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Alexa’s Study Abroad Journal: The Dean Visit

By: Alexa Wybraniec

I can’t believe it’s 70 degrees and Christmas in two days! Anyway, I kept another study abroad prep appointment- go me! I go to Rutgers at the New Brunswick campus in NJ, where everything is made up and credits don’t matter (because if you aren’t fulfilling your core requirements, you’re truly wasting your time). I don’t have an academic adviser because I’m in the School of Arts and Sciences (SAS) and I suppose there are just too many of us. At freshman orientation, the happy-go-lucky orientation leaders comforted us into thinking that “you’re never far away from friendly, knowledgeable advice from an academic dean or staff member!”

That’s partly true but what I’ve learned in my first year and a half of college is that life is about networking. You need to make real, human connections with your peers and professors. Rutgers encourages SAS students to make an appointment with a dean every semester to ensure that you’re not going to get screwed with a graduation setback or something. I actually scheduled my dean advising appointment for the same day as my French final exam. My head was filled with the differences between le passé composé, l’imparfait, et le plus-que-parfait when I met with Dean Anderson. It was nothing like my meeting with Lauren from last week, to say the least.

The deans are helpful but are straight-to-the-point, no-nonsense types of people. They are mostly there to tell you if you’re finishing your core requirements in a timely manner – they’re not experts on your individual areas of study. I was seated in the opposite corner of the room, so I couldn’t see what was on her computer screen. I spent about thirty seconds describing my plans to study abroad in Paris when she immediately informed me of something I completely overlooked. I never officially declared French as my minor!

To study abroad in Paris, students are not required to major or minor in French. In fact, it’s not even a requirement to take classes in French for SciencesPo, the school at which I’ll be studying. For my first semester at SciencesPo, I’ve decided to take my course-load in English with a mandatory French grammar course to keep up on learning the language. I don’t feel ready to take on culture shock AND language shock just yet. Hopefully by the spring semester, I’ll be better acclimated to France and ready to challenge myself in French.

Even though a French minor isn’t a requirement to study in Paris and the classes I’ll be taking may not help me toward graduating as a Journalism student, studying abroad has always been at the top of my to-do list. I knew I’d get an amazing opportunity to live in Europe at a price I’ll never see again in my life. Plus, there’s no better way to learn a language than immersion. I felt it when I stayed in Morocco for a week, and I felt it again in Montreal. There’s an inexplicable desire to speak French, to somehow communicate smoothly and slyly with natives, when you’re surrounded by what you so desperately want to understand. No classroom has ever made me feel the buzz that I had in my head when I was walking through Rabat’s medina. No language professor has ever prepared me to haggle for a Moroccan teapot.

For the rest of the visit, Dean Anderson spoke in a rush. In one breath, she informed me that I could easily declare my minor on one of the computers in the first-floor office. After calculating my courses and credits, she told me that I’d been “expeditious” in my choices and only had three more requirements to fulfill in the SAS Core. She informed me, as Lauren had, that she could not help me discern whether my SciencesPo credits would count toward my major/minor or not.

She did, however, tell me about the “Study Abroad Proposal Form” which I will need to take to each individual department for review. In my case, that means making appointments with the Journalism and French departments. Thankfully, I have a contact for the French department, courtesy of Lauren. Basically, I’ll need to create a theoretical schedule based on the SciencesPo courses offered per semester, and then ask the departments to count those credits toward my major/minor.

She concluded by telling me, to all of my joy and excitement, that yes, I will be able to graduate on time in 2016 as long as I continue to take winter and summer courses that count toward the rest of my core requirements. I also still need to make appointments with those departments which I’ll totally do. Oh, and now I’m officially minoring in French. Bam.

About the author:

Alexa Wybraniec is a journalism major at Rutgers University. She is going to be studying abroad in Paris at Sciences- Po for a year starting in the fall semester of 2014. Check back every Monday for a new post from Alexa. You can connect with her via her Facebook Page.




Alexa’s Study Abroad Journal: The Beginning

BY: Alexa Wybraniec

(photo courtesy of the meaningoflife.me)

How not to begin:

The morning my study abroad adviser was expecting to meet me, I slept in. I don’t recommend this method (post-nasal drip was holding me hostage, I tell you).

My bad beginning brings me to my hypocritical first pointer – put yourself out of your comfort zone. I tell you this as I lazily type in a steamy Starbucks in a sleepy suburban town. But it’s true – a head-cold needs to fall somewhere between broken nail and a hole in your pocket on your hierarchy of needs. Especially when you’re abroad.

I rescheduled for the following week.

How to begin:

The morning my study abroad adviser was expecting to meet me, I flew out of bed, ran five miles, showered, dressed. I then trudged through New Brunswick, (NJ) littered with melting snow, and found the place, 102 College Ave. I thereby completed the hardest part of any journey – the beginning.

Lauren, my study abroad adviser, sent me an email a few days prior, which concluded with oodles of exclamation points. I thought, oh no. We’re going to be terribly great friends.

“I want to go to Paris!” was how I introduced myself, beyond ready to assault poor Lauren with rounds of questions.

Unfortunately, she didn’t immediately book my private jet destined for Paris.

She did, however, patiently placate my excitement and answer every single thing I asked her. I mean, I guess that’s her job, but there’s something really nice and warm about feeling 100% informed. I definitely recommend showing up for any meeting with a list of unique, prepared questions (there’s a journalist in me yet!), but you can steal some of mine.

After I exhausted all my fun questions (all work and no play makes Jack…), I asked my serious ones:

“Will I meet the group before we leave?”

“Do you think I’ll graduate on time if I do this?”

“Am I crazy for wanting to move to Paris for an entire year?”

“Is the program federally recognized (so I can use my student loans and scholarships)?”

“Are certain schools or countries better for someone like me, majoring in Journalism?”

“Speaking of, should I double-major in French?”

Honestly, I knew the answers to some of these questions already – in my spare time, I scour Rutgers’ study abroad sites (and yes, in true RU fashion, there are multiple), I set my phone’s and Facebook account’s language to French, and I spend many a weeknight with a glass of wine and DuoLingo.com.

I proceeded to regale Lauren with my limited, tourist-y knowledge of Rabat, Morocco and Montreal, Canada, the only two francophone cities I have under my belt. I also informed her that I pursued not only the required two, but four professors to write my letters of recommendation. Plus, I’d finished my personal statement and accompanying questionnaire. In fact, I completed my application entirely! I’m not sure who I was trying to impress, but what I’m saying is – don’t do this.

Your study abroad adviser doesn’t care how prepared you think you are. Don’t get me wrong, it’s important to get a dialogue started about your interests and past experiences. In fact, I’d recommend meeting your adviser with the intention of being great friends. When I walked in, I knew that Lauren was about to be my number one resource for everything Rutgers/study abroad related.

But one thing should be understood – in reality, no one’s prepared to step off an airplane in a foreign country and feel comfortable right away. That takes time, effort, and immersion. Lauren humbled me upfront, unleashing her rounds of questions.

“Have you made an appointment with an SAS dean?”

“How about a French adviser?”

“How about a Journalism adviser?”

“Have you looked into the Journalism Program that SciencesPo-Paris offers in the spring?”

“How about the available study abroad scholarships?”

“How about the housing situation (hint: you’re on your own – no dorms available)?”


I seem to have some phone calls to make. Stay tuned, mes amis!


About the author:

Alexa Wybraniec is a journalism major at Rutgers University. She is going to be studying abroad in Paris at Sciences- Po for a year starting in the fall semester of 2014. Check back every Monday for a new post from Alexa. You can connect with her via her Facebook Page.


Picture Perfect: Study Abroad Mementos

By: Andrea Bouchaud

(photo of Andrea with her camera)

Photos are an important part of every trip.  They help us to remember our experience and all the great things we did and places we saw. They also help to capture our spirit, our candidness, our subtleties, and our distinctiveness.  Pictures are the one memento that everyone can easily admire and identify with. Pictures will touch hearts and make people want to connect and share their travel stories. No other study abroad memento will have that effect. Now that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t save all the acceptance letters, metro passes, immigration letters and the sort from your time abroad. You absolutely should! I’m just saying they’re not the same. When I was in Paris, I did not take many pictures. At that time in my life, I wasn’t really into photography and having a really small camera probably didn’t help my disinterest.  I wanted to experience Paris- not take pictures of it. Although this is a good attitude to have, it is also a limiting one. Looking back seven years later, I wish that I had taken more pictures of Paris in all sorts of interesting and beautiful compositions. Have fun with your photos. Take what I call “the normal photos” meaning the image is recognizable, you are a good distance from it and it is presented in a fashion that would be deemed standard. After that “normal” photo is taken, go crazy. Get unique angles; play with the focus; don’t be afraid to lie on the ground, stand on a bench or do whatever you have to do to get that special shot. This is the time to capture your experience and make a memory. Trust me, you will regret it if you don’t have many awesome pictures of your time studying abroad.



Gifts to ask for Christmas When Going to Study Abroad

By: Andrea Bouchaud

(photo by: www.hdwallpaperstop.com)

Christmas is a great time to ask for practical gifts that will help you travel and live abroad easier. Maximize this holiday to help you better prepare for this upcoming experience by asking for gifts that will help you abroad. Let’s take a look at gifts to ask for from Santa if you’re studying abroad in the spring semester.

  • New, Sturdy Luggage and Luggage Tags. Studying abroad entails lots of traveling. Make sure that your items are secure and protected in a new, sturdy suitcase that can also expand (for souvenirs and new clothes you’ll buy abroad). In addition to new luggage, don’t forget about luggage tags. You want to make sure that you can easily identify your suitcase or get it back in case of a mix-up at the airport.
  • Passport Necklace to keep all important documents. When studying abroad, your going to need to bring important, personal documents with you such as a passport, driver’s license, birth certificate, and credit cards. The safest place for these documents is on your person at all times, under your shirt. Europe is famous for pick pocketing which makes wallets and purses not very safe for holding important information. Safeguard your most valuable information by asking for a passport necklace to wear.
  • Adapter for Cell Phone and Lap top chargers. Each country has a different electrical current system than the United States. If you plan on bringing your American cell phone and lap top than an adapter will be needed to charge these items abroad. It’s important that the electrical adapter is bought in the United States as they are not easily found abroad.
  • E-book Twenty in Paris by: Andrea Bouchaud. You’re excited and ready to study abroad but how much do you know about the actual experience that lies ahead? Andrea Bouchaud is a former student who studied abroad for a year in Paris. In this book, she details the transition process and college experience abroad by showing students her mistakes and how to avoid them for the most successful and stress free experience. Be better prepared for the study abroad experience by purchasing this e-book on Amazon at http://amzn.to/GStCJM.
  • Reusable Grocery Bags. While living abroad, you’ll do your own grocery shopping. Many countries are shying away from using plastic bags at the grocery store. Be prepared for food shopping at the same time as being eco-friendly and ask for reusable grocery bags. Also come in handy for other purchases and carting laundry to the Laundromat.
  • Rain Boots and Umbrella. Are you studying abroad in Europe or Asia? If so, you’ll need rain boots and an umbrella. These continents are prone to rain and being unprepared for heavy rains can really dampen the experience. Stay dry and be prepared for the wet weather abroad by requesting rain boots and an umbrella.
  • Expandable Hamper and Hangers. No matter what living arrangement you chose for studying abroad, it will not come with hampers and hangers. Having an expandable hamper and hangers in advance saves you the hassle of having to buy these items your first few days abroad. In addition, you will also save space by having the expandable hamper and will be able to make yourself at home quicker by hanging your clothes up in the closet.

These are some general gift ideas that are practical for every student and every country but if you have something in particular that will help you while studying abroad, don’t forget to add that item to the list too.  Just make sure that your family gets this list as soon as possible. Joyeux noel et bonne chance!