All posts by Meaghan Murphy

Meaghan found her passion for travel after a high school trip to Italy and Greece; since then she’s studied abroad in New Zealand for a semester, has worked abroad in Scotland for 3 months, and has visited Australia, England, and Canada. After graduating from Wheaton College in Massachusetts, Meaghan completed her Master’s Degree in International education from SIT Graduate Institute in Brattleboro, VT. She currently works at University of Hartford in the International Programs Office and really enjoys speaking with students interested in traveling abroad.
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3 Ways You Never Considered Going Abroad (But should!)

(Photo by: www.searchjobsabroad.com)

Andrea’s note: On July 9th, Meaghan put her study abroad advisor hat on and shared with us the Ins and Outs of Choosing a Study Abroad Program. What you might not have known is that studying isn’t the only way you can go abroad during college. Check out these 3 ways you never considered going abroad but totally should- by Meaghan Murphy.

Internships Abroad – Working overseas for a short period of time with the goal being hands on work experience, training, and networking rather than making a salary. By interning abroad, you can test out a new interest or determine whether a certain profession is the best career choice for you

Teach Abroad – You spend a chunk of time overseas working with the local population and teaching them about your own culture and language. The countries vary as does the age of the population you work with, what’s included within your program and what type of salary you would get from teaching overseas

Volunteer Abroad – Basically what it says – you’re spending some time abroad volunteering with local projects. Often you pay a provider to connect you with a local group and you fly over and work with that particular group on a project. Countries, projects, prices, and time commitment vary by provider or organization

Miss America Building

(Volunteering abroad is a great opportunity. Photo by: www.examiner.com)

Now for my suggestions:

There are a ton of resources available to you. My first suggestion is to sit down and ask yourself exactly what you want out of a program; here are a few ideas of which questions to consider:

  • How long do you want to be away? (A few weeks, few months, as long as possible?)
  • Which part of the world do you want to be in? (Close to the USA? Somewhere that doesn’t speak English? A traditional hot spot like the UK or Spain or Italy?)
  • Do you want to take classes with other Americans or with local students?
  • What do you want included in the program – housing, field trips, meals?

 

Next, speak with someone who can help you narrow down your options.

Academic Advising

(Talking to your advisor is a great start! Photo by: www.collegemagazine.com)

  • The majority of colleges and universities in the US will have someone who can advise on study abroad options.
  • Visit your study abroad or stop by the study abroad fair and speak with any of the numerous representatives.
  • If that doesn’t work, there are a couple of websites that can help narrow down the options. Those sites are goabroad.com, ratemystudyabroad.com, Abroad101.com.
  • Speak with your friends and classmates – odds are at least one of them has studied abroad and they can help point you in the right direction
  • Ask your faculty advisors if they have any recommendations on programs to fit your major or your interests

It’s never too early to start planning, so start thinking about it now and start looking at the options available to you!

  

Meaghan Murphy

Meaghan found her passion for travel after a high school trip to Italy and Greece; since then she’s studied abroad in New Zealand for a semester, has worked abroad in Scotland for 3 months, and has visited Australia, England, and Canada. After graduating from Wheaton College in Massachusetts, Meaghan completed her Master’s Degree in International education from SIT Graduate Institute in Brattleboro, VT. She currently works at University of Hartford in the International Programs Office and really enjoys speaking with students interested in traveling abroad.

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Studying Abroad – The Ins and Outs of Choosing a Program

(photo by: www.supergamedroid.com)

Choosing a program can be a bit like selecting a college; there are way too many options to choose from and the process can feel incredibly overwhelming at times. Never fear, here’s a quick guide to the different options available to you, some of the pros and cons associated with them, and some topics to consider when selecting your program.

Program Lengths:

Option 1: Semester or Academic Year

These programs are exactly what they sound like – you study abroad for either a semester or a full academic year. Some students even choose to study in two separate locations for the academic year and spend the first semester in one country before moving on to a different country for the second semester.

Pros: more time abroad = more time to learn about the culture; can usually use financial aid to pay for a portion (if not the entire cost) of the program; easier to find classes that fit your major or requirements; more time to travel on your own (weekends, day trips)

Cons: you miss a whole semester back home (clubs, activities, etc.); can end up spending quite a bit of money on extracurricular travel; if you choose a program that doesn’t offer your courses, you may be behind a semester or term

 

Option 2: Summer or J-Term

These programs are considerably shorter than the semester or academic year options. Many summer programs will run for anywhere between 3 and 10 weeks, and January programs tend to be just a few weeks over the winter holiday.

Pros: shorter travel times means you are not away from home as long; easy to find electives so you could take a couple of general elective classes rather than major courses; can be more affordable overall; more traveling/multi-country programs tend to be available during the shorter time periods; good for those with limited travel experience

Cons: many international students do not take summer classes, so there’s less of a chance to meet local students; many students are unable to take financial aid on summer programs so costs would be out of pocket; limited opportunity to explore the country and become acquainted with the local language and culture

 iStock_000017906987Small(Which program type will you choose? Photo by: michaelhyatt.com)

 

Types of Schools/Programs:

Option 1: Direct Enroll

These study abroad programs allow students to enroll directly within the overseas university, meaning that you will live with local and other international students and take classes with those same students. These programs tend to be for students who are on the more independent side and are more open to learning about the local culture rather than sticking with the Americans. Since you interact daily with the locals, you will pick up the local traditions and lingo and will be sure to make friends from many different cultures

Pros: more independent; more chances to mingle with the locals; more variety of class topics not found in an American school; often more affordable than other options

Cons: need to be proficient in the local language; immersion in the local culture can be challenging and requires a high level of student maturity and flexibility

 

Option 2: American Centers/Island Programs

These programs tend to be heavily American in the sense that many of these centers are schools established just for American students or are satellite campuses of U.S. schools. Often because the schools are more American, you are more able to find classes to fit your majors and transferring credits back home may be easier

Pros: live and study with other Americans; the language of the program is usually English;

Cons: not a lot of opportunity to interact with the locals and learn about local customs or language

 

Option 3: Faculty-Led and Traveling Programs

Traveling programs are options that allow you to visit multiple locations on one program. These can take the form of programs like Semester at Sea (which allows students to spend the semester traveling the globe by ship and docking at ports for several days at a time) or faculty-led programs where students travel for a small amount of time (anywhere from 1 week to several months) with a faculty member from the home school.

Pros: good for those with a rigorous course load; can be more affordable; you get to see more sites on a traveling program

Cons: you might feel overwhelmed or rushed due to the often busy schedule; little time to adjust to traveling; less of a chance to really learn about the locations you’re traveling to and to learn the local language and customs

 

Option 4: Study Abroad Providers

These programs are organized by a company versus your school. They are usually some combination of a direct enroll program or an American school/island program. Often providers will put together a package for you that can include housing, tuition and fees, excursions, possibly meals, insurance, among other items, that may not be available with a direct exchange or direct enroll program.

Pros: more support during the process and on the ground; offers students some type of program package; you meet students from all over the U.S. who are on the same program as you

Cons: can be more expensive than your school tuition and other program options; there are a ton of providers – make sure to research the company and programs before selecting one

 

Option 5: Exchange Programs

With these programs, students exchange places with a student from overseas; for example you would go to the University of Auckland in New Zealand for a semester, and one New Zealand student would spend the semester at your home university.

Pros: your school already has a partnership set up with the overseas school; because of this established relationship, it can be easier to find classes and transfer credits back home; you might be able to find more upper level classes in your major; huge level of cultural immersion; cost of the program is usually very similar (or the same as) the home school tuition and fees

Cons: sometimes very competitive to get into; language of instruction may not be English

 

 

  

Meaghan Murphy

Meaghan found her passion for travel after a high school trip to Italy and Greece; since then she’s studied abroad in New Zealand for a semester, has worked abroad in Scotland for 3 months, and has visited Australia, England, and Canada. After graduating from Wheaton College in Massachusetts, Meaghan completed her Master’s Degree in International education from SIT Graduate Institute in Brattleboro, VT. She currently works at University of Hartford in the International Programs Office and really enjoys speaking with students interested in traveling abroad.

Studying abroad for wrong reasons – A response

Two weeks ago, I read Andrea’s post on 3 signs you’re studying abroad for the wrong reasons. This article immediately caught my eye, especially the content. As a former study abroad student and current study abroad counselor, I wanted to add to this conversation. I really do think Andrea is on the right path with the Twenty in Paris blog, but this article seemed to dissuade more than help students interested in studying abroad. I reached out to Andrea regarding a chance to voice my response to her article. Here it is!

Studying abroad can be the best experience of your life.  With proper planning and consideration, you can study or intern abroad and still graduate on time, not break the bank, and have fun!

1. I studied abroad in New Zealand during my junior year and took 3 electives and 1 course for my minor, and I have to say that was the best thing I could’ve done.  I was able to explore topics that I just didn’t have at my school and courses that allowed me to learn more about the local culture that I was living in for 4.5 months.  With proper planning, students can afford to take classes overseas that don’t pertain to their major as long as they begin the process early and figure out which classes they can take overseas and which ones they can’t.  I have friends that studied abroad 2, 3, and even 4 times abroad and STILL managed to graduate on time.

 graduation

(photo by: ccsf.edu)

2. Many students choose to go overseas because they want to travel; studying abroad is often the first step to greater cultural understanding and breaking down their own ethnocentric feelings.  As long as students are aware of the financial costs, they should not be discouraged from traveling while studying overseas.  They are always learning about different cultures and different ways of life whether they’re travel to a different country or just a different city within their host location.

There are definitely ways to cut costs – make friends with local classmates and stay at their houses, live in hostels, rent a car or take public transportation, sign up for discounts with airlines or hotels/hostels and look for deals.  I met a wonderful Kiwi girl when I studied abroad and she took me and a group of friends with her to her beach house.  I also had the chance to stay with a Kiwi family for Mother’s Day, an awesome cultural experience in itself even though I was an hour outside of Auckland where I was living.  My friends and I probably only spent about 4 or 5 weekends in Auckland throughout the entire 4.5 months and I still only spent about $1,000 a month (on food and travel) because we created a budget and actually stuck to it.  In addition, the majority of a student’s time may not be spent in the classroom – depends on where you study and the luck of the draw with classes.  I had friends who only had classes on Thursdays, and some friends that had 3 or 4 day weekends because of their class schedule.

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(photo by: postgradproblems.com)

3. Students should be making the most of their 20s!!  This is the time to think about finances but not be tied down by them.  They have the rest of their lives to worry about saving for retirement, and a good job, etc.  And since such a small number of U.S. college students actually manage to study or intern abroad during their college years (only about 9% according to IIE’s Open Doors 2013 Report), traveling overseas can actually help them get a job after they graduate and they are getting more life skills by seeing the world at such a relatively young age – I’ve met employers who have stated they will only hire grads if they’ve spent time abroad (and not just in the study abroad field, but other job areas as well).  There are countries around the world that promote travel and their citizens are more well-rounded and culturally aware because of it.

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(photo by: elitedaily.com)

Regarding saving up for a month-long vacation or summer abroad – realistically, when are students going to have a job where their boss lets them take off for a month, and summers abroad can be more expensive in the long run.  With semester abroad, students can use financial aid and some schools pay for flights over to the country (as mine did and some providers do) so students really only need to worry about meals and personal expenses while studying abroad, and if you had travel on breaks, they still won’t necessarily be spending as much out of pocket for a semester with some extracurricular travel than they would for a summer or vacation where they are paying for everything out of pocket.

And for foreign language skills, students are going to get more skills by living abroad during a semester than they will by traveling for a month – as long as they are traveling to a place where English isn’t as prevalent.  Any place they go to for vacation is most likely going to have English as a popular if not preferred language option.

In conclusion, studying abroad is possible for student regardless of finances and major – you just need to plan ahead and be motivated enough!

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Meaghan Murphy

Meaghan found her passion for travel after a high school trip to Italy and Greece; since then she’s studied abroad in New Zealand for a semester, has worked abroad in Scotland for 3 months, and has visited Australia, England, and Canada. After graduating from Wheaton College in Massachusetts, Meaghan completed her Master’s Degree in International education from SIT Graduate Institute in Brattleboro, VT. She currently works at University of Hartford in the International Programs Office and really enjoys speaking with students interested in traveling abroad.