Studying abroad requires planning process

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Studying abroad requires planning process

Before students can study abroad, there is preliminary work that must be done. CW | Danielle Parker

Beth Wells

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Studying abroad can be a life-changing experience for students, but a lot of work goes into the process before students hop on a plane and begin their adventure.

The first step is to fill out an application online on the Education Abroad office website. The education abroad office offers affiliates and direct enroll, UA semester exchange and UA Faculty led programs.

Holly Henning, an Education Abroad advisor, said the program a student chooses determines the course of action they must take to prepare themselves for their trip.

“I compare it to getting accepted into college,” Henning said.

Once a student submits an application, they should know whether they have been accepted within a few weeks, Henning said. This is when they start working on completing their “post-acceptance items,” which include documents about housing information, course equivalency forms and travel information.

“One of the reasons we’re here is to help with all of that,” Henning said.

Henning said the office requires a pre-departure meeting where they discuss culture-shock, communication, health, safety and insurance.

The office suggests meeting with an education abroad advisor before leaving for a trip, but it isn’t mandatory.

Caylee O’Connor, a sophomore majoring in math and economics, is studying in Bilbao, Spain, in the spring and hasn’t met with an advisor. She said she’s tried to go to the office several times, but they’ve always been busy.

“It’s been kind of stressful because I don’t know if I have everything I need,” she said. “In their defense, I haven’t tried to schedule an appointment in advance.”

O’Connor said when she was trying to get university approval sent to her affiliate program, USAC, she did everything required on her part ahead of time, but it was sent in after the program had filled up.

“I contacted so many different people,” she said. “Luckily, a spot ended up opening up.”

She said students interested in studying abroad should apply as soon as possible.

“My biggest advice is to make an appointment early, talk about what program you want to do and find out what steps you need to complete before you go because that will make it so much easier,” she said.

Sheela Kailasam, a junior majoring in finance and math, studied abroad last spring and actually applied after the deadline. Kailasam said she applied three days after the deadline to three different programs, hoping that one would still accept her.

“I ended up not getting the right credit for some of the classes I took,” Kailasam said. “That’s something I probably should have talked to an advisor about.”

Kailasam said students should talk to anyone they can, such as education abroad advisors, academic advisors or students who have studied abroad before because it will always help their travel experience in some way.

“You can never get too much help,” she said.

Henning said studying abroad requires a high level of self-initiative by the student.

“It’s fun and exciting,” Henning said, “But at the same time, students have to be willing to do the work. It takes motivation.”

Henning said even if students are hesitant about the process, she encourages them to come to the office to find out more about studying abroad.