Saturday, May 28, 2011

Study Abroad: Making the Decision, and Finding the Programs

A major reason I started this blog was to chronicle my upcoming study abroad trip. This is the first of a series of posts leading up to my departure.

The biggest obstacle to studying abroad wasn't the 'abroad' part. It wasn't money, it wasn't time, it wasn't academics. The biggest obstacle I faced was making the decision to do it.

As you may know (or have inferred from my father's bio down there), I'm an Air Force brat and spent half my childhood living overseas--by the time I was nine, I'd lived in four different countries. But we moved from Germany to Hawaii at the end of 7th grade, and that was the last time I was abroad (save for the Scandinavian cruise I saved for as a graduation present, but that doesn't count because it was short and touristy).

Fast forward to summer 2010. It's the summer before my junior year of college, and I'm still riding the high that comes from switching majors and realizing that you actually like the new one (communications from I.T./graphic design). I've been playing with the idea of studying abroad for over a year, but haven't actually pursued it. Then comes the realization that I'm halfway done with school and only have one summer after this one, summer my only study abroad-option since a regular semester isn't a possibility.

At this point, I was looking for summer programs in Japan. Despite never living in Asia (the closest we got were the 23 months--yes, we counted, it wasn't fun--in Hawaii), I studied Japanese as my high school language, and what better place to put that to use?

 Also, this.

In the middle of summer, I had to face the fact that a) there were not a whole lot of Japanese programs that worked, and b) Japan is EXPENSIVE. I expanded my search to include any other country I was remotely interested in (Spain, Greece, Ireland, Germany, Korea). How to pick and weed programs is a subject to wait until my next entry, because there is a much bigger problem you must first address:

How do you even find the darn things? Some schools (read: not mine) have dedicated study abroad pages with info or link to approved pages. The closest you get at mine is catalogs from Best Semester, which has limited options (also known as "does not go to Japan").

Basically, Google is going to be your best friend. Search every combination of "study abroad" and its synonyms that you can think of. That's the way I found most of my programs, as well as websites that link to various programs.

IIE Passport
Diversity Abroad
StudyAbroad.com

These also led me to organizations which, in addition to loving acronyms, offer a variety of programs:
CIEE
IES Abroad
CEPA-Europe
AIFS Abroad
USAC

There are more, of course, these are just a few. And I'll bring this up again in the next series post, but try to check out your programs. Past participants, college website forums, and sites like ratemystudyabroad.com and studyabroad101.com have reviews, and the more detailed, the better. When it came down to my top two choices, the reviews for the one I picked quibbled about minor things (exposure to the language) while my second choice had notes about more major things (no support).

Now, the thing about looking for programs is you have to do it. The biggest challenge I faced was just getting the motivation to slog through yet another dozen websites looking for something viable. But if you're serious about studying abroad, you have to do it. Depending on when you want to go, there are often deadlines for applications: A lot of summer programs had application deadlines by January or February; I waited till the start of spring semester (early January) to make sure I got parental, advisor, and school approval, and time to iron out any other details that pop up (in my case, I needed to make sure I could take the courses I wanted before I applied, which involved playing a lot of email- and phone-tag with program administrators).
 I refuse to apologize for lolcat usage.

But that's another post. Because after all, once you've found the programs, then you have to weed them.

3 comments:

  1. nice infoo useful for finding the prgrams
    come lets Study abroad

    ReplyDelete
  2. Your method of explaining the whole thing in this post is in fact pleasant, every one be capable of effortlessly be aware of it, Thanks a lot.

    ReplyDelete
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