Planning for my First Study Abroad Trip
When I returned to university to finish my degree, I had a multitude of things that I wanted to gain out of it besides a degree, and I wanted to push myself to experience new things and take advantage of opportunities I did not in my first stint of school. Studying abroad was a major thing I didn’t want to miss out on. I realized that I enjoyed experiencing and exploring new places… but I still hadn’t been out of the United States. When I heard about the IBS seminars and programs at my school, it sounded like a perfect way for me to make that jump.
Planning for an overseas trip had a few resistance points for me. The cost was certainly something that was holding me back at first. I hadn’t spent more than $1,000 on a trip I had done on my own in the States prior to this. I know this was going to be a much bigger investment… and I did have that question of if it would be worth it or not.
My decision making to ultimately go ended up being fairly simple. I’d never been to Asia or even overseas at all, so I couldn’t pass up this opportunity and pass on this kind of experience. I have had some regret in the past over things I never pursued, and especially after talking to friends of mine who regretted not doing a study abroad program, I didn’t want to have that similar feeling. I wanted to build not only on something I enjoyed doing but build upon myself as well with the seminar.
When I knew I wanted to follow through with going I gave myself some extra time to prepare. At the time, I was not used to the flow of my big university. The Winter Southeast Asia program was 9 months away when I decided I wanted to do it. I wasn’t working at the time, and although I still had some money saved from when I was, I looked into any scholarship and financial aid options I could find to help ease the cost burden.
Scholarships are Key
In addition to the scholarships available from IBS, my school (Northern Illinois University) had a plethora of options for scholarships available, and they really helped fund my seminar. I ended up with a few to aid me on the trip! I feel like I could have gotten even more if I pursued a few more of the ones at our school. It’s certainly possible and achievable to cover half or even more of the program costs on scholarships/aid!
Natural Human Doubts
Besides costs, I still had my doubts about the trip and wondered if I would feel like it was worth it in the end. I think anything with some level of money and time investment it is natural to have those thoughts. I wasn’t going to know for sure until I was over there. But I told myself that even if negative experiences happen, they are still valuable to me in some way, and I can learn and better myself from them.
The doubts I did have went away pretty quickly in the first couple of days in Bangkok. It was surprising to me that I was able to feel somewhat comfortable as quickly as I did with how reserved I am at home. Each day had tons of new experiences for me with most being good experiences! When I look back on the program and think about my worries I had before embarking on the trip, I think there really is something valuable to gain for anyone traveling abroad regardless of the type of person you are.
My first time wasn’t so bad
The IBS program helped me immensely on my first adventure out of the States. It was a great way to become more familiar with overseas travel. The guidance we received was very useful, but at the same time, it didn’t feel like we were constantly under supervision – we had a relative amount of freedom. And the length of the program was perfect for me. Not too long but not too short. A great taste of what it’s like, great experiences and opportunities to learn, and great sights to see!
For other students who may be interested in a study abroad program? I think if you have any kind of inkling of wanting to do a study abroad… it’s worth making it a goal and seeking out information as soon as you can! If I didn’t do it early on and give myself a little time, I’m not sure if other things would have got in the way, and perhaps it wouldn’t have happened. But everyone is different. Take advantage of scholarship opportunities also of course. If you are pretty proactive on scholarships you can easily cover a large portion of the program with those scholarships!