Studying abroad sounds like an unachievable goal to most college students, seeing it only for the rich and posh, but that’s not true at all. Studying abroad is easier than you think and will cost you probably around the same, if not less, budget that you are already living on(minus the flight tickets). Depending on your university, the classes being offered abroad may actually be cheaper than the classes you pay for at your university. Regardless, the classes that you(should) take abroad are accredited and you will not waste any time holding back your graduation. Most universities offer financial aid to cover classes abroad, the same way financial aid covers your classes at your home university. Along with financial aid, there are soooooooo many scholarships to apply for to help with your study abroad costs. Seriously, just Google it.
Now that you calmed down a little about the finances of studying abroad, take a breath and realize that now is your time to travel!! Another thing to consider is that “traveling” and “studying abroad” ARE NOT THE SAME THING. I’ve heard so many students say that they will travel after university in order to save more money, and they’ll probably never get around to it. And for those who do get around to it, you will typically just be a “vacationer”. You’ll just see the sights that you want to see and be done with it, right? Well, when you study abroad you immerse yourself into the culture. You become a local and learn the cultures and customs of where you go. You will never be able to absorb cultural experiences if you’re just passing through the country that you wanted to visit. Also another point to make about studying abroad and vacationing: you’re never going to get financial aid and scholarships to travel again. Take advantage of the system and use it!
International Flights will probably be the most expensive cost. This is where you need to get creative. Do a car wash, bake sale, sell your art, sell your clothes, sell all those dvds because we only watch netflix now anyway. How did I do it? I sold my clothes on PoshMark, but my Grandmother left me a coin collection after she died. I sold most of the coins in the collection and my flights to China were booked!
I understand most of you do not have grandparents with coin collects waiting for you on their deathbeds, but that is no excuse for you to find a way to get that money! Start a GoFundMe page and explain why studying abroad is so important to you. People love to support that shit.
Okay now you have your money BUT OH MY GOSH IS TRAVELING SCARY.
I won’t lie to you, traveling to another country is terrifying no matter how small or extreme the cultural differences may be. The night before I left to China, I crawled into my mom’s bed at 1am crying like a child. And then I cried at the airport. And I cried the night arrived in China because it was a lot to take in. I was also 22. NO SHAME.
But you will NEVER regret your time abroad. And when it’s all over, and you’re there and the culture shock is fading off, you will look back at how you got there and realize it was really easy, and all you had to do was fill out some forms and raise some money. It’s always easier to see how small the obstacle was when it’s over, but I promise you that studying abroad is worth it.
If I never studied abroad in China, I would never realized who I was meant to be. Cheesy, I know, but it’s true. I learned a new language, immersed in a different culture, and ate the strangest local cousines. I suddenly had flashbacks of when I was a child and dreamed of traveling around the world and being an ambassador for the United Nations. I don’t know how, but those dreams got grinded down by “reality” and I settled on being a local caseworker for homeless families(which is a wonderful job). When I was in China, the CEO of CIEE’s Asia department happened to be in Beijing the same weekend my group was visiting, and joined us for lunch. I had no idea who he was, but everyone was trying to network with him and get his business card. He ended up sitting next to me and striking up a conversation about my future. I told him my dreams and he was like “Why are you studying sociology and not International Development?”. I had never even thought of studying something in an international field before, those were just for the people who magically just showed up there. By the end of our conversation, I had an awakening. I know that those dreams of working for the UN were still in me. When I got back to my hotel, I skyped my parents and told them I was changing everything about my life plan.
Right now I’m living in the United Kingdom studying my masters in International Development in Education, and in two weeks I will be in Tanzania working at developing schools and researching gender rights. I can tell you that I would not be here if I didn’t go to China. Who knows what awakening awaits you in the country you want to study abroad in?
I traveled with CIEE for my trip to Nanjing, and it was an amazing stress free experience. Even when I had a medical emergency and ended up in the Nanjing hospital, they took care of everything from my transport, to my care, to calling my family and university for me. There are many more studying abroad agencies, just look for the program that suits you best 🙂