As a first generation college student, your focus on college may be to simply navigate what it means to be successful in college. There's a good chance that going abroad was never part of your vision for what this success looks like, and that's okay. However, there are so many benefits to studying abroad that will ultimately make you a stronger candidate for opportunities after you graduate. In preparing for study abroad, here are a few tips to help you successfully navigate the process:
Talk to Your Advisors and Fellow Students: When preparing to study abroad, seek advice from people at your current university or college. First, make appointments to speak with your advisors, specifically in study abroad, academic advising and financial aid. If you have a study abroad office at your campus, make an appointment to talk with them and fully understand what programs are available to you. You should also connect with your academic advisors to figure out which courses enable you to earn credits towards your major or degree. And of course, make an appointment to talk with the financial aid office. Doing this will help you realize how much of your financial aid package can be used to go abroad, which will determine how much you may be expected to pay out of pocket.
In addition, talk to students who have already studied abroad. They can give you firsthand advice about the process of living abroad, and will give you the most truthful answers you could want. If you don't know anyone who has studied abroad, ask your advisors to connect you with someone who has recently gone abroad through your campus. You can also use the Diversity Abroad Community Forums to post any questions you have, or read our Alumni Stories to find a student whose identities and experiences mirror yours.
Do Your Research: Do as much research as possible. Speaking with advisors and other study abroad alumni is a great start, but take the time to look into your options to ensure you make the best decision. DiversityAbroad.com Destination Guides are a great resource where you can start learning about opportunities, best practices, and better understand what your experience abroad may be like.
Find Support: Making the decision to go abroad, especially if no one you know before you has done it, can be daunting. Your family and friends may not understand your motivations, or may even think it's a "vacation"! It's important to find people in your life who support your decision to go abroad, whether that support comes from friends, family, mentors, or even other students in your study abroad cohort. Having people in your life who understand and respect your decision to go abroad can help you feel more comfortable, and can help you ease into your study abroad program more smoothly.
Author: Diversity Abroad Community