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Study abroad 101: A five step guide

Pascal Albright
Tables for the University of Arizona’s 2017 Study Abroad Fair at the Student Union Memorial Center feature various study abroad programs. Study abroad opportunities are educational experiences that benefit students and can be made affordable despite sometimes daunting costs.

Editor’s note: This article was produced as part of the Daily Wildcat‘s 2018 Campus Guide — the perfect resource for any incoming Wildcat. Whether you’re trying to find important dates, looking for a club to join or are interested in UA history and traditions, we’ll be there to help you get through your first semester. Welcome to the University of Arizona!  

Studying abroad is a golden opportunity that any student can take to travel, see the world, gain a unique learning experience and open doors to new career opportunities.  

Recently returned from studying in Copenhagen, Denmark this summer, junior psychology and sociology major Alyssa Montijo said it was one of the best decisions she ever made. Now, as a UA study abroad student worker, she encourages everyone to pursue such opportunities.

However, students often don’t know where to start. So, here are five recommended steps for starting your study abroad adventure.

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Step One: Explore Study Abroad Programs

University of Arizona Global currently has over 100 different kinds of study abroad programs. Look around to find which ones you are interested in and consult with your academic advisor. You can learn more about choosing a program by attending the UA Study Abroad weekly information session, going to a study abroad fair or consulting with a peer advisor.

Though it’s never too late to travel, study abroad coordinators say it’s best to start planning early — during freshman year is ideal. Danny Vander Ploeg, UA Global marketing manager, said it’s also helpful to save a few general education classes each semester if you plan to study abroad for a full semester or year.

Step Two: Financial Aid and Scholarship Resources

Studying abroad can be affordable. There are plenty of resources, such as financial aid and scholarships, available to everyone. Search the UA Global website or meet with a study abroad coordinator for assistance. 

The best time to speak with a coordinator is about a year before you plan on studying abroad. That will help with scholarships that have early deadlines and increase your chances of receiving them. It’s also a good opportunity to get a passport if you do not have one yet, since passports take around two months to process. You can apply for one through the school at the UA Passport Office.

Step Three: Learn More About Your Program

After you finally narrow down which program you want to pursue, look through it in detail with a study abroad coordinator. Every program is different, as are the requirements, so a study abroad coordinator can tell you exactly what you need once you start an application.

Step Four: Start an Application

If you haven’t made an appointment with a study abroad coordinator, do so. It is highly recommended, and they can help you stay on track with application deadlines. Montijo says there are a few students who enroll in her program that she never sees, and they are the ones always emailing questions. And after you submit your application and it’s accepted, you can move on to the final step.

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Step Five: Prepare to Study Abroad

UA Global hosts health, safety and other trainings for students studying abroad. These can range from a few meetings to several depending on your program. It is also usually required for all the program’s students to meet and get to know each other. You can also prepare for studying abroad by researching cultural and social customs. 

Then you are done! Every study abroad experience is unique, and, like Montijo, you can share your stories and encourage others to begin their own study abroad journey as well. 

“Since I had such a good studying abroad experience, I wanted to share it with other people,” Montijo said.

Though it does take a while with each step and all of the paperwork, it can be worth it if you are committed. Montijo found that studying abroad was not only beneficial academically, but personally as well. 

“The barriers you face end up being really great when you learn to overcome them, and that makes you proud,” she said. “It’s kind of a beautiful little process.”

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