Thursday, April 23, 2015

Victor Goes to Spain: A Dispatch from a Peer Blogger

Being overseas, studying in a different country, learning like you've never learned before. Studying abroad is a life-changing experience. Living in another country and entering a new community for a semester (or longer), is something that I believe everybody should try. 

I decided to go abroad last semester, cutting it very close to the deadline to apply. I'm now studying Spanish in Granada, Spain at the University of Granada, in the Center for Modern Languages (Centro de Lenguas Modernas). I never thought that I could study abroad, being a Communication major with a Certificate in Film Studies, I didn't think I could find a program that would benefit me and fulfill requirements. Studying here though actually helps me complete my Global Education Requirement, a language requirement for students in the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences. When I discovered that studying abroad could work towards completing that requirement, I decided to apply.

Applying for the study abroad program was a much lengthier process than I had imagined. Between applying to my program, API (Academic Programs International), which was a separate application process from the IPO (International Programs Office, UMass’ study abroad office), figuring out finances and budgets, applying for a passport and a visa, I was very busy for the weeks to come. 

Two pieces of advice when applying or deciding to study abroad. One: Don't wait for the last minute to decide or apply: it’ll save you lots of stress, time, and possibly money. Two: If you do decide or apply late, make sure it’s something you really want to do. Before I applied, I wasn't very sure if I would ever want to study abroad, but when I walked into class that day and received a brochure to study abroad in Spain, I knew right there that I wanted to apply, so I went home and started the process. Allowing yourself a decent amount of time to look into other programs and familiarize yourself with the application process is a very good idea, I wish that I had done that when applying.

And if you apply and are accepted, you will realize that you are leaving, off onto new adventures in foreign lands. It won't hit you so hard until a few weeks before you leave, when you begin to pack your things and say your goodbyes and see-you-later's. You might start to panic and think that you're not ready to go, the time will start to slip from your mind, and before you know it, you're boarding that plane to go wherever it is you're going.  

Another piece of advice: Pack lightly. Bring only the essentials, it makes traveling easier. You'll also come back with souvenirs (most likely), so you'll want to make sure you have room for everything you buy while you're abroad. 

Don't forget your chargers, your medicines, maybe even your favorite movie. A little reminder of home will be important too, some days you'll miss it.

But you will be so excited once you land in your new (temporary) home! Everything will seem new to you, like you're stepping into a new world. You'll begin to meet new people and make new friends, eat new foods, maybe even study a new language. Everything that happens will be a new experience, and not before long will you become a part of a new community. Adjusting may take some time, but once you know your way around your new home and establish relationships with the people around you, I swear you'll never want to leave.

Now before you get all excited for your adventure, you must remember why you're abroad: to study. School for me has been amazing, I love my classes, my professors, and I love what I’m learning. I am only studying Spanish while I am abroad, and like I said before, it is fulfilling a requirement for me for my degree. Make sure when you are looking through different programs, that you consider what courses will help you fulfill requirements, or if none of them do, make sure you know what other courses you'll need to take when you return. You don't want to fall behind, so just make sure you aware of what position a semester abroad will put you in, in terms of major, college, and university requirements.

I am excited to return home and bring what I've learned back with me, but I will dearly miss Granada. The entire study abroad experience has been an absolutely wonderful time. If you think that study abroad may be for you, I strongly encourage you to pursue a study abroad program. The International Programs Office, located on the 4th floor of Hills South, is very helpful with assuring your questions are answered and assisting with every aspect of the study abroad process. They also have a desk in the Learning Commons of the Library (right next to the Academic Advising Link!) staffed with Peer Advisors to answer your questions and help you out. 

Another great opportunity for students who want to travel, but may not want to go abroad, is National Student Exchange. There is a list of schools of which you can study at across the country while still being a UMass Amherst Student. If you have questions about that, you can go to 613 Goodell for more information.

Regardless of whether it’s in the country, or across the world, I think everyone should take the opportunity to travel and study abroad. There’s no time like the present, and there’s a big world out there, I suggest that you go see it.

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