Preparation may be the toughest part of the whole experience, but that should not shy anyone away. Deciding what classes to take abroad, what kind of agenda you will be following, and how you will adjust to the time difference is all par for the course. Most things will work themselves out, and it will be smooth sailing in no time.  Living on campus at the university is a great way to quickly meet other students in the same boat as you. Often before going abroad, there are different local groups set up for students from the same school or geographic area to meet before taking off.  There is a sense of comfort that comes from meeting people who are travelling to the same place as you.

Venice

One tip I learned from visiting my sister in her temporary home in Southern France is: adapt as much as you can to their culture. If in France, make sure to enjoy a baguette, crepe or croissant at least twice a day.  If in Rome, do as the Romans do, and drink from public water fountains which resemble bath tubs.  Overall, if in Europe, be sure to enjoy gelato every day; it will never get old. Learning the day to day customs of each country not only make you feel more authentic, but also give allow you to blend in more as a local, and not so much a tourist.  The most important advice is, never rush, try to eliminate any kind of schedule, and do things on your own time.  The best kept secrets are often found unannounced. Getting lost on the streets of Montmartre, a neighborhood in Paris was one of the highlights of my trip.

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