Studying Abroad A Life Changing Experience

I am a graduate from the University of Tennessee, College of Architecture and Design in May 2013 with a Bachelors of Architecture with Honors. Currently, I work in Atlanta at an architecture firm that specializes in multiple types of projects from Education, Multi-family, and healthcare facilities — to name a few of the devisions. I work in every phase of the architectural process – from designing buildings to detailing their construction details and administering their construction. I have been working towards my architectural licensure and hopefully will be a registered architect in the next couple of years.

Amongst the many benefits of studying at a University is the choice to study abroad. This opportunity is more than just sight-seeing and exploring new places – it’s a chance to find out about a part of yourself that you didn’t even know about. This experience is challenging, exciting, nerve-racking, and awe-inspiring—all of which culminates to a new understanding of the world at large. You will begin to understand the intricacies of a culture other than your own and realize that the world is a lot bigger than you could have even imagined. All you have to do is go.

If you type into Google “how many universities offer study abroad programs?” you will find that a large proportion of schools are represented. There are a myriad of study abroad options whether it be for a semester, year, or summer trip. However, according to NAFSA, in the 2011-2012 academic year, only 283,332 US students studied abroad – that represents roughly 1% of full-time college students. Various polls show that out of the 99% of students who did not study abroad, at least 70% or more regret not doing so.

Imagining life after college can be difficult. After all, it is years away, and you already have a lot to think about as it is. However, I can attest that one conversation which almost always comes up in post-graduate conversion is “Did you study abroad?” It is surprising how many “no’s” I hear., and quickly followed by, “I really should have. I regret not going.” I proceed to ask them why they chose not to go and commonly hear, “I didn’t want to leave my friends” or “I don’t know” or “time just came and went and I hadn’t prepared for it”. Don’t be that person who didn’t go.

I understand that there are many circumstances that could prevent someone from studying abroad — financial, academic, or otherwise. However, I strongly suggest, if at all possible, that you figure out a way to work around these circumstances. There are multiple forms of financial aid to help out with the costs. There are always scholarships offered either through your specific major, university, or study abroad office that will aid you in your trip. A great essay asking for financial help goes a very long way. It is all about being on top of your resources and asking for the help you need. A semester of hitting the books and raising your GPA is greatly beneficial and could allow you to go on the trip of a life time.

Depending on your university and degree, there may be various study abroad options. The financial burden and amount of course work varies from program to program- therefore, choose the program that aligns to your goals and financial boundaries. I would suggest going to a program that is challenging, but allows you to travel. This trip is about gaining a new perspective on the world, not sitting alone in your dorm room to study every single day and weekend. I chose to study abroad in Krakow, Poland. This program made the most sense for me, as it was a direct exchange program, i.e. one student from Poland took my place in Tennessee and I took their place in Poland. The cost of the trip was the same as my normal tuition, and my scholarships applied to the cost just as they would have if I had stayed in-state. No brainer!

Working up to to my study abroad semester was pretty exciting yet nerve-wracking. There are a lot of boxes to check off before the trip, and it can seem like a lot of work. There are many papers, essays, and forms that you will likely have to complete. This sounds like a lot of tedium, but once your plane takes off for your international flight, all the stress becomes worth it. Bon Voyage and have an amazing journey!

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