Why Not? You CAN do it too

Cassi Brighton

Do you have an interest in studying abroad but something is just holding you back from committing to the idea? You’d love to go but you just don’t really believe it’s possible for you to study abroad. Chances are whatever is holding you back is just that, it’s holding you back. Anyone can study abroad. You need convincing? Alright, then allow me to explain why if any of these reasons are what’s stopping you that you need throw that worry right out the door and still make your study abroad dreams come true.

Topics covered: finance, mental health, race, religion, and traveling alone

Financial Issues:

So you’re going through some hard times financially? One word: SCHOLARSHIPS. Yes I know it’s not the most dependable method of payment as you often don’t know if you’ve won enough money until after you’ve committed to your study abroad program, however if you work hard to create exceptional applications to as many scholarships as you can find that you’re eligible for it’s completely possible that you can get your entire study abroad trip funded through scholarships alone. And if you’re lucky enough to be eligible for study abroad grants? You’re probably pretty solid right there honestly. Worst case scenario you have to take out a loan to cover whatever additional costs you couldn’t cover with financial aid and scholarships, which will likely not be as much money as you’re thinking. According to the Economist in 2014 the average USA student graduates with around $37,000 in debt. If in a few years after you graduate you’re struggling to pay back these loans, do you really think you’ll regret taking just a couple extra hundred or thousand dollars to have the best semester or year of your life or will you be grateful for that time you were able to experience living abroad? Chances are even if you are well off financially you will never have the opportunity to LIVE abroad again. No matter your current financial situation you can study abroad if you work hard and make it happen. There are plenty of ways to find funding for studying abroad and if you want it bad enough you’ll find a way to make it happen.

If you’d like tips for finding scholarship or how to make you applications stand out I shared my tips in my last blog that you can find here.

Mental Health

Going abroad when faced with additional challenges such as depression and anxiety can be intimidating. You wonder if you can handle the jurassic changes that come with living abroad and no longer having your support network with you. Whether that network is friends, family, advisers, a therapist, or an animal, I will admit it’s hard being away from them. However, you should not let your worries that you will miss your support network stop you from studying abroad. This experience will make you stronger, I know it has me. If you’re truly worried there are resources to help you while abroad through FIE. (Even if you don’t go through them though I’m sure most programs will have something in place to help you if needed.)

I attended counseling at my university before going abroad but I didn’t think it would be necessary while abroad so I had no plan or contacts prepared. Sadly less than a month into my time abroad I broke up my boyfriend of over two years because I found out he was cheating while I was away and that put me in a pretty dark place for about a month and a half. Everyone was really supportive and kind. They helped me set up counseling here in London. I was able to attend as often or as little as I wanted (it also didn’t cost anything to do, if that is a concern for you) and when the counselor and I both felt I was starting to do well again I didn’t have to continue anymore. Everyone at FIE shares rooms with 1-3 other people but when I needed space to just be alone and deal with my emotions they gave me one of the few single rooms they keep available for students when they really need them. You can stay in the room for a few days or if you feel you do better there alone they even let me keep the single room. Throughout the whole process it was really obvious that the entire staff just wanted to help make sure I could be healthy and happy during my time in London, which I am really grateful for.

Even the teachers and other students were kind and would ask if I wanted to talk on the really bad days when you could basically see the cloud over my head. I came here not knowing anyone and my darkest days were at the beginning before really getting to know anyone so the warmth I felt from everyone was really helpful and if I ever needed a little extra pick me up I’d go to one of the cat cafes here in London.

My point is don’t let issues like depression or anxiety (or relationship problems for that matter) stop you from studying abroad. This experience is worthwhile and even if these issues do affect you while abroad, there are people you don’t even know yet that do care and will want to help you.

Race

Believe it or not racism is not nearly as present an issue in the UK as it is in the USA. I don’t have to face these issue but many of the students I talk to here at FIE do (sadly) have to take racism into consideration when traveling. I’ve been told that London is a really good place and you don’t have much to worry about even if the majority of the population is white. When traveling abroad to other countries for weekend trips my friends have told me they tend to research the culture there and see if there are any notable prejudices there before going. If there’s anything that makes them nervous about going then they just prefer not to travel alone. Their advice: just be smart and own your skin 🙂

Religion

I don’t think anyone I know has had issues with discrimination over religion while in London, in the Temple U. rooms alone there were Jewish, Christian, Catholics, and Atheists all living together and everyone was able to respect one another’s beliefs.  The real challenge students have noted about being religious abroad is when they have certain practices to follow. For example, numerous of the Temple students here this semester at FIE are Jewish and a big challenge they faced was finding food that was kosher, as not much was carried in the mainstream grocery shops. They found a store that specialized in kosher foods around an hour away by bus. They made the best of the situation by choosing to travel together to do their grocery shopping bi-weekly and making it a fun bonding event rather than a chore to have to go so far. Chances are where ever you study abroad the other students studying abroad will be coming from all sorts of different backgrounds and you can find friends with the same beliefs as you.

Traveling Alone

DO NOT LET THIS STOP YOU. I know it looks like so much fun to travel the world with your best friend, sorority sister, significant other, etc. but that doesn’t mean traveling alone isn’t fun. I came to London knowing NO ONE and even though I became friends with other FIE students 7 out of 10 trips I have taken were taken alone and I had a fantastic time. I’m not a loner, in fact I get lonely really easily and often times I’d rather not do things than do them alone. However I’ve learned traveling alone can be really empowering and fun. In fact I’d even venture to say that traveling alone is better than traveling with someone. Think about it

Perks of traveling with a friend: having someone to take photos of/with you, comfort of someone familiar in an unfamiliar place, and safety in numbers

Perks of traveling alone: you can do literally ANYTHING you want WHENEVER you want (thats right; no arguing about how you want to spend the whole day at the Louvre while they want to spend maybe two hours there then move onto something else you have no interest in),  you can customize your trip to your budget, it helps you gain confidence being able to navigate foreign countries on your own, you are more willing to make new friends while traveling when you don’t already have friends to talk to (I’ve made friends from Scotland, Portugal, Germany, Japan, USA, and Italy during my weekend and spring break travels and I still talk to them), and you get to tell all your friends all about your trip when you get back giving you tons to talk about.

 

I hope some of the insight I gave will help convince you that whatever is holding you back from studying abroad is just an obstacle that with a real burning desire to study abroad you can overcome and have an amazing experience.

Until next time

~ Cas

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One thought on “Why Not? You CAN do it too

  1. Great article! I especially like the part about encouraging students to look beyond their worries or anxieties when contemplating studying abroad. From my own experience, traveling abroad was a very liberating experience and made me a much stronger person. I also liked your candor when discussing some of the challenges you faced emotionally after your break up and how you sought counseling during your studies abroad. It’s so important for students to know that there are resources available to them if they should need them.

    Like

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