A Life Changing Decision: Studying Abroad

By Marina Krivonossova on June 17, 2018
Stroopwafel array

An array of the famous Dutch dessert: stroopwafel (literally meaning “syrup waffle”)
Photo credit: Marina Krivonossova

Imagine waking up one morning and watching the sun rise outside your airplane window. You don’t quite know where you are, but you know what awaits you — adventure. Just a few weeks later, you’re making your way through the bike-cluttered streets of the Netherlands and preparing a mental list of things you’ll need to take along to your trip to Denmark at the start of next month. Not to mention you’ve already planned a visit to Hungary the month after, and a vacation at a resort in Turkey the month after… And where will you be after that? The world’s your oyster, just follow your heart and see where it takes you!

Sounds crazy, right? Especially when you’re a college student who’s too busy being focused on getting the perfect grades, keeping that grad school-worthy GPA, and maintaining a healthy social life while at it. Who even has time for travel with all that going on? It’s not surprising with how busy our lives are that a whopping 64% of Americans have never traveled outside of the United States. But all those adventures previously mentioned are exactly how I spent the first half of 2018, being your typical college student. And I’m coming back to my home university in California, having acquired 32 transferable units and a lifetime of wild and unforgettable experiences.

My university of choice: Utrecht University
Photo credit: Olena Z.

So, you ask: How do I do it? Almost all colleges offer a chance for  their students to study in a foreign country, whether it be for just a few months or for an entire school year. Studying abroad gives you the chance to see the world outside your college, take classes at a  prestigious foreign university, meet like minded people with whom  you may otherwise not have crossed paths, and attain the ultimate  level of independence as you leave the comforts of your home  environment. You don’t truly know what the world has to offer you until you take the risk, hop on that plane, and fly off to a distance land of unknown possibilities.

But won’t this experience of a lifetime cost me a fortune? College is financially burdensome enough, without the added pressure of traveling from country to country. But that’s the best part — studying abroad doesn’t have to be expensive. In fact, I paid less in tuition and housing going to school in the Netherlands than I did in California. I saved money by going on an educational vacation! My whole experience (personal leisure travel included) cost roughly as much as staying that half a year in California would have. Not only this, but there are plenty of scholarship opportunities available to students of virtually all backgrounds, with your home college’s financial aid office stepping in to offer further assistance if you qualify.

View of Utrecht from above during a university field trip
Photo credit: Marina Krivonossova

My mom’s friend’s cousin’s dad said his neighbor studied abroad and ended up falling behind schedule and thus failing to graduate on time. What if this happens to me? The key to a wholesome, successful experience studying abroad is keeping your priorities straight, even with all this newly acquired freedom. You may be tempted to goof off and party while you’re abroad. And let me tell you: there will be plenty of temptation around you in that sense. But as long as you stay true to yourself and remind yourself that studying abroad is about maintaining that perfect balance of work and play, things are sure to turn out well. Meet people in your classes who want to get good grades and travel over weekends and during holiday breaks. Write out a schedule for yourself, depicting when you intend to do homework, and when you intend to check out that awesome club all the locals have been talking about. Work without play will drive you mad, and play without work will leave you stuck on the same spot on your route to career success. But why wouldn’t you want to take advantage of the “study” part of “study abroad”? The foreign university you choose to go to is bound to have countless academic opportunities that are not offered by your home university, meaning that it’s the perfect chance to expand your horizons and gain practical knowledge you can show off at your next job interview.

Study abroad advisors are always ready and willing to help you plan your time abroad

So, what are you waiting for? Go on the website of your college and find information of the study abroad center. There you’ll get even more information about what study abroad programs best suit your major, what financial aid opportunities you’re eligible for, and what steps you should take now in order to ensure that you’ll be able to study abroad as soon as possible. Talk to your friends and classmates who’ve studied abroad, engage with study abroad alumni, and ask professors who may have experience with this program.

Do you want to watch the sunset over the Rhine in Germany? Do you dream of trying real sushi in Japan? Do you dream of immersing yourself in Italian culture to truly master the country’s beautiful language? Make it happen.

“The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.” – Saint Augustine

By Marina Krivonossova

Uloop Writer
A writer, baker, travel enthusiast, and advocate for human rights.

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