Think Now, Plan Now, Go Now

By Eileen Giudice, API Seville Peer Mentor from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

Eileen and API friends in traditional dress in Seville

“Congratulations!” I said to my housemate, Megan, after discovering she received an offer for an internship. “This is so exciting!” I prepped myself to start jumping up and down with her (yes, stereotypical girl reaction to good news, what can I say) only to realize her face lacked the excitement I expected. “I know it’s my dream internship so obviously I am happy and won’t pass it up,” she said, “but I’m also sad because this means I can’t study abroad this summer. I wish I had thought about studying abroad sooner because now it’s too late.”

This last line stuck with me. As Megan still has courses she is required to take on campus at my university and will most likely now get a full time job with this company immediately following graduation, it really may be too later for her to study abroad (although that doesn’t necessarily mean all opportunities for her to go abroad are over – see the great work, volunteer, intern and teach options through Cultural Embrace by API). But the point here comes with Megan’s regret of not having planned ahead. This statement reflects the importance of thinking about studying abroad earlier rather than later, even before your freshman year of college (or even sooner! Check out API’s programs for high school and gap year students). Since you’re reading this blog, you clearly have study abroad on your mind and are already ahead of the game so this “start thinking about studying abroad NOW” caution may not apply to you. However, should you find yourself procrastinating your study abroad planning, my advice will be of great use – so keep reading!

EIleen in Paris

As Megan’s situation shows, a crucial reason to plan ahead for studying abroad deals with timing. Talking to academic advisors early on about your interest in studying abroad (and what program type specifically) will ensure a program can fit in with your academic requirements, allowing you to form your schedule to accommodate study abroad courses you might take. Continuing to communicate with academic advisors will be necessary after you choose a program as well to make sure your institution has approved all your courses and that you have everything you need before actually leaving the country.

Eileen and API friends at the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland

Beyond fitting in study abroad into your academic schedule, thinking about studying abroad as early as possible is also important when factoring in the timing of other opportunities throughout your college career. Perhaps you are unable to afford a full semester abroad (though API has scholarships available) or required courses for your major prevent you from leaving during the academic year (though API has a wide variety of course options that fulfill almost any academic focus). As a result, summer study abroad programs remain your only option. Yet perhaps your dream internship is available the only summer you have left to go abroad, as in Megan’s case and you decide the career opportunity takes precedence over studying abroad. Or perhaps you became president of the Finance Club, a position that runs yearlong, prohibiting you from spending a full year abroad as you had wanted to. With proper planning, these possibilities could have been reality, but lack of preparation and serious forethought takes the study abroad opportunity you wanted away.

Eileen at John Lennon wall in Prague

One concern many college students have causing them to hesitate in studying abroad is the fear of what they will miss out back at school. This became a huge worry of mine right before departing for Spain. As soon as I was there, however, I began having the time of my life and I let go of all ties with my life at home that I have been holding onto. All the new and exciting things you do and sites you see every single day while abroad not only keep your mind off what is happening at home but will make you care less about these things you’re “missing”. It may seem like a million things could change while you’re abroad, particularly with relationships, and there’s always the chance that things could change, but from my experience and from what I’ve heard from every one of my friends who studied abroad, your life and relationships will bounce back so quickly, almost scarily so (see fellow API Peer Mentor Christian’s post on how NOT to forget your study abroad experience). If you’re still adamantly opposed to going abroad during the year, try a summer program or another shorter option from API. In any case, know the adventures and life experiences you have while studying abroad are incomparable to life at home and are once in a lifetime opportunities that make the time away exceedingly worthwhile.

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More and more students in STEM, business, or other fields are finding great coursework abroad! Check out our ClassFinder tool to find courses abroad within your major!
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Most API programs include credit-bearing coursework, even our internships count towards your degree. Need an internship to graduate? Think about taking one abroad for credit!
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Sept 15 to Oct 15 is National Hispanic Heritage Month in the U.S., we would like to not only celebrate the culture but also reflect on Hispanic and Latino identity, belonging, and stereotypes and how we can better support Latinx students in their experiential learning programs. https://t.co/9ogXTw0Pnw APIabroad photo
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