Oh, the Places You’ll Go
College is one of the few times in life when you have the opportunity to immerse yourself in a new culture for three weeks, five months, or even an entire academic year. As you look ahead to your time in college, spend some time dreaming about where in the world you might go. Study away can take many forms. You could play football in Norway, debate philosophy in England, earn internship credit in India, or study biology while camping in Arizona. The world is truly your oyster!
Choosing a Program
With so many options, it can sometimes be challenging to select a program. Set up an appointment to talk to an advisor in the Center for Global Learning at your college or university as soon as you arrive on campus. It’s never too early to meet with those of us who work in study away, and we love chatting with students about off-campus study options! When choosing a program, some of the key variables to keep in mind are length of program, location, cost, and academic offerings. Meet with your academic advisor to talk about how particular programs would fit into your academic and career goals. Ask your favorite professors if they recommend any particular programs for study away. And if you really can’t decide between two programs, well, you could always consider doing both!
Anticipation Makes Everything More Fun
After applying for a program, you’ll probably have three to nine months to look forward to your upcoming adventure. Read books and watch movies set in your program location. Talk to other students who participated in your program. Chat with family and friends who have visited your location. Ask questions, from the silly to the profound. Oh, and don’t forget about the orientation and paperwork required by your college’s Center for Global Learning. Filling out forms may not be the most exciting step in the process, but you’ll be laying the groundwork for a successful experience by keeping up with your to-do list.
The early days of a study-away program are a flurry of new experiences for all five senses—from unusual flavors of food to unfamiliar sounds and languages. Give yourself time to explore, and don’t feel like you have to take advantage of every opportunity right away. Ease into your new culture gently, and make sure you get plenty of rest and eat well. Once you’ve settled into a routine, try to continue to do one new thing each day, whether it’s visiting a museum, inviting a friend out to coffee, or taking a walk in a park. Before too long, you’ll realize that you can navigate your new home like a pro and that you’ve become accustomed to the adventure that is study away.
Back on campus
After your program ends, readjusting to life on campus can take time. You’ve probably changed more than your friends who stayed on campus. That’s okay. It can be helpful to connect with other students who have studied off campus to process your experiences together. Consider making an appointment with your college’s Career Center to talk about how you can use your study-away experience to strengthen your resume or graduate school application.
Through study away, you’ll develop new skills and form new relationships. Your independence, self-confidence, and problem-solving skills will grow. You will connect with and better understand people who are different from yourself. Studying off campus is nothing short of a chance to develop essential life skills. Go for it!