Studying Abroad: Thinking Ahead
In case I haven’t made it obvious by now, I love traveling. I love to study abroad. I love everything about it. I have been on a short-term program and a long-term program in these past three years at UW-Stevens Point. I think studying abroad is a vital part of going to college nowadays in the United States. Being aware of yourself and the big picture of how you fit into the world are so important to be successful later in life. The world is becoming more globalized everyday and it effects just about every person and their possible career choices. No matter what someone is studying or what they want to do after graduation, I would argue that studying abroad will do nothing but help them and improve their college experience.
Well as some of you may know, I am planning on completing another study aboard next summer right after I graduate. I want to do the London internship summer program that the UWSP International Program Office offers. From what I have heard it’s a great program and it would be perfect for me to do right after I graduate before trying to find a more permanent job. I feel pretty confident about my ability to be accepted into the program and I also am pretty aware of what I need to do in order to prepare for this trip. Many tips and advice I have given and/or received about studying abroad is typically more short term (for example: what to pack, how to prepare for long flights, etc.); but I wanted to share some advice on things that should be done months in advance before your program.
First, you have to decide if/when/where you want to study abroad. Basically, pick a program that works for you and start figuring out what you need to complete for the application process. The International Program Office here at UWSP has always been very helpful for answering my basic questions about the application process. However, you should also talk to your adviser about how studying abroad could impact your track towards graduation. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, you should try and gain as much information about the program and how it will work for you well before you leave. If you are applying for an internship program there is probably an adviser who works specifically with that program. For example, Professor Barb Mihm is the director of School of Business & Economics Internship Programs. She has been wonderful with helping me prepare my application and anything else I have needed.
Once you figure out which program you want to embark on, apply for it. Applications for studying abroad can be due sometimes up to a year in advance, so pay attention to when you want to go and when to apply for that time period.
One thing to especially keep in mind when looking for and applying for a program is make sure that you are qualified for it, meaning that you have or are taking the classes that you need to prepare yourself for the study abroad. This is pretty obvious if you are planning on studying a foreign language when abroad, but really most of the programs have some sort of prerequisite requirement for classes. Even if you have taken everything you need, make sure you have the proper GPA and are able to maintain it before you leave. It definitely good to think about those things far in advance before you leave for your trip.
Obviously, one of the big things to plan out and think about in advance in your budget. Studying abroad can be expensive but it doesn’t have to break your bank if you plan it out. Apply for scholarships, plan out loans, save up what you can; it will all be worth it in the end. I know before I left for my study aboard in Spain if I was tempted to spend money on something I would think, I can spend this now here or I can wait and spend this while in Spain. It actually worked pretty well for me, I know I would much rather spend money on souvenirs or other trips while abroad then spend money on something I don’t need while in the United States.
I think the most important thing someone needs to think about before they leave on a study abroad experience is consider what you want to get out of your study abroad experience. Everyone has different reasons for studying abroad and they have different goals they want to accomplish while aboard; you need to figure out what you want and how bad you want to accomplish it. Are you trying to learn as much as you can in the classroom? Are to trying to see everything you possibly can while there? Are you trying to go out every night for the night life? Personally, I think it’s a complete was of time and money if you are just going to try and party every night while abroad, you can do that in the States and it will cost you a lot less. For me, learning both in and out of the classroom were the most important things to me. I tried to get the best grades I could and see as much of Spain and Europe I could while I was there. You much also consider what is important to you and have your own experience while there. You will meet friends there who might have a different plan of how they want to experience their study abroad, but don’t just do what they are doing. It can be easy to just do what your friends are doing, but don’t; this is your experience so you should live it how you want.
So there you have it, some random tips and bits of information from me to you. I hope that with these posts I can at least inspire someone to study abroad or at least help them out in some small way during their journey at UW-Stevens Point. I hope everyone is enjoying their summer and had a great Fourth of July! I know I’m very much looking forward to the rest of the summer and I can’t wait to write more posts!
Alexia Szabo is a senior majoring in economics, Spanish and international studies at UW-Stevens Point.