Before I even knew what university I wanted to attend or what my major would be, I knew I wanted to study abroad at some point during my four years of college. I just didn’t know where or when.
I have always wanted to travel abroad, especially in Europe. So, the idea of spending an entire semester, or longer, in a foreign place was something I did not want to miss out on.
Everyone I talked to who had gone overseas as part of their education couldn’t recommend it enough and those who hadn’t said it was one of their biggest regrets.
According to a New York Times article, studying abroad allows students to “appreciate difference and diversity firsthand,” enabling them to realize and, hopefully, reject any prior judgments toward different societies.
The authors of the article go on to state “Learning how to interact with people from other countries and cultures equips future leaders in all sectors to address urgent issues … shared across borders.”
After enrolling at the University of Idaho, my plan to study abroad fell to the wayside. I kept making excuses, thinking it would either end up being too expensive or mess with my graduation timeline.
As I reached my third-year in college, I came to the conclusion that it was now or never.
I started researching which program would work best with my educational endeavors, as well as my financial situation, on the UI Study Abroad website.
UI partners with over 370 international colleges in 69 countries spanning the globe, according to the website. The university also works directly with 29 schools and five study abroad program providers. Internships are available in 32 countries for a variety of fields, as well.
Several days later, I settled on a program in Viterbo, Italy, through the University Studies Abroad Consortium (USAC).
I chose this specific town because I wanted to immerse myself in the culture rather than going to a place that is a common destination for tourists, since things are often Americanized and unauthentic in these spots.
The program in Viterbo also worked well with my journalism degree and would fulfill various general education requirements.
Most importantly, it was much more affordable than I had previously thought it would be, especially with scholarship opportunities.
Every year, UI provides over $157,000 to students to help fund international experiences, according to its website. It is also one of the few universities in the U.S. who has a scholarship comprised solely of student-fees and is specifically designated for studying abroad.
Choosing to forego learning in a foreign country, “lowers the chances of success in the ever-globalizing world that we live in — a world where bilingual is the international norm, and where multiculturalism is becoming the standard of our country,” according to a New York Times article.
If you are remotely interested, start researching now and contact the UI International Programs Office to set up a meeting to figure out if it is a possibility.
Although learning overseas can oftentimes be expensive and challenging to fit in a degree path, I am finding it is worth every penny, or in this case, every euro.
Olivia Heersink can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @oliviaheersink.