Studying abroad programs

Daniel Ziebol graduated from Minnesota State University of Moorhead in 2013, where he had a double major in multimedia journalism and East Asian studies. Daniel is passionate about anything that allows him to display creativity. He particularly enjoys using creativity for writing, video production and music. Daniel also enjoys Japanese culture, and had the opportunity to study abroad in Japan during high school and college. He currently resides in Minnesota where he continues to work on the skills he is passionate about, and is motivated with the goal inspiring audiences and taking pride in his work.

Keeping your opportunities open
While discussing my time studying abroad, my professor once brought up a very interesting perspective that I wish I had heard before I departed. She said that my time abroad provided me the greatest sense of freedom and independence that I might ever experience in my life. Looking back on it, she was absolutely right.

For many students, entering college becomes the first occasion of leaving his or her comfort zone, and at the same time providing them their first true sense of freedom and independence. While college life allows you to see yourself grow as an individual, after a semester or two, you might find yourself back in a comfort zone. Falling back into familiarity and routine is not necessarily a bad thing. However, adventurous students that seek out life-changing experiences that help cultivate their growth and discovery of who they are as an individual might want to take studying abroad into consideration.

Being enrolled in college marks one of the best times and opportunities to travel to foreign countries while continuing your studies. Even if the thought of studying abroad never crossed your mind, it is a truly life-changing experience that you might want to take into consideration. Whether you are already planning on studying abroad or are maybe curious about what life is like in another country, even in the slightest bit, here are some ideas to keep in mind regarding studying abroad before and after enrolling at a university.

Check to see if the university has affiliations with international universities

When choosing a university, get in touch with the international office to find out more information about study abroad programs for the countries or places you might be interested in. If you speak a second language, it makes sense to also see if the university you are interested in has courses for that language. Even if the university does not offer courses for that particular language, there is still a chance that it might have an affiliation with a university in a country that does speak the language. For those of you that find studying abroad in a foreign country somewhat daunting, keep in mind that many universities also have programs with other universities within the country that allow you to attend college in different regions.

Do not assume you have to major in a particular language to study abroad

While the rules and policies for studying abroad in particular countries vary between universities, a potential mistake that you want to avoid is being under the assumption that if you want to study abroad you have to major or minor in a particular language. Make sure to ask about this when speaking with a university’s international office or language professors. This is very important because you do not want to force yourself into a major that you have no intention of pursuing as a career just because you want to study abroad in a specific country.

Figure out what courses are available and how credits will transfer

A necessary step you will need to do is figure out how the courses you take while abroad can be incorporated to fulfill the requirements of your degree or major. If you are majoring in the language or culture of the country you want to study abroad in, the process of figuring out what courses you should take while studying abroad is fairly straightforward. If you sit down with your advisor or go to the international office, most times they can provide you with a list of courses that are available at the international university and what requirements they fulfill for your major.

For those who are choosing majors outside of language and culture, again, do not fall under the assumption that there are not study abroad opportunities available for your degree. An example of this is while I was enrolled in the mass communications department at my university, professors informed us that our department had an exchange program with a university in England that also specialized in mass communications. If you have an idea or know what major you want to pursue, be sure to talk with the head of that department to see if it has connections abroad with a university that also specializes in that major.

Make friends with international students

Whether you pursue studying abroad or not, a unique and rewarding experience you will encounter during your time in college is the opportunity to meet and become friends with international students. Most times a university will have a club for students interested in a particular country, which is also a good place to meet international students from that country and even students who previously studied abroad there. Talking with these students gives you the opportunity to learn more about that country, and it is a great place to ask questions and get advice from the students that studied there and the students that are from there.

In my case, I was interested in studying abroad in Japan, and became particularly good friends with one of the Japanese exchange students studying at my university. After I decided to study abroad, we were both excited to find out I would be attending his university. If you plan on studying abroad, I cannot emphasize enough how great it is to know that you already have a friend to hang out with as soon as you arrive in different country. Because of our friendship, I had someone to pick me up from the airport, a place to stay before school began and someone to show me all the fun places to see and experience around the city.

Taking one extra step can keep endless possibilities open

My time studying abroad was truly the most independent and free that I have ever felt in my life yet, and it will forever be an experience I will never forget. It has been four years since I studied abroad, and I still keep in contact with the great friends I met as well as the other exchange students from various countries. Besides all of the great memories I made, when I look back I can see how studying abroad in a country and culture completely different than my own allowed me countless unique opportunities to grow as an individual that I would not have had the opportunity to experience if I had stayed in my comfort zone at my university.

If you have ever found yourself fascinated at the thought of what it would be like to experience life in another country, take a little extra time to look into the study abroad programs when deciding on what university you want to attend. This small step allows you to keep opportunities open because one day you might decide that instead of imagining what life is like in another country, you would rather experience it firsthand.

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