Studying Abroad Part 1: Before You Go

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Studying Abroad Part 1: Before You Go

This is a guest post from one of my current ambassadors, Angeliz Torres. Angeliz is a junior at the University of Puerto Rico, majoring in Operations and Finance.

Wouldn’t it be awesome to spend a semester or even a whole year in another place? Perhaps a different state? A different country? A whole new continent?  Well, that’s exactly what crossed my mind a bit more than a year ago and here I am now: currently an exchange student from Puerto Rico studying at Binghamton University in New York.  It may not seem like much, just a hop, skip and a jump across the Atlantic, but believe me when I say it’s been the experience of a lifetime. This is the first of a three-part blog on studying abroad: Before, During, and After. You know my focus today, so let’s get started!

1-    Why go Abroad? – That’s probably the first thing you want to know before even thinking of a place. What do you want to get out of it? It could be cultural and language immersion, different courses that you want to take, internship opportunity (and you want to also take courses), a new perspective on your career choice (or life itself!) or simply just a change of pace (independence!).  Once you’ve got your reasons down you can move on.

** Tip: Form your own criteria and ask yourself: what would my ideal college experience include? What should that university be like? Special certifications?  For example: one of the reasons I came to Binghamton’s School of Management was because it possesses the AACSB accreditation which is coveted among Business Schools).

2-    Funding – Determining the cost of your study abroad experience will depend on the length of the program, country of your choice, housing and transportation options, number of credit hours and other fees. I highly recommend you visit your Study Abroad office and ask about funding options available such as grants and scholarships. Also, visit your Financial Aid office, because that’s what they’re there for.  Get creative! Come up with some of your own money through family members, community donations, sponsorships, sales, etc.

3-    So, I got the whole WORLD to choose from, WHERE do I go? - First stop, Study Abroad office. Ask to speak with a Study Abroad Advisor and ask if there’s a Peer Advising Program too!  Ask for information about the programs available, how they work and the places they service. There are a variety of different programs to choose from. Here’s my example, I came to Binghamton University through NSE (National Student Exchange), a program that allows students from the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico to engage in an exchange within those three countries. Like I said, once you know WHY you want to go abroad, you’ll be able to narrow down your choices. Me? I wanted to be able to learn Business in English, have a different college experience, become more independent and get involved.

4-    Application Process – Each program will have its specifications and some may be competitive. Like I said, do your research, determine your reasons to go abroad, and have a couple of options.  Not all programs can accommodate all of their applicants so the more the choices, the better (I advise having 4 solid alternatives).

5-    GO AHEAD! – Even if it’s in the back of your head, ask! Even you’re still a freshman, ask! It’s never too late to start preparing (especially with that Funding part). Who knows, along the way you might just want to discover another place and end up discovering yourself.

Hope I’ve got your attention and curiosity. Stay tuned for parts 2 & 3! (During and After going abroad) Oh, and if you’ve got any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask! =)