This week’s blogger is Jesa Pace, who studied Journalism and service-learning program called Camp Adventure. This week, Jesa will provide some tips for those considering going abroad.
While study abroad programs offer great opportunities for students, there is much more to consider aside from where you would like to study or travel. Things like obtaining a passport, receiving appropriate immunizations and completing program paperwork must all be taken care of before students hop on the plane. So, if you are considering a study abroad program, here are some things to consider before taking off.
Passport: When studying abroad, a passport is required to entire any country you may decide to study in. Passports can take weeks to arrive, so it is important to apply for your passport long before your departure date. Along with a passport, you may need to look into obtaining a VISA of some sort. Because my stay in South Korea amounted to more than three months, I was required to obtain a VISA in order to stay in the country for that length of time.
In addition to obtaining a passport and a VISA if needed, it is INCREDIBLY important to keep both with you while traveling. On my way to South Korea for the summer, I was scheduled to have a two-hour layover in Japan. When I got off the plane in Japan, I immediately went through security.
Immunizations: Prior to leaving, I spent an afternoon at the Student Health Center on campus where I was tested for TB and was given specific vaccinations. I had to communicate closely with the coordinators of my programs during this stage to make sure I was not missing anything. While the visit did not take long, there was a significant amount of paperwork involved, and I was glad I got it out of the way ahead of time. Had I waited until the last minute the appointment would have been incredibly stressful.
Communication: Prior to leaving, my parents and I looked into a variety of different mobile options for me to use while abroad. Many of the options through our service provider were pricey, and in the end, I opted not to get an international cell phone plan. Instead, I purchased three months of unlimited Skype Mobile Minutes. Although this did not allow me to speak with my friends and family from a mobile device, it did allow me to call their phones at any time from my laptop.
While I thought the Skype Mobile Minutes worked great, my parents were not sold. I was never able to speak with them over the weekends when my friends and I were traveling the country as we rarely had internet service. Though this caused many sleepless nights for my parents, it was quite liberating to be so free of technology.
Homesickness: I knew that it was inevitable that I would get homesick at points during the trip, and I tried to prepare myself. I formed close friendships with other students in the program, which gave me others to talk to when a bout of homesickness would strike. I also reminded myself that I was only there for a short time and tried to Skype with them as often as I could, which made it easier.
Fear of going: For many students that study abroad, there is some fear that goes along with actually making the decision to study abroad in the first place. As the deadline to make the decision to stay or go approaches, it is easy to think more about commitments, family, friends and significant others that you will miss while away. For me, it was particularly difficult to leave my boyfriend for that length of time. However, I would have to say that everything turned out, seeing as we are now happily married!
While it may be difficult to get over the fear of actually going through with it, it helps to talk with others who have done similar programs in the past. Listening to all of their stories and experience was all I needed to overcome my fear.