All About Abroad: Everything You Need to Know about Applications

Today's post includes just about everything you need to know about applying for study abroad programs. I'm going to roll out a couple different posts all about studying abroad as they come up during my semester in Barcelona, but for the first one, I wanted to talk all about the application process. Before we dive into that, I wanted to share a little news! 

So, in addition to what I have planned for my own site, I will be blogging this semester for ISA, which is the study abroad company that is organizing my program. They have a really awesome student blog where students from ISA programs all over the world share their travel experiences, so I'm so excited they chose me to share my mine!!! Stay tuned for that. I cannot wait for what is to come.

Back to today's post: there are so many factors to consider when applying and I know from experience it can get a little overwhelming, so I wanted to make sure I hit a lot of the major points, so that this post can serve as a resource when you're getting started. 

Start planning ahead.
The best thing you can do is start planning well in advance. For reference, I am doing a fall semester program and I started getting things together around December of last year and most of my deadlines were in March or April. If you're going abroad in the spring semester 2019, I would get rolling ASAP. Applications are no joke and take a lot of time and, if you are applying for scholarships especially, you want to get on top of the deadlines. You are probably going to be working on your applications and getting everything together throughout the semester and some documents that you have to submit take some time to acquire so stay on top of things and space things out so you don’t get so overwhelmed at the last minute. It depends on what country you are going to and where you live, but I had no idea I was going to have to travel from Kentucky to Chicago to apply for my student visa in person. These things aren't difficult if you are aware of them ahead of time.

Meet with an Education Abroad advisor and your academic advisor at your school.
I recommend meeting with your academic advisor first so that you can make sure you’re searching for programs that will have courses that transfer back to your university and count towards your degree. I remember getting my heart set on programs that didn’t end up having the classes that I needed for my minor, so if you go in only searching for the options that actually fit your plan you can avoid that disappointment. There is so much to take into consideration when you’re figuring out exactly what you want and need to do and talking with all of my advisors made everything seem much less overwhelming. My school offers an online portal where you can search programs and filter exactly what you’re looking for, so they can also talk you through the specific resources that your university offers. 

Figure out exactly what you’re looking for in a program.
Visit your school’s Education Abroad office if there is one, research online, and ask people you know that have gone abroad for advice. I was (and still am!) chatting up all my friends -and even strangers really- that went abroad and am talking their ears off. In my experience, every person I’ve talked to loves to share their experiences and stories, so really utilize those people. The reason I say this in regards to programs specifically is because there are so many different types of programs out there. I am doing mine through a third party provider (ISA) that specializes in study abroad experiences and typically has resources/staff near where you will be, but I know several people that have done direct exchanges through their universities. The real difference here is: going through a provider, it typically costs a little bit more, but you have a lot more guidance and “hand holding”, which is how my advisor described it. The direct exchanges through your school typically are less expensive, but you’re kind of on your own when you get there. That's a very general description, but basically, it's personal preference based on how much freedom and guidance you need. I go to college 20 minutes away from my parent’s house, so (even though I like to think I’m pretty independent) I wanted to have a little hand holding in case I do need it.

Money 101
Talk with your parents and make sure you have a clear idea of what you can and cannot afford. Similar to the class credits, it is disappointing to get your heart set on a program that ends up being way out of your budget. Research scholarships at your school, through various organizations you’re involved in, and in your community. I was so surprised that there really are so many scholarships specifically for students studying abroad, you just have to take the time to really research and put yourself out there. When you’re looking online it can seem so expensive (college tuition is honestly a racket), but you really can make studying abroad a relatively affordable option for you.

Be specific and make lists.
It’s crucial to make sure you are not missing any specific details because even leaving out one tiny thing could cause you to miss deadlines or not get credit for the classes you’re taking. Have all your deadlines written down and to-do lists for each application. For example, I knew I was only applying to one specific program, but I applied for about 6 different scholarships all through different organizations that had different requirements and deadlines. I made a list for every individual application, the deadlines for each, and every specific requirement that I had to complete for each. Make sure you keep track of even the tiniest details in whatever way you stay organized best. I have to have things on paper and on my computer. (If you guys want a post on how I specifically stay organized, let me know!)

If there is something I missed or that you want me to cover in the future about study abroad, let me know and I'll make it happen.

Thanks for reading xx

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