So you want to study abroad? Fantastic! I am here to help with five steps to begin the search for that program just for you! The process to get abroad is not always fun, but with a little drive and a Google search engine, you can get there in no time. While these steps may not apply to every college, this is based off my experience. So, before you begin the paperwork, here are five steps to make that final decision!
Step 1: Go to Your Academic Advisor
Steps 1 and 2 are interchangeable, but let me preface this first step by saying that whether or not you like your academic advisor is neither here nor there; you will have to meet in order to get clearance to study abroad for academic credit. Your academic advisor will also be able to tell you whether or not a semester abroad could fit your schedule and most importantly make sure that the program you choose has transferable credits for your major or minor so that you are on track to graduate! However, if you are not worried about your credits or graduating in a certain year, do what you please.
Step 2: Go to Your Study Abroad Office
Now that your academic advisor has approved of you studying abroad, go to the office of adventures itself: the study abroad office. There, a representative that works in the office should be able to give your more information on programs in your field and guide you where you need to go. Being a Spanish major there were a few programs that were offered, but Granada was the most popular and highly recommended. I was given a booklet on my program with a bunch of information, which leads me to the next step...
Step 3: Go to the Chosen Study Abroad Program's Website
Doing research on your program is really important to grasp an understanding of what it has to offer. When I was looking at my program, I stalked their website for months. I read every page, tab and footnote, watched every video, and looked over all the pictures multiple times to get as much information as I possibly could. Some of the important things to look for are price/cost of the program (there will be posts in the future on finances abroad), course offerings and the living situation while in your host country.
Step 4: Find Other Students Who Have Studied in the Same Program
While you can find people who have studied abroad in the same city or country as you are considering, finding people who have studied in the same program is more important. All programs are not created equal. I don't mean this in a bad way, but generally each program may offer different experiences from course choices to the types of cultural excursion to living in a dorm, homestay or apartment; it all depends. A program in Country X through College Y may differ immensely from College Z. Word of mouth is a strong tool and the best way to get first-hand accounts of living in your study abroad program.
Step 5: Talk to Your Parents
To some of you, it might seem weird that I put this step as the last step, so let me explain. 1) If you are planning to study abroad while in college, you are 18 years or older with some sort of independence from your parents. 2) That nice number of 18 symbolizes that you are recognized as an adult by the United States of America. 3) Therefore, you are free to make your own decisions without your parents consent. However, let's be real for a second. If you are a college student, like myself, who is not paying for college on their own and planning to use mommy and daddy's money to go abroad, come correct with ALL the proper facts and information to them BEFORE you fill out any paperwork.
This is why chatting with your parents is last. Yes, you are an adult and free to do what you want with your time, but that does not mean going behind your parents back and studying abroad an ocean or two away for 5 months; I highly discourage it. That is why you should do your research before officially going to your parents and making a final decision. Covering all your bases with estimated costs, housing etc. will make them a little more comfortable with you leaving good ole' America. Their input is the most important and you need it (good or bad) before moving forward.
I'd rather splurge on a good meal than a nice hotel, wine than water and plane tickets than club covers. Traveling and eating are my two favorite things, so follow my journey to see where I go and eat next! I'm just living my best life.