Thursday, October 11, 2012

Pre-Study Abroad: Tips for Success

Ciao tutti!
This year, I am doing my work study in the Office of Study Abroad as one of two students working with Peggy Imai, the director of Study Abroad.  Peggy only picks study abroad returnees for these positions since they are often able to help her with students who plan to go abroad sometime during their college careers.  I love my job, not only because it gives me a free excuse to chat about my experiences abroad (and get paid for it, no less), but it also allows me to help and bond with other students who want to study abroad.  Studying abroad is a GREAT opportunity if it fits into a student's graduation plan, and I would encourage anyone who can do it to definitely do it.  What other chance will you get to completely immerse yourself in a different culture for an extended period of time and not only get to personally experience the culture, but academically experience it as well? It's the opportunity of a lifetime, and I personally don't think that anyone should pass it up.

Most recently, there have been a lot of students coming into the office in Klein to start weighing options for future study abroad opportunities.  Many of them I know from having classes together or through mutual friends, so it's really great to hear what they would like to do and where they might like to go.  The process beforehand of choosing where to go and which program best fits your graduation plan can be a bit overwhelming, so here are some tips as to how to handle it best:

1. Start exploring on the Saint Michael's website. 
If you visit the Saint Michael's website on the study abroad page, you can learn more about studying abroad and view specific programs in different countries.  This is a good way to start looking at your options, especially if you do not really know what you might want to do or where you want to go. This will also give you more of an idea of specific courses you might want to take while abroad.

2. Plan a meeting with Peggy Imai.
If you are really lost, or would just like to know more options for a country you are targeting, you can schedule a meeting with Peggy through her online appointment book.  Peggy can suggest different programs that might work best for the focus of your studies and provide you with catalogues and other information that may be useful in your research.  This way, you can also pick up an application for when you do figure everything out.

3. Meet with your advisor. 
Schedule a meeting with your advisor to help figure out your graduation plan and see if studying abroad fits in. Your advisor might also be able to recommend programs students have done in the past that will work well for your program.

4. Speak to visiting study abroad programs. 
Throughout the semester, representatives from specific programs come to campus and table in Alliot.  If you are interested in learning more about that program or curious as to what it offers, it may be in your best interest to visit these representatives' tables.  They're here to help you, and they give out cool pens and stuff (which is always a plus)! Also, there are sometimes former study abroad students from the school who table with these representatives, so you can hear directly from them about the pros and cons of their programs.  Look out for posters around campus and emails as to when these program representatives will be visiting.  There is also a study abroad program fair at least once per semester in Alliot.

5. Speak with students who have been abroad. 
Students, even though they may be biased about their specific programs, can give you one of the most honest descriptions of what they liked and did not like about their programs. They are usually really excited to talk about their programs too, so go ahead and pick their brains! (I'm always willing to talk about study abroad since it's a new person who has not heard any of my stories, and I LOVE talking about Italy!)  Also, if your parents need persuading, students who have already been abroad may be good people to have them chat with to set them at ease (or even the parents of these students).

If you have any questions about my life as a Saint Michael's student or would like me to write a blog post about something specific to student life here, do not hesitate to contact me via email (emurray@mail.smcvt.edu), Tweet me (LittleLizzie33) or ask me a question on formspring (lizmurray3).

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