“Travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer.” — Anonymous
For many people, traveling the world is the ultimate dream. But for those in school, that dream can seem very far away. We’re constantly torn between putting our education first or throwing caution to the wind and seeing what the world has to offer. But you don’t have to compromise! One of the best-kept travel secrets out there is studying abroad, which gives participants the chance to see the world, learn from top universities, meet new people, and gain cultural perspective.
Growing up, travel was always one of my interests. The idea of immersing myself in another culture and learning how it differs from my own brought out a sense of adventure in me. Throughout high school, I had always wanted to participate in an exchange program. But the thought of being away from my friends and family, putting my dance training on hold, and quitting my job held me back. I was also worried about finances. How would I pay for everything? What if something went wrong and I didn’t have enough emergency funds? The thought of being across the world —where the unexpected always happens — stopped me from taking the leap.
However, once I reached university, everything changed. I felt more sure of myself and knew that I could handle any situation on my own if something unexpected came up. And I realized how much financial support there is for students in study abroad programs. There are countless scholarships and awards out there, and since there aren’t always a lot of applicants going abroad, you have a good chance of receiving financial aid of some sort! I also learned about all the support systems put in place for study abroad participants. There are insurance companies with help lines; your home university will have ways to keep in touch with you; your host university will also have resources to help you succeed.
The bottom line is, all my fears of studying abroad went away as I did more research. Now here I am, on a flight to France to spend a semester studying in Dijon and I could not be any more excited and ready!
DECIDING WHERE TO GO
When participating in a study abroad or exchange program, often the most difficult challenge is making all the decisions before you even leave. Where will you go? What courses will you take at the university? How will these decisions affect your academic goals once you return home? There are a million questions to ask yourself, but the main question to ask is this: what do you hope to learn and gain from your international experience? Keeping your goals in mind throughout the decision making process will allow you to optimize the amazing journey you’re about to embark on!
I knew I wanted to travel and see lots of different places, so Europe was the way to go. Since France has nine bordering countries, its “travelability” helped to make my decision. You also have to look at your host university and the courses that it offers. Will your classwork help you with your degree back home? Will you take core courses or electives? If you have questions about your coursework and degree, it’s best to contact your program advisor so they can give you advice.
Being that I’m a tourism management major, my program advisor was super helpful in finding courses with transferable credits for my degree back home, but would also give me lots of free time to explore!
KNOW BEFORE YOU GO
Depending on your personality, you may want a more “free-spirited” travel itinerary like me, or you may prefer to have everything prepared before you go. Whichever is your traveler type, there are a few things you must have organized before hand in order to avoid any unforeseen circumstances:
Know what’s going on in your host country. This one is incredibly important, but often gets overlooked. It’s a smart idea to know if any political, medical, or safety current events are going on where you’re headed. This could include finding out about recommended vaccines, public demonstrations or protests, or even dangerous weather warnings. Many government websites have travel advisories in order to keep citizens safe and updated on the countries they’re visiting.
Update your passport, and secure your visa (if required). This seems obvious, but you shouldn’t leave things to the last minute. If you know you need to update your passport, or if you have to secure a visa to where you’re going, try to get that done at least two months before you leave. This will allow plenty of time to get your travel documents back if there’s an issue.
Purchase travel insurance. I can’t stress this one enough. Travel insurance can get expensive depending on your level of coverage, but it’s worth it. The worst thing that could happen abroad would be for you to get sick or injured and have to spend who knows how much of your funds on medical bills. Travel insurance can also cover the lesser things like if your luggage gets lost or stolen. It’s better to be safe than sorry.
Have back-ups for everything. Look, sometimes you can do everything right, but luck won’t always be on your side, and while you’re abroad, you might lose your wallet with your passport or identification in it. It’s a hassle to get them replaced, but if you’ve made copies of your important papers, the process will be much easier. Before you leave to study abroad, email yourself copies of your passport, identification cards, and insurance card. That way, if you lose them, it’ll be a lot easier to get a replacement.
THE WORLD IS YOURS
Taking the plunge to leave your comfort zone and travel the world can be both exhilarating and frightening. Studying abroad gives you the chance to see new places while simultaneously furthering your education. For those of you out there who have dreamed of an opportunity like this, it’s not as impossible as you might think! With countless resources, financial aid, and top universities to attend, all that’s stopping you is yourself!
Did you know that Acanela Expeditions helps university departments and students plan their study abroad terms? If you have a destination you’d like to visit and an idea of what you’d like to achieve while abroad, we can help you get there! Contact us today at firstname.lastname@example.org to get started!
Post written by Demitria Rounis