Study Abroad When, How, and Why

Anna Christina graduated with honors from UCLA with two Bachelor of Arts degrees in Communications, Linguistics & Anthropology. She is currently preparing to apply to Graduate School for Architecture and Urban Planning. Throughout her college career, Anna Christina was actively involved with Greek life, various Sustainability organizations, the UCLA Volunteer Center, Engineers Without Borders, and Habitat for Humanity. Additionally, she worked part time, held many internship positions, and worked as an artist, model, and pageant queen. Her extensive study abroad experience includes a global circumnavigation through Semester at Sea, and a full Summer living in Paris through the UC Education Abroad Program. Anna Christina has a passion for travel, sustainability, the Arts, and helping others.

(Part I)

When I sat down to begin writing my first article for Admitopia, I thought back to my college life and the experiences that made it truly unique. Though my Undergraduate career was rich with incredible academic, extracurricular, social, and work opportunities, I think the thing that makes my four years at UCLA stand out most is the fact that I studied abroad– TWICE! Every study abroad experience is different and I want to share some those differences with you to help you shape your own study abroad dream. This multi-part series will try to give you an in-depth, objective analysis of your study abroad options. Today I will begin with WHEN.

A quick review of my experiences.

I went abroad in the Spring of my Sophomore year through Semester at Sea (http://www.semesteratsea.org/). My voyage visited 13 countries in total: The Bahamas, Dominica, Brazil, Ghana, South Africa, Mauritius, India, Singapore, Vietnam, Hong Kong, China, Taiwan, USA (Hawaii, San Diego). I started this adventure completely alone and came out of it with a great group of lifelong friends.
My second study abroad opportunity came after I graduated. My boyfriend and I spent a summer in Paris through the University of California Education Abroad Program. We had an apartment in the 7th arrondissement, thoroughly explored the city, became experts of the Parisian Metro, made incredible new friends, and took advantage of outside travel as well (Belgium and Germany).

Now let’s dive in!

WHEN TO STUDY ABROAD

Many students miss out on the opportunity to study abroad because “the timing was never right.” Do not let that be you! Here are your options:

1. Study abroad as an Underclassman
• Take Lower Division / General Education classes
• Easy to transfer, doesn’t interfere with your Major / graduation requirements
• Create new friendships that will carry you through your college years with confidence
• Later years get busy and stressful. Fitting in a study abroad experience can be hard
• However, it can be a challenge start planning your study abroad adventure right away
Start thinking about what you want and begin your research immediately

2. Study abroad as an Upperclassman
• Selecting a program suited to your Major is a really great career building opportunity
• Selecting a school abroad that excels in your field is good for your mind and resumé
• However, it may be hard to find programs that are tailored in this way
It is important to consider your chosen field and research your options early on

3. Study abroad after graduation
• Traveling is the perfect graduation gift! Here’s why you should do it through school:
• Your grades here really don’t matter much
Learn for the sake of learning without the stress
Your GPA can only help you (earning honors), and really can’t hurt you (you’ve already graduated)
• Most of your nitty-gritty planning and booking is taken care of for you
• Take advantage of traveling with your professors!
Knowledgable, seasoned educators who are familiar with the area
Study abroad is also a great way to build your professional relationships
• Tuition is expensive, but can be cheaper than traveling on your own
Research your options. You are paying for classes too, but with scholarships, low-rate student loans, and group discounts, this can be a fiscally smart way to travel

4. Summer vs Semester (or Quarter)
• Summer is a good time to work, earn some money, go home to your family
• Going abroad during the year, you will miss out on your campus / friends’ lives a bit
• If your school is on a Quarter system, recognize that you may fall behind if you attend a Semester-based study abroad program. Plan accordingly

Ultimately, no matter when you decide to go abroad, you will miss out on some things back home. But you will also be creating new adventures and you will never regret it.
Regardless of WHEN you choose to study abroad, it will be an amazing once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that will shape and influence you for the rest of your life. Begin to research your options and think about what you want out of your study abroad experience. The type of program you choose will likely determine when and where you go, so stay tuned to learn more about DIFFERENT STUDY ABROAD PROGRAMS in my next article, Study Abroad: When, How, and Why (Part II).

Without Wax,

Anna Christina

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