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Study Abroad Myths Debunked – How You Can Spend Time Abroad

Guest Blog Article by: Aleli Alcaide (published originally for HerCampus.com)

One of the best ways to see and learn about the world we live in is through studying abroad. It’s an opportunity to challenge yourself, get out of your comfort zone, take classes in a different environment, learn about your major from the perspective of another culture, do an internship (resume builder!), learn languages, and so much more. Students not only cite an experience like this as transformative, but more often than not, life changing. My summer abroad to Italy not only allowed me to learn about the nomads and settlers of Italy, but it also made me realize how easy study abroad can be once you start looking into it. Granted there are a few steps to follow, but if it weren’t worth it, would I be going abroad again to China and Taiwan this winter break to learn about rehabilitation??  And yet, despite the facts, it may surprise you that there are actually a lot of people who don’t take advantage of this opportunity. Here is a list of excuses of why students don’t study abroad and easy solutions for you to begin this experience.

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Excuse #1: Money, money, and money.

Solution:  Like most things in life, studying abroad is not free. But what many students don’t realize, is that you can find affordable programs that cost about what you’re paying now. Some programs, known as “exchanges,” may even cost less! The rates really do vary, so make sure when you talk to someone at the Study Abroad Office, that you mention cost is a major component, and they’ll point you in the right direction. Just make sure you know your budget, and be flexible. Studying in expensive destinations like Europe, Australia, or New Zealand, may contribute to a higher price tag. The University of Illinois offers scholarships to help you fund your program,  and there are also countless third-party scholarships that you can apply to to help you fund your study abroad experience. Remember to apply early to get the most opportunities. Financial aid may even travel with you, but you’ll never know if you don’t talk to someone at the Financial Aid Office.

Excuse #2: I want to graduate in four years.

Solution: Unless you’re in a major that requires studying abroad, many students believe they just don’t have the time to go if they want to graduate on time. The truth is that there are numerous programs that let you complete requirements for your major while you’re abroad. From IB, MATH, PSYCH, and PS courses to SPAN, ANTH, and SOC courses, study abroad programs vary from being language and culture specific to total immersion at a local university (hello course catalogue of options!) Your academic advisor can help you design a graduation plan that will permit you to graduate in four years while also studying abroad. And who says that you can only study during the school year? Spend two weeks of your winter or summer break abroad. There are countless summer and winter break programs out there. With a little research, it’s possible to enjoy study abroad and still walk across the stage on time.

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Excuse #3: I’ll be homesick.

Solution: Studying abroad can feel like the first time you moved away from home except you’re many miles further from home, probably even an ocean away. While it’s normal to be frightened by the idea of leaving home and all your U of I friends for a foreign country, you can’t let this chance go by! Do a little research on your dream destination, and remember this: the key to homesickness is your housing arrangement. Many programs offer their participants to choose where to live. Options often include dorms, apartments or a host family. To cure the feeling of homesickness, be sure to connect with your flatmates, host family, or others in the dorm cafeteria. They will be there when you hit your challenges and also there when you want to try tango lessons. But just in case homesickness feels without a cure, stayed connected with your loved ones using technology, like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, email, Skype, Viber or WhatsApp. The only thing technology won’t be able to bring you is mom’s home-cooked meals, but at least you’ll be trying new food in an international country!

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Excuse #4: “I’ll travel/study/work abroad after graduation.”

Solution: Ask yourself this question: Are you really going to travel/study/work abroad after graduation? If you have serious plans to do so, more power to you.  In reality, though, a lot of graduates say they are going to, and then plans fall through. Rather than putting it off, just go for it now! Our college years are one of the best times to study abroad because we don’t have hefty responsibilities yet. After graduation come adult responsibilities like paying back loans, avoiding living with your parents, paying bills or finding a real-world job. The responsibilities are endless. Our college years are one of the best times to study abroad because we don’t have those responsibilities yet, so take advantage of your freedom. Additionally, once we’re adults, say good bye to scholarships, financial aid, and grants, you’ve got to foot the bill all on your own.

For more information on where to start learning about studying abroad, visit: http://studyabroad.illinois.edu/earlyplanning/where_to_start.aspx

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