Studying abroad is something a lot of adventure-seeking college students begin to dream about far before they enter college. I remember in middle school, thinking about being an "adult" and going to college, I always imagined myself studying abroad, even telling people with certainty that I would go my junior year of college. Well, here it is. My junior year of college and I am, in fact, studying abroad in the Fall.
While this is a dream come true and I am fortunate enough to have this opportunity, no one ever tells you how difficult it is to plan and prepare for an entire semester across the world. This may seem obvious, but I was completely under the allusion that I just picked a destination, signed some papers and I would be off! However, that has not been the case at all and even though I haven't gone abroad yet, I have learned quite a bit about the process. So learn from my mistakes and keep these five tips in mind as you plan and prepare your study abroad adventure.
1. Start looking at programs early
Your abroad counselor may tell you at the beginning of the year that deadlines are far in the future and there is no need to worry about it now, which may be true, but it is NEVER too early to start looking. When I started looking in January when applications began to open, I had felt that I was too late and there were too many options to really go through them all. I would have felt a lot more prepared when it came time to apply if I had started looking earlier.
2. Cover all your academic bases
Before you fall in love with a program, make sure that your school accepts the transfer credit and that your abroad AND academic counselor signs off on it. Depending on where you got to school, it could be super easy or ridiculously difficult to get credit for the classes you are taking, so make sure you know where your school falls on that spectrum. It may be easier to go through one of your school's programs if it is really hard to get classes to count.
3. Talk to everyone who did your program
If you know someone who has done your program, talk to them!! More likely than not, they loved their program and are dying to talk about it anyway, so get your questions answered!
4. Research your city
Do your research before committing to a city. Make sure you are going to feel at home and enjoy your time there since it will be your new home for about four months. Know the weather, what people are like, what people wear, what they eat, etc. It will make your decision a lot easier once you know what you want and what you don't!
5. Be ready to fill out A LOT of paperwork
Make sure you are on top of every email, form, online profile, video, etc. so you don't miss any important information. The amount of attention that needs to be paid to certain forms, like your Visa, cannot be overstated, so many sure you are prepared to spend the time on these things. You'll be many miles from home and your program needs what seems like every bit of information about you, so be ready!