Lessons I Learned Applying for Study Abroad
Last semester I went through the long and tedious process of applying to study abroad. I wish I had sought out someone to tell me what it would be like. During the process of applying, I met my study abroad advisor, Pamela, and found her to be really helpful. We chatted recently about studying abroad.
Q: When did you decide to become a study abroad advisor and why? What programs do you cover?
Pamela: I think I was always meant to work in international education! I studied abroad in Spain and then worked at my university’s study abroad office as a peer advisor. That job was always in the back of my mind throughout the time I spent teaching (I have an elementary education degree and taught for 4 years in the US and 2 years in Spain).After returning home from teaching in Spain, I knew that I wanted to help other American students have the same experience I did and the stars aligned when I was offered a position at Arcadia. I work with students going to Italy, Ireland, and Spain.
Q: What will a student gain from studying abroad?
Pamela: Studying abroad is a great way to challenge yourself and grow. It can be scary to get on a plane and move to another country for a few months, especially if you don’t know the local language or you’ve never lived in a big city before. Once you do it, though, you realize you are capable of much more than you may have thought before. It can lead to feeling confident in yourself, developing life skills, becoming more independent, and coming home with some pretty cool stories to share with your family and friends.
Q: What would you say to those who are nervous to go abroad?
Pamela: It’s totally okay and normal to be nervous. This is a new experience and you’re not sure what to expect, so it’s completely natural to feel hesitant. It is important to recognize that you grow the most when you’re feeling uncomfortable. Studying abroad is never comfortable!
Q: How does Arcadia prepare you for going abroad?
Pamela: We provide lots of hands-on assistance to students. I am always available by Zoom or email for my students. We also created a two-part Canvas course to walk students through how to prepare for studying abroad and familiarizing them with their country of choice. We also hold Zoom orientations for students to meet each other before traveling, and to meet our Arcadia staff abroad.
Q: What’s the biggest mistake people make going abroad?
Pamela: I find that a lot of students think studying abroad will feel like a vacation every single day. I’m here to tell you it won’t! It can be hard to adapt to life in another country and you have to be willing to accept that your fantasy about what study abroad “should be” may not be anywhere close to realistic. You’re there to learn and go to school while being immersed in a new culture and this can be tough for a lot of people. No, you probably won’t live in the city center of London, but that is not necessarily a bad thing.
Q: What is the process for applying to study abroad like?
Pamela: Arcadia students usually meet with Scott Terry or Ashley Knueppel first to discuss their plans to study abroad. Once they have applied and are accepted, their application gets transferred to me. I work with the institution abroad to submit the students’ information and course selections, and guide students through the process of applying for a visa, booking a flight, and more.
Arcadia has many resources for a successful study-abroad trip. Pamela is one of several advisors I have had the pleasure of working with on my next trip to Italy this spring. My advice would be to watch deadlines closely and do NOT wait until the last minute. A lot of these documents are long and need thorough reading before filling them out. Not rushing through these is KEY. Another thing I did was have one of my advisors put me in touch with a student who did my program already. I asked her tons of questions. This resource is always available and most definitely eases nerves. I am so thankful for Arcadia and their accessibility to study abroad. This is truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I hope everyone takes advantage of it at least once!