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Ask Colleen: Studying abroad

February 8, 2017

Dear Colleen,

I am thinking about studying abroad, but I am hesitant to do it. I’ve always wanted to travel and have never had the opportunity, but I feel like college would be the perfect time. It will also be my senior year, and I am worried that I am going to miss out on things at school, with my friends and family. Also there is money to think about. I’m just really not sure what to do.

From, 

A hopeless traveler

Dear A hopeless traveler,

My answer to your question is YES, do it! You won’t regret it. When I first came to UW-River Falls, I was immediately intrigued by its study abroad programs.

Similar to you, I have always wanted to travel. When I went on my tour of campus, the thing that stuck with me the most was the study abroad office. After seeing all of the posters of different countries and seeing how happy the college students looked in the pictures, I knew that I had no choice but to study abroad.

I think you answered your own question. You said you’ve always wanted to travel, so do it. Although there are a lot of things that need to be figured out before you leave, college really is the perfect time to study abroad.

As I approach the end of my senior year, I have realized that I will probably not be able to travel anytime in the near future. I’ll be working at a new job, and I won’t have the freedom to take time off and there won’t be any breaks built into my schedule like there are now. Do it now, while you have the time and not as many restrictions. There will really never be a time where you will be able to travel for a long period of time and still take classes.

River Falls offers many different study abroad programs, but I chose to go to Scotland for a semester during my sophomore year. Personally, I think the semester-long programs are the ones to do. You get the most bang for your buck. You spend the same amount on a plane ticket either way, so you might as well stay as long as you can.

You said that you were worried about money, and that’s definitely a big concern. However, from my own personal experience, anyone with any budget can make it work. Personally, I didn’t have any extra money to go abroad. I was already working two jobs, but I was determined to make it work. I went to the financial aid office and they were able to help me with a couple of different loan options.

I had to take out some more money in loans than I would have liked, but I wouldn’t change it for the world. The experience is also all about how you make it. There were classmates of mine who would travel every weekend and some who just stayed in Scotland. Either way, you can customize your experience on any budget.

Studying abroad for me was definitely the highlight of my college career. I went to a country I had never been to before only knowing a couple of people, and at first I felt exactly how you do right now. I was terrified of leaving my friends at school and my family back at home. I thought I was going to miss out on things back at college with my friends or miss out on a holiday back home.

However, I couldn’t have been more wrong. Yeah, it gets hard to see all your friends hanging out or your family celebrating Easter without you, but I gained a whole new experience by leaving. Life back at school or home will move, but so will you! Honestly when I was abroad I was so busy with school, traveling, meeting people and gaining new experiences, I barely thought of home.

I know it will be your senior year, but trust me you won’t regret it. Not only will you be able to travel, you’ll make friends and memories that will last a lifetime. It may seem complicated now, but everything always has a way of working itself out.

Have fun,

Colleen

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