I knew that I wanted to study abroad, but I didn’t have $20,000 laying around anywhere in THIS world. If I was going to study abroad, I wanted it to be for FREE.
And it was.
Here’s how my entire process went:
Do I have time to study abroad with my academic schedule?
Yes, in the summer. It won’t hurt my track schedule to graduation, I don’t need to make up any of my classes, and I took all my summer credits that are required by my university. I made an appointment with my academic advisor to make sure this was okay. I would highly recommend visiting your advisor to see what type of credits you can fulfill while studying abroad (i.e. language requirement, humanities requirement, or electives)
Where do I want to go?
China for sure. I was thinking about going to China for the past two years.
Why do I want to study abroad? Why did I choose these destinations?
I knew that I would learn a lot from this culture. I was inspired by the dual-process thinking of one of my Chinese practicum students, which made me want to investigate how students in China learn English as a second language to see if I could find any successful teaching strategies. I also wanted to develop a stronger sense of independence and having something to call my own. Plus, I have never been away that far before and the culture is vastly different than mine. If you asked me if I would be going to China five years ago, I wouldn’t even think to believe you (#FirstGen).
Research the social and political climate of the country.
How are they treating minorities? Is the country in a potential war climate?
Meet with my study abroad advisor to find a program that is right for me (financially).
I want to go on the cheapest study abroad that placed me in China for the summer. This lead me to the USAC program which cost me ~$1,700 for the flights, $2,980 for USAC tuition, $300 for the USAC housing deposit, $350 for a USAC Beijing Tour, $180 for the Sichuan Cuisine Course, $50 for luggage fees, $1,037.22 for miscellaneous items/food spending since I left Gainesville, $500 for buying my preparation items, $308.29 for my Visa and Visa Service. This was approximately a total payment of $7,405.51. For 43 days halfway around the country, that’s not too shabby. Consider third-party study abroad programs! The program fee for “UF in Beijing” is $7,400 alone…mine was $2,980, let that sink in…
APPLY FOR THAT PROGRAM!!
That $250 deposit made me committed. I wasn’t going to waste that money because of a little discouragement in the future. I was LOCKED IN and had deadlines to meet.
APPLY FOR SCHOLARSHIPS!!
I was blessed with the fortunate opportunity to have this trip paid off in full with thousands of dollars left over. This took care of my summer rent and utility charges so I didn’t have to worry about having a strict budget in China or jump into work when I returned home. I applied for scholarships available from my college and my university’s International Center. I highly recommend that minority students apply for as many minority scholarships as possible because people want to see you travel abroad! I wish I would’ve applied for more scholarships, and started one year prior to my departure. You can definitely tweak and reuse the same, strong essay. A strong essay has personal examples, great organization, and connections to how this experience will help their career and others. Be sure to visit your university’s writing center at least twice per essay. USAC also offers more than $2 million in scholarships to students that you can apply for.
Create a checklist of items I need, along with preparations I need to make before I leave.
This will keep you focused on your purchases and help with your packing. Be cautious of luggage fees and space left for souvenirs. Did you pack basic clothes that could be worn with many outfits? Does your housing have a washer and dryer? (Fun fact: Chengdu really doesn’t have dryers)
Spend as much time with my friends and loved ones as possible.
I recommend doing this while eating your favorite, local foods. Announce you created a blog to your friends and family over social media, make sure your posts are consistent so that they don’t get worried.
Journal and take photos of everything!
You don’t want to forget anything later. Make sure you commit to writing every day. You’ll honestly just look back and laugh.
And this made all the difference.
Until next time,