Tips for studying abroad

By Amy Pugsley

Want to travel during university but don’t want to spend spring break in Mexico or a semester in France? Don’t fret! There are more options than you may think.

While there are many options for students who have the travel bug, some options might not be right for every student. If you want to be real about it, a study abroad program is a big commitment during a period of time where commitments (other than studying) should be small. Your away from home for the first time, your trying to settle in, get your bearings, figure out how the library works, dealing with your quirky roommate, and your going to pack up and leave for an even more foreign experience? Doubtful. Do I have a vendetta against study aboard programs? No, I think they are a fantastic way to spend some authentic time in a country but they are definitely not a practical choice for everyone. Ask yourself these basic questions; do you fluently speak another language? Have you spent longer than a week in a foreign country? If your answers don’t point to a study abroad trip being the best choice, don’t worry; you don’t have to burn your suitcase just yet.

Instead of a study abroad program why not try a short-term program that combines the tropics of a spring break trip with the life changing experience of a study abroad program? During my undergraduate degree I took a chance and signed up for a month long trip to the Dominican Republic with International Student Volunteers (ISV). I found a flyer for ISV on campus, went to an information session, signed up, and the rest was history. I spent two weeks volunteering and two weeks on an adventure-tour around the island on a month long trip coined as volun-tourism. Volun-tourism combines volunteering with tourism in a blend that is great for your first time overseas. It was safe, structured, fun, and just long enough.

There are many company options for trips abroad as well as many locations to pick from. I chose ISV for my adventure abroad because of the program structure; I really liked the idea of half work and half play. Some organizations have different options depending on what you’re looking for. An organization like, S-Trip! plans grad trips to places like Mexico, Costa Rica, and Cuba. If you want to travel down south and spend some time snorkeling and surfing this might be the option for you. While an organization like, Live Different plans house builds in Haiti, the Dominican, and Thailand. If you want to get your hands dirty and make a difference this might be the type of trip your looking for. Whatever overseas program you choose the bottom line is to pick one that is right for you. Being realistic about your wants and needs overseas will help you pick a program that is worth the money but also pick one that is rewarding and life changing. Going abroad should be an adventure not a nightmare.

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