It’s officially the summer! Final exams are over, and although many students keep busy with summer courses or summer jobs, there are also those who fully embrace their time off to go to the beach, travel, or spend time with friends and family. Regardless of what your plans are for the next few months, we at Diversity Abroad think the summer is the perfect time to fully research the how’s and why’s of going abroad. We truly believe that if you put in the time to thoughtfully plan ahead, you can succeed in your goals and visions of being abroad.
It’s important to note that if you’re researching this summer, you’ll be looking up programs that will get you abroad by the winter/spring semester at the earliest. Remember -- preparing to go abroad takes lots of planning! With that in mind, here are our suggestions for being productive in your study abroad planning this summer:
Establish your criteria and set your goals
First, it’s important to take some time and brainstorm what you’re hoping to gain from going abroad. Consider what your future personal and career goals might be, and ask yourself how going abroad can help you achieve those goals. Understanding what you ultimately want to gain from this experience, such as learning another language, conducting research, or honing your cross cultural communication skills, can help you narrow down the type of program you will ultimately choose to pursue.
Research upcoming program deadlines
The second step to making a study abroad opportunity a reality is to research and choose a program and country that fits this criteria. There are a lot of ideas on how to do so, and if you need additional support, check out our article on Things to Consider When Choosing a Study Abroad Program. Ultimately, you’ll want to think about a broad range of factors, such as the region or country that interests you, the type of academic credit you can earn, or the cost. We encourage you to explore DiversityAbroad.com for our programs, or visit your school’s Study Abroad website for a broader idea of what type of programs are out there.
Make an appointment to meet with your Study Abroad advisor
Once you think you’ve found a program that meets all of your criteria, schedule an appointment with a Study Abroad advisor at your school. Since it’s the summer and you may not be on campus, this can be over the phone, or via google hangout. You can also e-mail to request an appointment at the beginning of the semester. Advisors can help answer your questions about everything from program details (what the housing situation or professors are like), to determining if and how many academic credits can apply towards your degree. Plus, they’ll be happy to know you’re planning far in advance.
Apply for a passport
The sooner you do this the better. Trust us! Even if you don’t think you’ll be going abroad this year, know that a U.S. passport is good for up to 10 years. It’s in your best interest to get this early so you can avoid any last minute rush orders. Plus -- getting your passport and physically holding it makes the dream of going overseas that much more real! If you want more information, visit the State Department’s website on how to apply for a U.S. passport.
If you’re an undocumented student, we encourage you to apply for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals or DACA, which can grant you access to go overseas to study abroad, so long as you receive advance parole or permission from the Department of Homeland Security. Explore the DACA FAQ section on travel for more information. Additionally, check out this webinar on Travel Abroad for DACA Recipients. It’s important to note that most study abroad programs cannot guarantee re-entry, so definitely be sure to ask your advisor about what’s best for you.
Look up scholarships and prepare your materials!
As we’ve written about in the past, there are many scholarships that exist to help alleviate the financial costs associated with going abroad. Just as you researched programs, research the scholarships you will be eligible for, and schedule them into your calendar. We suggest backwards planning, and if you have the time, take things a step further and collect all the pieces necessary to have a completed scholarship application. Although scholarship application processes will vary, most will request an official transcript, letters of recommendation, and/or a personal statement. Request an official transcript, and review the application requirements closely to see if an original or photocopy would be accepted. Prepare thoughtful e-mails to past professors or work supervisors and let them know your intentions to go abroad, apply for a scholarship, and request from them a letter of recommendation. Finally, consider writing a baseline personal statement about why YOU want to go abroad, and how a scholarship can help you get there.
Again, although each scholarship checklist is a little different, having some of these baseline materials ready will make you feel much less stressed out once those application deadlines approach during the school year. Want a head start? Explore our scholarships portal to find the best scholarships available to you!
Talk to your parents!
We can’t stress this enough! It’s so wonderful to have the support of your family when planning a study abroad program, especially if this will be your first time traveling overseas. Although not everyone who goes abroad receives their parents’ blessings, keeping them informed that a) you’re even considering going abroad and b) you’ve done your homework will help them recognize the level of responsibility and planning you’re undertaking in order to make this happen. If you need materials to be translated for them, consult with your Study Abroad office to see if such materials already exist.
One last note for rising seniors: If you think going abroad is no longer an option for you, never say never! Explore short-term winter or spring break programs, or even consider teaching or volunteering abroad. There are always ways to go overseas without necessarily earning academic credit, so you can still make it happen!
If you follow these guidelines, you’ll be so thankful once you’re knee-deep in the academic school year and swamped with classes, work, or your student organization responsibilities.
Any other tips? Let us know in the comments!