Thursday, February 27, 2014

Studying Abroad

Paris, je t'aime!
If I was to choose the most significant opportunity that my education has allowed for me throughout my four years at UMass, it would be studying abroad. While my college experience has been fulfilling, my time abroad was irreplaceable and unforgettable. I traveled to London, England to study dance the Spring semester of my junior year. It was here that I fell in love with a new city, traveled throughout Europe, ate some unbelievable food, and learned things about myself and living independently that stem far beyond a normal college education. With an International Programs Office (IPO) that helps students travel to over 50 different countries through over 400 programs, your options for going abroad are endless. The world is huge, so get out there!

My first tip for students who want to study abroad is to start thinking early. It's easy to feel overwhelmed with choices for going abroad, handling finances, and overcoming personal challenges such as being away from home. Asking yourself some simple questions can immediately help you out with the process. Do you want to study in a country that is on the other side of the globe like Australia, or stay a bit closer and go to Europe or South America? What do you want to study while abroad: your major classes, gen eds, languages? Do you want to be able to travel to other countries while away? I chose to study in London because it was my first time out of the United States, I felt intimidated going to a non-English speaking country, the city is rich with art and dance, and I wanted to travel to neighboring countries in Europe. Take a peek at the programs list to view all of your options.

The first mandatory step for any UMass student going abroad is to meet with an IPO peer advisor and talk about some of these preliminary questions. Because they have all been abroad, they can help answer any technical or personal questions you may have. You are required to meet with a peer prior to making an appointment with a professional advisor, and you can visit them in either of their advising centers. Most of the application deadlines for studying abroad this upcoming Fall 2014 are coming up in early March, so make sure to meet with a peer ASAP if considering this option. Some exchanges also require that you attend a meeting before applying, so check out these information sessions.

There are a lot of factors that can appear worrisome when planning to study abroad. One of the main ones is finances. Each program and each country differs on costs, so there is no one amount that is paid for a trip. Luckily, financial support is available. Through IPO there are study abroad scholarships that can be applied for, and sometimes your UMass financial aid can still be used. It is even possible to work abroad with a visa. With enough hard work, financial troubles do not need to inhibit anyone from their experience. My tip: start saving NOW.

For further information check out the advising center in 455 Hills South, email, or call (413) 545-5247.

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