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### Enhancing My Global Perspective: A Reflection on Studying Abroad

The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not represent the opinions of Her Campus.

The writer of this article is a student contributor from the Her Campus chapter at the University of Florida.

Opting to study abroad stands out as one of the most rewarding choices I’ve ever made. Now, before you assume this will be a mere recollection of delectable cuisines savored or intriguing acquaintances made, rest assured, my aim is to offer a candid account of my journey—encompassing the expenses, practicalities, stresses, and all the other aspects that typically pique one’s curiosity upon witnessing a plethora of European adventures unfold on social media timelines. While I may inevitably touch upon some extraordinary moments from my time overseas, my primary goal is to render the experience more authentic and accessible, particularly for students who may deem it beyond their reach. I aspire for readers to emerge from this narrative not exasperated but empowered, inspired to embark on their own study abroad odyssey:

Contemplating a study abroad venture, but where to commence and when?

If you find yourself pondering this question, know that I once stood in your shoes. Being devoid of acquaintances who had embarked on a study abroad journey, I found myself navigating uncharted waters, striving to piece together the puzzle. From my perspective, the initial step entails determining the timing of your venture. Depending on your academic major and career aspirations, the feasibility of studying abroad during the summer or your senior spring may vary. It is imperative to make this decision as early as possible if studying abroad holds any appeal to you. Speaking from the lens of a pre-med student, the constraints posed by many medical schools not recognizing prerequisites from international institutions often make it challenging to pursue studies abroad during the fall or spring semesters. Hence, I opted for a summer sojourn. Furthermore, foreseeing a potential need to prepare for the MCAT or sustain my engagement in extracurricular pursuits later in college, I elected to study abroad post my sophomore year. There exists no definitive answer. Refrain from allowing others’ experiences to sway your decision; instead, choose the path that aligns best with your aspirations and trajectory.

I urge you to finalize the timing of your expedition early on to broaden your array of destination choices. Summer programs commence admissions as early as August preceding the trip. Given that many programs follow a rolling admission process, commencing your search early holds paramount importance. However, exercise caution against hastily selecting a program solely out of fear of it reaching capacity. While prompt action is advisable, exercise diligence in evaluating and selecting a program. Personally, I bombarded my program advisor with approximately 20 emails, seeking clarifications on various fronts. This proactive approach not only facilitated a confident deposit payment but also ensured a seamless experience during the trip. It’s worth noting that although programs commence opening in August, not all may be accessible at that juncture. Should you not find a suitable option initially, exercise patience and monitor the updates on the UF International Center (UFIC) website.

Upon identifying a program or two that captivate your interest, it is imperative to make the ultimate decision autonomously. Refrain from committing to a $5,000+ expedition merely for the optics it may present on your medical school application or social media. Opt for a program that genuinely intrigues you, in a locale that resonates as a dream destination. Moreover, you needn’t confine yourself strictly to your academic or career pursuits. Any overseas venture, irrespective of alignment with your major, confers personal and professional growth. I’ve encountered numerous pre-med peers who ventured beyond their disciplinary realms, opting for a business school program in a desired location. I implore you not to subject yourself to discontent by selecting a program to appease others.

Enthralled by a program but daunted by the financial implications—how to navigate this?

This pertinent query often remains shrouded in silence. My own three-week European escapade incurred expenses totaling roughly $6,000. If self-funding or familial support suffices, then that’s commendable—a significant burden alleviated! Conversely, if financial constraints loom large, fret not, for avenues to finance your study abroad stint abound. Another reason for expeditiously determining your program lies in the opportunity it affords to commence scholarship applications promptly. The UFIC offers an array of scholarships accessible via a unified application. This process entails drafting essays and securing a letter of recommendation, underscoring the need for early strategizing. However, bear in mind that while these scholarships defray a portion of your expenses, alternative means may be necessary to bridge the remaining gap. Permit me to share my personal approach. Recognizing the profound significance of studying abroad—a long-cherished aspiration predating my college tenure—I harbored unwavering conviction in securing a modest loan to underwrite the costs, given my inability to independently finance the trip. Viewing this as a worthwhile investment, unlikely to evoke regret down the line, I proceeded with the loan. Moreover, with medical school on the horizon—entailing its own financial commitments—I harbored minimal trepidation in shouldering this additional financial burden. This loan predominantly funded my expedition.

Mindful spending characterized my overseas experience. Navigating some of the world’s most expensive nations, I consciously indulged in culturally enriching experiences while exercising restraint in less compelling areas. Prioritize your expenditures judiciously, outlining a tentative budget delineating essential and discretionary outlays. While individual priorities vary, entering the sojourn armed with a financial blueprint is indispensable. While my observations pertain solely to my trip, I was fortunate to traverse alongside considerate companions. Respectful of each other’s choices, the cohort fostered an environment devoid of coercive spending pressures. While group dynamics may fluctuate, fostering an environment conducive to individual autonomy is crucial.

Delving into the dynamics of these excursions—how structured are they, and to what extent do independence and academia feature?

The structure of each trip exhibits nuances. The program I enrolled in prioritized experiential learning over conventional classroom instruction. Characterized by frequent transitions between cities, our itinerary bore both boons and banes. These logistical intricacies, among others, warrant meticulous scrutiny during Q&A sessions or interactions with program directors, for they wield the power to significantly shape your experience. My journey entailed relocating to a new city every 2-4 days—a whirlwind experience affording glimpses into diverse locales, cultures, and communities. While enriching, this pace occasionally rendered days arduous. Furthermore, our days did not entail conventional classroom settings; instead, we frequented museums, universities, research facilities, and organizations. Personally, I relished this structure, fostering direct interactions with professionals and affording firsthand exposure to renowned institutions and cutting-edge technologies. Ultimately, the choice hinges on your objectives for the expedition.

The logistics of transit to and from the destination also vary. Once again, I found myself amidst an amiable cohort, facilitating coordinated flight arrangements. Traveling as a collective to our initial destination and back to the US, we adhered to group travel norms, refraining from independent excursions sans approval. However, if apprehensive about solo travel, rest assured—at least in Europe—venturing independently poses minimal concerns. Post my program’s culmination, I embarked on a solo week-long escapade, encompassing an 8-hour nocturnal bus ride, a 3-hour train journey, and solitary explorations of major cities. While exercising vigilance and avoiding nocturnal outings, I never felt unsafe or uneasy. Studying abroad and navigating foreign terrains solo confer a uniquely exhilarating experience. Reflecting on my journey, some of the fondest memories were woven during solitary sojourns. Such experiences cultivate cultural acumen, fostering interactions with linguistically diverse individuals and navigating foreign transit systems. Solo or group travel, when undertaken with an open mind, augments interpersonal skills—a facet that transcends mere resume embellishments. Studying abroad, though not a mere checkbox, invariably sets you apart from peers owing to the distinctive competencies and cultural fluency nurtured during your overseas stint.

Undoubtedly, studying abroad stands as the pinnacle of my collegiate journey. The summer spent away from familiar academic environs, exploring uncharted territories and forging enduring bonds, remains an indelible chapter. Understandably, those incessantly recounting their overseas escapades evoke no disdain from me. The transformative potential of such an experience is unparalleled. Having never ventured beyond borders prior to this sojourn, the leap of faith was monumental. Apprehensions loomed large—be it financial concerns, social integration, personal safety, or the perceived disruption to my medical school trajectory. Yet, despite these qualms and uncertainties, embarking on the journey proved to be a life-altering decision. I implore you to seize the same leap of faith!