Getting Your Travel On
Studying abroad is a huge plus for the college experience. I just returned from an amazing year in Argentina with Adventist Colleges Abroad (ACA), a program that lets you spend a year abroad while you’re still enrolled at Southern. This awesome opportunity brings up many important questions, a few of which I’ll try to answer here.
Should I go?
Yes! Maybe I’m biased because I loved my experience, but I haven’t found anyone who regretted going abroad. If you’re indecisive, take a few simple steps: talk about it with God, your family, your friends, and your academic adviser. Then start doing your research to see how you can fit this into your plans.
Where should I go?
The ACA program offers nine locations, and they’re all amazing. To narrow down your choice, pick which language you want to study and go from there.
If you still can’t decide, talk with students who have already gone. Which program is more challenging? Which gives the most freedom? These are the questions the ACA manual won’t answer.
Think about your personal goals. What’s more important for you, perfect grammar or lots of travel? Where you should go depends on what you want.
When should I go?
Most people go abroad after their freshman year at Southern. I did this, and it worked great. You have a year to adjust to college life, but you haven’t started taking those heavy-duty courses. But it’s important to think about how a year abroad can work best with your program of study.
How will I pay for it?
It depends on how you pay for Southern. If your parents are paying the sticker cost of Southern, or if you get subsidy, then a year abroad will be more affordable! If you rely on scholarships from Southern, the year abroad may end up costing you more.
Southern scholarships won’t cover a year abroad (don’t worry about missing a year; if your scholarship is renewable, you can pick it right back up when you return). Government grants and loans still work, and there are many private scholarships out there.
I’m making it through college on scholarships, so I financed my year abroad with a combination of grants, loans, a little help from my parents, and the Gilman Program scholarship (see links). And start saving now for a personal travel budget!
How do I make this the best year ever?
When you step on the plane, step right out of your comfort zone too. You’re going abroad for a year! It’s supposed to be new, unfamiliar, and scary at times, and that’s what makes it amazing.
Forget you know English. Plunge into your language learning and don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Your friends and teachers know you’re in a process and will be forgiving.
Make friends with the local people! You can meet the other students from the U.S. some other time. Hanging out with the locals is what will turn your theory classes into real-life application.
Have an adventurous attitude. There are plenty of simple, low-budget ways to be adventurous, like ordering food you can’t pronounce or taking a city tour on public transportation. Seize every opportunity. You never want to look back at your year abroad and think, “I wish I would have…”
The Gilman Program Scholarship: http://www.gilmanscholarship.org/
If you have more questions about ACA in Argentina or the Gilman Program, I would be happy to talk with you! My Southern email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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