Visa, Vaccines, and Other Valuable Info!

Getting ready to go to India was nerve wracking. I had never applied for a visa before and only knew that the CDC told me to get a lot of vaccines to be safe in India. Now that I have come to India and talked to other study abroad students, I wanted to give you a run-down of the experience. I am no doctor or expert, so always ask professionals what they think!Read More »

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A Girl Packing for India – The List I Wish I Would Have Had

When I started packing for my first international trip, I made so many mistakes! I am still not an expert, but I have learned so much from India! I want to make sure that you do not make the mistakes I did. Before I get to the actual packing list I wish I had used, let me tell you a few packing tips to make your life easier!Read More »

Keeping Connected with Family while Abroad- Part 3!

      2 days till the big day, and I am not the only one that is unsure about this new experience! My parents have been freaking out and bragging about this trip to India since I told them I was leaving in October. Their interviews were separate because I think they each have a unique perspective, and each of them gave me an emotional and honest response.
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Keeping Connected with Family while Abroad- Part 2!

Its 3 days till I am on the flight to India! With my anxiety rising, I am glad I chose now to focus on how my family is feeling about my upcoming trip! Part two is about my younger brother, D. He is 19, a new high school graduate, and always my little brother. I have been away at college for three years, so we have not really had the chance to connect recently. His interview was the most surprising, most fun, and most insightful! By the way, do not forget to scroll down for my app review!Read More »

Keeping Connected with Family while Abroad- Part 1!

With only four days left, I am getting anxious! There seems to be so much to do, and I have had to ask everyone for help! I love my family. Its huge (I have too many cousins to count, and at least thirty of them live within an hour of me), loud, crazy, caring, and worried about my upcoming trip! With all my blogging and planning for my solo trip abroad, I feel I have been focused entirely on myself and my reaction to everything that is happening. As I talked to other travelers about this, they felt they had the same problem. In order to combat this, I decided to interview my family and see how they were feeling about this experience. This is a three-part post; each post will feature a different interview and app to help keep you connected!Read More »

Travel Goal Setting

We all know the age-old advice of setting goals before you start any new step in life. No matter what you are embarking on, everyone says you should have some sort of end vision in mind. I do not know about having an end goal in mind, but I do think that having a few achievements you would like to reach while abroad is important to realistically thinking about where you want to be after you come home.Read More »

Before You Go Abroad: Skills You can Learn

I bought my plane ticket the other day, and this experience became real to me. I will be in another country: sleeping, eating, exploring in another country! I know that this is the time that you might start thinking, as I am, about getting practically prepared for study abroad. While you are busy looking at packing lists and reading about life abroad, there are a few basics that you can do right now to get you excited and prepared! This list includes a few useful life skills and some specifics you can tailor to your country with a little research.

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Leaving Life Behind for a New Country

I may not be a study abroad or travel expert, but I do consider myself quite an expert on college. I have been at my university for three years, and I have been involved with almost everything possible at one point or another in my college career. For a semi-full list, you can look on my about me page, but I can say that it was a lot. Going to a university was about the experience for me, but, honestly, I am tired. It is time for a change and for me to follow my heart instead of my over practical mind. So studying abroad is my way of embracing the idea that I am my own person. However, it was not easy to leave everything I did behind, and I know you might be feeling the same way. Whether you’re studying abroad or leaving a job to travel or leaving your family to see the world, going away is terrifying! I am hoping this post will give a brief overview of how to ease the transition of doing everything to living at a slower pace.Read More »

Getting Prepared to go on an Adventure: You Got Accepted, now what?

Deciding to go abroad was a big step, but now you’ve picked your program, gone over finances and academic credits, and received your coveted acceptance letter. Chances are there are several deadlines included in that letter or are on your “gateway” if your program has one. My program has an online gateway that is used to send out information and receive important documents. I am going to try to tell you what to expect of the first few months of being accepted from your program and university. You will have forms from both entities waiting for your signature and approval. Also, I will touch briefly on how to break the news to everyone important and everyone not so important. I will say it in every post, I am no expert, but I am living this experience with you right now, so I can at least relate.

My first piece of advice is stick to your deadlines and check your email often! Those deadlines are golden and setting up your calendar around them is important! You probably have a million other things going on in your life right now- school, work, extracurriculars, but you will be abroad before you know it! That is if you can keep up with those deadlines. I had five or six documents due within 15 days of getting accepted. I had to immediately go and get transcripts sent and orient myself around the idea that I was going abroad at the same time. It is exciting, but it can be overwhelming. Do not forget to ask for help and stay in constant contact with your program. Your long list of advisors has now increased to include a multitude of individuals who are experts in the field of study abroad. They are probably program alumni who started working for the program immediately after college. They are not only your age but experienced!

If you have an online gateway, chances are you have a list of other students participating in your program. Not all of them will stay, especially if you applied early, but it is useful to know their face and talk to them! Use your social media skills and get out there. They will probably be happy to talk to you. Also on that gateway will be LOTS of resources. My program sent information on Indian culture and linked me to the student blog already. As well, they also included a packing list in my student handbook and information on a multitude of other topics with my acceptance letter. Look through all of this, take notes, take frequent breaks, and do not tire yourself of your abroad experience before you even get there!

While I plan on doing a packing blog soon, I want to though briefly on this. A good idea is to try to live a little like you’re abroad now. Have your luggage picked out and see if you can live out of it this summer. You can buy things abroad and figure out things as you go when you are abroad but having idea of what clothing pieces you like to wear over ones you can live without is important!

Now, let’s talk vaccines. You might not have to get them, but if you’re going to a country such as India, some vaccines are a must. I have to get a rabies vaccine, yes rabies. I have other vaccines as well, but be sure to check out CDC.gov and find out now when and where you should get them! Some vaccines have to be started early and can be expensive! I’ll write more on this as well when I start my own vaccines.

Last, but arguably most important, is how to break it to your close and not so close fellow humans. I hope you have discussed going abroad with your family and significant other, but if you haven’t, being excited and forward is the way to go. They will be nervous and happy and still love you, most likely. My parents are extremely nervous, but they are very supportive. They know I need this for me. Be sure to tell them why you’re going and your preparations so far. Knowing you’re ready will make them better.

To my sorority sisters this was a natural step for me, and I told them all during a meeting and same with the housing staff. For those so not so close friends, I made a video and put the link on Facebook. It’s exciting to hear everyone’s good wishes. Also, some people I was “friends” with messaged me and said they had gone abroad and personally told me how happy they were for me. I think going abroad helps you gain respect and friends before you ever get on the plane.

So you’re really getting ready to go? I’m happy for you. I truly am, and I know those scary and happy tears and staying up thinking about it all only increase. Soon, you will be on your way! I just bought my plane ticket, and I have to say I cried a little, but it was good.

All Things Considered: How to Decide if Study Abroad is Right for You!

All Things Considered

          After pouring over pictures of your dream country and looking through travel magazines and study abroad brochures, you could discover you have a serious case of wanderlust. Do not panic, do not worry. I had it too, and now, after months of planning and preparation, I will be off to my dream country in August. I am no expert, but I hope to at least give a little guiding point to future expats like myself.

So, all things considered, is study abroad as right for you as I hope it is for me? Let’s look at what you should consider, and I will give you a little of what I experienced choosing to go abroad.

1. Academics: We hear it often – you’re a student first, and, ultimately, that is the reality. College is about learning, and study abroad can be a great way to learn, but always talk to your academic advisor. It is never too early to alert them of your dream to eat bagels in France, see the Topkapi palace in Turkey, study religion in Israel, or learn about spirituality in India. I had to speak to several advisors before I knew for sure that I was going abroad. There were my major and minor advisors that helped me look at classes I still needed to graduate, review syllabi from my study abroad program to see what would count, and help me get prepared to live in India by giving me books and papers to read. The study abroad advisor helped me deal with the financial aid office and the courses that would count towards my general education, so I could use almost all the classes I am taking in India for something. Additionally, I had to talk to the general liberal arts advisors and financial advisors to figure out if this was worth it (it would have been anyway to me).

2. Finances: It can seem like a dream crusher, but finances can help you better plan your study abroad trip. If you are a scholarship student, ask your study abroad or global studies advisor and financial aid advisor about using your financial aid and scholarships to help pay for the cost. Some schools may not allow this, but my university said as long as I continue to meet the requirements of my scholarships that they can work with me to ensure I get the money I need. Your study abroad program might also offer scholarships and fundraising ideas, so you can have a great time in your dream country. There are also multiple databases of international study abroad scholarships and country specific scholarships. Try out a language intensive program or a volunteer abroad during the summer that may help you with some of the costs. What I have to pay for:

 

My plane ticket

My vaccines (look at cdc.gov for specific info)

My passport and student visa

Shopping/Personal Expenses

Transportation while I’m in India

School Supplies (textbooks included)

Looking at this list makes me nervous, but planning a year or even longer ahead means having time to save up money to pay for these things. Look at the costs of different programs and different countries to see where you can get the best deal. If you can’t go to your dream location, settle for a country near it that is cheaper, so you can visit your dream country while you’re there.

3. Culture: While you may see yourself dancing in Brazil, your language skills or stomach may not be up to par just yet with your dream culture. Study, research, and discuss as much as possible to make sure that you are ready! People laugh at me when I say I am going to live in India for a year. I had one person tell me that I was a little crazy going to one of the hardest cultures to assimilate to my first time out of America. As true as this might be, I am getting as prepared as I can- watching documentaries, reading books, and talking to international students here at my university. This is probably one of the most helpful things I have done, students have told me what plug converters to buy and what clothing to pack. Seek out international students and ask them about their home country! Chances are they will love to talk about it with someone who knows a little bit about their home.

4. Goals for Study Abroad: I plan on writing more on this topic in a later post, but I want you to start thinking about it now. Goals for going abroad may help you pick a program. If you want to do community service, you could find a program that has that aspect or that is all about volunteering. You might want to focus more on academics, and some programs are more academically intensive, but you might want to get the full cultural experience, and that is what some programs are about. Look at if programs are more hand-holding or allow more student freedom if you want to travel on your own. Another great question is do you want to make a close group of friends or be in a large group with many students in order to make as many connections as possible because that will help you choose a small or large program.

This is only a glimpse of what you might need to know to decide to go abroad. As I said before, I am still learning, but I hope you at least started thinking about the important questions to decide whether studying abroad is right for you.