My mom actually suggested the topic for this blog post. It’s not that I don’t have things that I can write about, but I thought this topic could be potentially more interesting than me telling you how, even in Spain, professors make you write papers in groups and do presentations. (If you are surprised about that, make sure to give me some feedback, and I can tell you allllll about it. Spoiler: It’s kinda boring.)
So… What does it take to study abroad? Not that much, surprisingly. You know, besides some money and the time put in to making it happen. To me the time put in to making it happen is probably the most important. Because although you need money to fly to another country, rent a place, pay for food, and all that jazz, to get money you only have to work for it (and most people are already working, have worked, or are planning on working at some point in their life), but to put time into making something happen is infinitely more difficult. I mean, heck, we all know people that pay for the gym membership every month because they want to be in shape but won’t make time to go to the gym and actually work out. We all have the friends (and are probably part of the problem) that want to go on a trip somewhere, but everyone is too lazy to plan, organize, and actually follow through with the trip. In the end, studying abroad in college is exactly like those things. You knew at the beginning that they were going to cost money (complain about it all you want, but it is, unfortunately, the way the world works), but, for some reason, I think that the time required to actually do something is much more surprising and difficult for us. (But I mean if we knew about the money it was going to take, shouldn’t we assume that it’ll take time too?)
I don’t want to make this blog like one of those motivational post where it’s like “Get up of your butt and go get what you want!” or “Just do it.” or something like that, but yeah, that is also kinda what I want to say. I am not a famous travel blogger on Instagram or YouTube saying like “If you want to travel, just go and travel.” But yeah, I kinda want to say all those things. Sometimes it really is that simple. But pleaaaase do not be surprised by the time that you have to put into doing something like studying abroad and moving to a different country. For all you Lobos out there, I think that the UNM GEO (Global Education Office) does a fantastic job with simplifying the steps that it takes to study abroad, and if you are thinking about studying abroad, go check it out. They break it down into 10 steps (of which one step is literally just leaving). Here is the link to that website. It is honestly such a simple process that like when people tell me, “I want to study abroad,” that my response is literally just, “Then do it.” You’d be amazed at how simple it is to get out of this country and study somewhere else.
Here is a list of (some) things that are needed to study abroad:
- Money (Fees, flights, travel insurance, place to live, food, transportation, travel, etc.)
- Time (for getting your documentation together, going to meetings, organizing issues, etc.)
- Effort (your mom isn’t gonna be able to do this one for you, sorry)
- Passport (it’s gonna become your child, do NOT lose it)
- Apply for a visa (depends on where you go, but this process can be the most difficult and time consuming)
- Suitcase (with less clothes than you think… trust me)
- Open mind & willingness to learn (if you don’t have this don’t go because it won’t be fun)
Money is very important because it adds up quickly. Try not to worry about it too much, but also you have to be prepared. Though there are a fair number of kids whose parents are paying for their stays abroad, most international students are very cost attentive and a good portion of the kids you will meet (at least in Europe) will be fairly broke, but Europe is a little nicer about giving grants than most. I know quite a few people that have told me they have had to work for a period of time and save as much as possible up in order to go abroad. It is possible. There is always a cheap way. My advice is to not only just work, but to ask people for money. Tell them what you are doing. There are tons of grants out there for American students studying abroad. Write a blog (like muah). Ask the clubs and associations you are a part of. They may be willing to pay one airline ticket or part of rent. There really is a lot of money out there for people to study in other countries, you just have to look for it. (Yeah, I know, it takes more time.) In addition, studying abroad is a good time to start keeping a good record of your spending. It really helps you look at everything that you spend every month at one time. Set yourself a limit. Look up the cost of living in a city for a month. For example, for me last month, living in Getafe, Madrid, Spain, (not the city center but near the university) it cost $430 for rent, $200 for groceries, and $20 for public transportation (and then there was all the other miscellaneous expenses that were somehow incurred… hmmmmmmmm who’s spending my money??). Now those numbers can change based on where you live, where you want to study abroad, how much food you eat, etc. If you’re living on your own/in a dorm room in college, just go find out how much your room costs and find the cost for the groceries or the meal plan. It is going to be around that price in most places (hopefully). The biggest difference is that you have to have the money for the months you are going to be gone before you leave on your trip.
The time part is outlined a bit above in the beginnings, but just remember that there is a lot of things that need time and effort. I will list some examples:
- Getting your visa (paperwork is all I am going to say)
- Get your birth certificate verified (and stamped by the Secretary of your State)
- Check your criminal background (in an official manner) (this one takes a few weeks)
- Getting your fingerprints (sometimes you don’t have to)
- Apply to the school you want to go to
- Going to meetings for study abroad students (there are a lot, try to meet people)
- Have good grades (Like I don’t think the requirement is that high, but this something that definitely takes time and effort, you probably already know
- Registering as a resident in the country you are going to (you do this in country, and it hasn’t been a very fun process for me)
- Mailing things around the state/country (unfortunately no instant mailing of documents)
- Starting (hardest part, as usual)
All of those things that are outlined in the list above are things that take time and effort, and although your mom can certainly help you with it, she can’t and won’t do it for you (nor should you or you will be lost in the country that you go to and may get deported). Also, she probably doesn’t want you to go and study abroad for any amount of time in a foreign country with no support, no experience, and no money as much as I do. But, trust me, I have your best interests at heart, too. Put some effort into it. It takes nothing for you to continue sitting there in front of your phone or computer and read about what I am doing in Spain, and it only takes a little more work for you to come do cool stuff with me in Spain… just saying. Look at where you could be. (And I haven’t even told you about the really good parts.) (;
The GEO Office had passport on their website so I put it in my blog… hopefully you understand why. And visas change depending on where you want to go, I can only give advice for people wanting to go to Spain, so email me if you need an extra advice on Spain visas. (email below)
Finally, I think that an open mind and willingness to learn are essential because there is a lot of value to studying outside of your home country, seeing new places, and meeting new people. If you go to a country and don’t learn at least one word of their language then you’ve done it wrong. All of having fun is learning as well, because most of the time you are finding new things to laugh about. If you don’t go into the experience willing to be taken away and learn something new then you might as well just go back to looking at the pretty travel pictures that you see on Twitter.
That’s all I really have to say about this topic, but I did not, by any means, tell it all. If I did not cover something that you wanted to know about, let me know. Feel free to email me or comment below with any questions or things that I missed. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Next month, I will be connecting this topic, namely the last part about having an open mind and a willingness to learn, to International Education Week. Stay tuned for that as well as an upcoming trip to Morocco that I am sure you will like to see pictures from.