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Taking Advantage of New Opportunities After a Semester Abroad

by Darci Miller

So you’re back from your semester abroad and you’re pumped to jump right back into your American life. Of course, you’d rather be gallivanting across Europe like you’ve been doing for the past few months but thinking about returning to your old activities makes you inexplicably happy...until you find that school is as different a place as you are a person.

Unfortunately, time didn’t stop and wait for you to return stateside. Your five months away changed you as much as it changed the place you’re returning to. Suddenly, your previous leadership positions are no longer available and you’re facing a bit of a crisis.

First of all, don’t panic! If you’re worried about what this gap in your resume will look like to an employer, don’t. The fact that you studied abroad has the potential to look just as valuable as any job experience. If marketed correctly, it can display your growth as a person, exposure to new cultures and whatever new skills you may have picked up.

While falling right back into your old routine might’ve been nice, life is always changing and this situation is no different. Now’s the time to reprioritize...and take advantage! I myself lost my editorial position on the school newspaper – kind of unfortunate, yes, but this gives me the chance to go back to being a writer and take on more responsibilities elsewhere. New internships, anyone?

This is, I think, the key: Don’t look at it as a loss but rather as the universe giving you a reminder that a trip abroad isn’t the only way to explore new things. It’s okay to miss your old job just like it’s okay to miss your old haunts and routines from your semester abroad. But if you look at this as an opportunity, it could bring tons of good things your way.

Darci Miller is a New Yorker studying journalism and sport administration at the University of Miami. When she’s not writing for the school newspaper, you can find her at the gym, either working or working out. She loves all ‘80s pop culture (the cheesier, the better!) and glues herself to her TV when the Olympics are on. She dreams big and believes the sky’s the limit.


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MythBusters: The Study Abroad Edition

by Darci Miller

Hello from the beautiful city of London! I’ve been here for a month and if I’ve learned anything, it’s that the study abroad experience is just as wonderful as everyone says it is. It’s also given me the chance to put some study abroad myths to the test.

Myth #1: Study abroad is 90% partying, 10% studying. This certainly depends on what kind of student you normally are and what kind of lifestyle you lead at your home university. Europeans do go out more than Americans but “going out” often means drinking a pint with some friends at the local pub and not necessarily getting all dolled up and going clubbing. And once assignment deadlines start looming, you are going to have to hit the books.

Myth #2: It’s too much money. It’s very easy to study abroad in a financially responsible way. If you go through a program hosted by your home university, any financial aid you have will (or should) transfer. After that, it’s all a matter of using your money in a smart way. Also, check online and with your study abroad office to see if there are study abroad-specific scholarships you can apply for. I got $4,500 from Miami’s study abroad office and it’ll be funding all of my travels and then some!

Myth #3: It’s dangerous and/or scary. It’s drilled into our heads before we leave that pickpocketing is a big threat in Europe but as long as you’re smart about your belongings, international cities are no more dangerous than cities in America. And living in a new country is certainly a jarringly different experience but it’ll only change you for the better.

Myth #4: Europeans all dress a certain way and you need to fit in. Everyone in London looks like they’ve stepped out of a fashion magazine – well-dressed and attractive – so if I wear a Miami t-shirt to class, I stick out like a sore thumb. It’s ok, though: Regardless of how you dress, people will know you’re American as soon as you open your mouth.

Myth #5: You’ll have more free time than you know what to do with. I’m taking four classes and each is two hours per week with Tuesdays and Fridays off. I’ve become a champion napper but I’ve also done a ton of exploring. You’re abroad for a short time – don’t waste it!

Darci Miller is a New Yorker studying journalism and sport administration at the University of Miami. When she’s not writing for the school newspaper, you can find her at the gym, either working or working out. She loves all ‘80s pop culture (the cheesier the better!), and glues herself to her TV when the Olympics are on. She dreams big, and believes the sky’s the limit!


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The How and Why of Interning and Volunteering Abroad

by Darci Miller

In this day and age, the world is an increasingly small place, as one only has to foray into the world of blogs and forums to make contact with people thousands of miles away. We may not exactly live in the “global village” that Marshall McLuhan predicted back in the day but we’re certainly closer than society has ever been to that point. What does that mean for us college students? Well, I think it goes without saying that the job market is a changing place. It is far from uncommon for a company to be multinational and deal with clients from around the world so this makes a basic knowledge of international relations – as well as knowledge of another language...or two – a definite plus.

Experience abroad can be turned into a marketable quality when you’re on the job or internship search. Most interviewers are more concerned with experience than they are with grades so if you’re abroad, don’t be afraid to skip the occasional class if it means getting out there and immersing yourself in the culture of your new home. Some events only come around once in a lifetime and can often be much more valuable than a perfect attendance record.

Even better? Get work experience abroad! In an international job market, this experience is invaluable and will be looked upon extremely favorably by employers but be sure to do your research ahead of time. For example, college students get “work placement” in England rather than internships, so opportunities are few and far between. Before you leave your home university, email companies in your study abroad destination and tell them you’re interested in working for them...even if they aren’t advertising any positions – that’s what a friend of mine did and she nabbed herself an internship in London for the summer!

Another crucial tip is ensuring that you have the proper work clearance. If your visa is incorrect, you could end up being deported or banned from ever returning to the country. Each country’s border agency or immigration office should have details on its website; the process is a pain (trust me, I’ve been there) but it’s definitely worth it: My Tier 4 student visa has allowed me to volunteer with the London Organising Committee for the Olympic Games and I couldn’t be happier!

Darci Miller is a New Yorker studying journalism and sport administration at the University of Miami. When she’s not writing for the school newspaper, you can find her at the gym, either working or working out. She loves all ‘80s pop culture (the cheesier, the better!) and glues herself to her TV when the Olympics are on. She dreams big and believes the sky’s the limit. This semester, Darci is studying abroad in London and will share her international experiences here.


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March Madness Alternatives

by Darci Miller

They say that April showers bring May flowers but March brings March Madness. This is the time when college basketball fans feverishly compile brackets and glue themselves to their TVs. I think it’s safe to say that we’ve all lost someone to March Madness, as the afflicted individual shuts themselves away from society for several weeks, but there’s always the chance that your bracketology wasn’t quite up to scratch this season. If your top seeds were eliminated early on, you may find yourself with a March entirely free from basketball obligations.

So what to do with yourself? Now that it’s officially springtime, you could always venture outdoors. Temperatures are rising and flowers are beginning to bloom, so there’s no better time to sit in a local park and take a break.

On the flip side, isn’t it just about time for midterms? I know it gets harder to study the warmer it gets (as I sit here watching interviews with “The Hunger Games” cast instead of writing a paper) but summer is on the horizon and I know you have some gas left in your tank, right? Hey, if I can write 2,000 words about Brutalist British architecture, you can handle your class assignments, too!

The coming of summer also means that the search for the perfect internship is in full swing. Though it’s fairly late in the season to be getting into the internship game, there are still countless positions looking to be filled. Now’s a great time to brush off your resume, hit up the campus career center and start applying.

Bank account looking a little dry? There’s never a wrong time to be applying for scholarships for next semester! (Though, if you’re reading this on the Scholarships.com blog, I’m sure you already know that!) Trust me: As someone who received a $4,500 stipend for a little extra study abroad wiggle room, I can tell you that it’s worth the effort.

See, just because your basketball team is a lost cause doesn’t mean March has to be!

Darci Miller is a New Yorker studying journalism and sport administration at the University of Miami. When she’s not writing for the school newspaper, you can find her at the gym, either working or working out. She loves all ‘80s pop culture (the cheesier, the better!) and glues herself to her TV when the Olympics are on. She dreams big and believes the sky’s the limit. This semester, Darci is studying abroad in London and will share her international experiences here.


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Traveling While Abroad

April 5, 2012

Traveling While Abroad

by Darci Miller

My backpack is packed, my tickets are printed, my passport is at the ready and my camera is fully charged. My train to Paris leaves in exactly three hours and one minute and from there, a few friends and I begin a three-week backpacking tour across Europe. Our stops include a city I’ve wanted to visit since the fourth grade (Copenhagen), the world center of the Olympic movement (Lausanne), one of my favorite cities in the world (Venice) and two cities in which I was considering studying abroad (Munich and Berlin). Am I excited? You could say so.

Studying abroad is the perfect opportunity to achieve any travel dreams you may have. Money is, of course, an obstacle but there are ways to travel on the cheap, especially in the European Union. For an extended trip like mine, the Eurail pass is a great option, letting you choose your number of travel days and countries. There are also Megabus deals between countries starting at next to nothing, plus discount airlines.

Airlines can charge an arm and a leg for checked baggage so it’s smart to fit everything you need into a carry-on or backpack. Invest in a sturdy one and remember to pack light! Bring clothes that can easily be mixed and matched (and ladies, a great space-saving option that gives you tons of outfit choices while traveling is bringing shorts and tights instead of pants if it’s warm enough!).

It’s also important to remember to book travel as early as you can to save on transportation and hostel costs. When it comes to hostels, try to stay in places that your friends have stayed in before you; personal recommendations are always a plus. Don’t be too worried about sharing rooms with strangers, either: Most places have lockers where you can keep your stuff safe and most people staying in hostels are in the exact same boat as you.

As for an itinerary, my friends and I don’t have one. We know when we have to be at the train station and we have a list of things to do in each city but that’s it. We’ve discovered that part of the fun is wandering around and seeing what we stumble across – don’t be afraid to leave some things to chance!

Darci Miller is a New Yorker studying journalism and sport administration at the University of Miami. When she’s not writing for the school newspaper, you can find her at the gym, either working or working out. She loves all ‘80s pop culture (the cheesier, the better!) and glues herself to her TV when the Olympics are on. She dreams big and believes the sky’s the limit. This semester, Darci is studying abroad in London and will share her international experiences here.


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Out with the Old, In with the New

Leaving Campus Activities to Go Abroad is Hard but Worth It

December 20, 2011

Out with the Old, In with the New

by Darci Miller

Earlier in the semester, I ran into an acquaintance in the study abroad office. We were both waiting to meet with the same adviser, so we went in to ask our questions together to save time. During the course of our chat, she mentioned her hesitancy to go abroad. Her reasoning? Not wanting to leave her activities at Miami. Specifically, she’d have to withdraw from a prestigious e-board position with her sorority.

I totally got where she was coming from. I had to leave my position as opinion editor of the newspaper, finding a replacement wasn’t easy and I don’t even know if I’ll be able to get back onto the editorial staff when I return. I also have to take a semester away from my campus job and opt out of a journalism field experience program I’m in. It was a difficult decision but now I can let you in on a little secret: The world won’t stop, clubs and organizations will stagger on without you and you will still be you even without a laundry list of responsibilities to your name. These accomplishments are already on your resume so stepping away won’t be a massive blow – in actuality, employers like seeing international experience so going abroad will make you a more appealing candidate!

As someone eagerly awaiting her departure date (January 4th!), I can’t say from experience that studying abroad will be worth it but I have no doubt that it will be. (Hey, when else will I have the chance to live, play and work in a foreign country with the knowledge that my parents won’t let me go hungry?) While you may not be able to get back onto that e-board, everything will still be there when you get back. If you’re studying abroad with a program sponsored by your school, on-campus jobs and organizations can’t hold one semester away against you. If you’re enrolled with the school abroad, you’re allowed to come right back like you’d never even left. So email your bosses, apologize to your sorority sisters and hire those replacements – the world awaits!

Darci Miller is a New Yorker studying journalism and sport administration at the University of Miami. When she’s not writing for the school newspaper, you can find her at the gym, either working or working out. She loves all ‘80s pop culture (the cheesier the better!), and glues herself to her TV when the Olympics are on. She dreams big, and believes the sky’s the limit!


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My Final Study Abroad Checklist

by Darci Miller

In preparing to study abroad, I’ve been alternately packing and scouring the Internet for lists of important things to pack. When it comes down to it, there are several things that I will not – and cannot – leave the U.S. without!

  • 1. Power adapters. Voltage and wattage are different across the pond and all of my American electronics will be rendered moot if I don’t come prepared – it would be a sad day if I couldn’t charge my computer or straighten my bangs! If you’re going abroad, check to see what adapters you’ll need, as they vary from country to country.
  • 2. Clothes to layer. I’m heading to London and the weather there can be all over the map, so everything I’ve read advises dressing in layers. This would be a smart choice for anyone studying abroad in a country in which temperature varies between seasons. T-shirts and a handful of cardigans will carry you through winter and spring, while long-sleeved shirts are useless as it gets warmer.
  • 3. Familiar, comfort items. Photos of friends and family are obvious but since I’m a sap, this really includes anything that’ll remind me of home or people that love me. Though I may rarely wear my headband made out of a t-shirt hem, seeing it on my desk will remind me of the night my friends and I made them.
  • 4. My GPS. I’ll have limited data on my phone while I’m study abroad and going over my limit isn’t an option. For those days I plan on exploring the city, I’ll throw my trusty TomTom named Peter into my bag and be good to go. I’ll only get lost in the culture, not because I made a wrong turn!
  • 5. An across-the-body bag. A definite necessity, especially for the ladies. They’re much harder for muggers to steal and you have the added bonus of keeping your belongings right next to your hand.
  • 6. Important documents. This may sound like a huge “duh” but I definitely need to remember to print out whatever I’ll need for my first few days – visa, confirmation of enrollment, orientation notes, etc. Anything to make the transition a little less stressful!

Darci Miller is a New Yorker studying journalism and sport administration at the University of Miami. When she’s not writing for the school newspaper, you can find her at the gym, either working or working out. She loves all ‘80s pop culture (the cheesier the better!), and glues herself to her TV when the Olympics are on. She dreams big, and believes the sky’s the limit!


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Adventures in Visa Acquisition

by Darci Miller

You may think your study abroad experience is going to be all fun and games but in its early stages, I’ve found that it’s anything but. While I know it’ll be more than worth it in the end, it’s a lot to handle: Not only is there paperwork for your home university but sometimes there’s also the added benefit (note the sarcasm) of applying for a visa. Here are some things I’ve learned about the process so far:

Most importantly, though, remember the stress will pay off. In a few months, you’ll be abroad and having the time of your life!

Darci Miller is a New Yorker studying journalism and sport administration at the University of Miami. When she’s not writing for the school newspaper, you can find her at the gym, either working or working out. She loves all ‘80s pop culture (the cheesier the better!), and glues herself to her TV when the Olympics are on. She dreams big, and believes the sky’s the limit!


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Because Money Doesn’t Grow on Trees

How To Fund Study Abroad Opportunities

July 20, 2010

by Derrius Quarles

If only money grew on trees. This is a feeling that can be popular among college students. As I write this entry from Accra, Ghana, I have the aforementioned feeling, but I also realize how salient and life-changing traveling outside one’s country truly is. It is an experience everyone should be able to have at least once during their life. However, anyone who has ever done a study or volunteer abroad program during their undergraduate career will tell you how strenuous and tedious the entire process can be. Obtaining your Visa, getting the required immunizations and medication, and most of all, securing the money for the program tuition and fees. No matter where in the world you may be traveling, these fees can quickly add up and, on average, you will have to pay out at least $2,000 to participate in a volunteer abroad program, $5,000 for a summer study abroad program, and $10,000 for a semester abroad program. I think I speak for most college students when I say that college is expensive enough as it is, and $2,000-$10,000 is a substantial cost—a sum that cannot be casually given away. So, how can you get over the fact that money can’t be found on tree limbs in order to go about funding such potentially life-changing international experiences? Well, the first thing you need to do is have an understanding of your options.

Just as there are a variety of undergraduate international programs, there are a variety of ways to fund such experiences. Depending on the description of the program you are doing including: length and time of stay, location, if you are taking courses, if you are performing research, etc your financial-aid options will change. In order to better help you visualize your options I will use a list to break international programs up into three types: Semester Programs, Summer Programs, and Volunteer Programs.

Semester Programs

  • Governmental Aid (Federal Pell Grant)
  • Institutional Aid (Merit or Need-Based Scholarships and Grants)
  • Aid from academic departments
  • Aid from the study abroad organization/company*
  • Outside Scholarships, Grants, and Fellowships*
  • Fund-raising*

Summer Programs

  • Aid from academic departments
  • Aid from the study abroad organization/company*
  • Outside Scholarships, Grants, and Fellowships*
  • Fund-raising*

Volunteer Programs

  • Aid from the study abroad organization/company*
  • Outside Scholarships, Grants, and Fellowships*
  • Fund-raising*

* Denotes aid that can be used for any program type

Semester programs have the largest amount of funding options. What makes them the most ideal type of program is the fact that you will be taking classes abroad at the same time you would be taking them at your home institution, which allows almost all of the financial aid that you have received from the government and from your school to be transferred over to the school located abroad. If you have been accepted into this type of program, you should contact your school's financial aid office in order to start the process to transfer both your governmental aid and institutional aid, including your Pell Grant and merit- or need-based scholarships and grants. Another fairly simple way to receive funds is to meet with the chair of your major’s department and the director of international affairs to give them a description of the program you have been accepted to and to make your case as to why you should receive funding.

Summer programs have fewer options than semester programs, but they are less expensive. You will not be able to use any governmental or institutional aid that has been designated for the academic year; however, this does not mean you cannot receive funds from your school. Like semester programs, you can schedule meetings with your major’s department chair and director of international affairs in attempts to receive funds. In addition to this, you can utilize the aid listed below in the *Aid that Can be Used for Any Program section.

Volunteer programs have the least amount of options for funding, but fortunately, they are also the cheapest type of international program. Options that can be utilized for these types of programs are listed below in the *Aid that Can be Used for Any Program section.

*Aid that Can be Used for Any Program

Most international programs are handled by some type of company that specializes in sending students abroad and providing needed services abroad such as insurance, transportation, housing, etc. These companies almost always have opportunities to apply for scholarships and grants. These opportunities will be very scarce so you must apply for them very early. In addition to these opportunities from the specific study abroad company, you can use outside scholarships you have received to fund your program. For instance, if you have received a scholarship from an organization in your hometown, you can ask the organization to allow you to use your funds for an international experience. Also, there are scholarships and fellowships that are specifically for students who want to study abroad, such as the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship. Lastly, fund-raising can be the difference between having just enough to complete your international program and staying at home. You can raise funds by drafting a letter that describes your program and why it is important for you to go. This letter can be given to family members, professors, churches, businesses, etc., and should illustrate that you are passionate about going abroad. It should move people enough to give you a small or generous donation. Fund-raising can also be done via social networking sites.

Now that you are aware of your options, it's time to get your international experience funded. Even if you will not be going abroad in the near future it is best to plan early so that you will be able to take advantage of all your options. Though there may not be any money on the trees outside your dorm, you can still find money to see the world.


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Is an Independent Study Right for You?

by Jacquelene Bennett

Going to college means that you have the freedom to study whatever you want. Universities offer a variety of classes for students to take in a multitude of different subjects but what they will rarely tell you is that you can create your own class – it’s called independent study.

Independent studies allow college students to work one-on-one with professors and basically create their own classes for the semester. You decide what you study, what books to read and what sort of projects and papers you will do. I have a friend who created an independent study course around her study abroad experience. She wrote poems about the places she visited while abroad using pictures she took and the journal she kept while traveling. Her independent study course was not only four credits but it was applied towards her creative writing degree as well. I have another friend who created an independent study course that was basically just one big research project: She picked a topic in conference with a professor and spent the entire semester researching and writing a paper.

One huge positive about independent study courses is that if you have the right faculty support, you can create a class that will satisfy certain requirements and go towards your degree. The best part about an independent study course, though, is the fact that you get to choose what you study and how you spend your time – you don’t have to go to class every other day but instead you meet with a professor every other week. This is an excellent option for students taking more than the average course load to graduate early, satisfy double major requirements or work toward an individualized major.

Of course. there are down sides to independent study courses. You have to be able to manage your time and the projects you do for the course, as your final project will often determine your grade. If you can handle this responsibility, I would definitely recommend looking into designing an independent study course.

Jacquelene Bennett is a senior at the University of Redlands where her areas of study are creative writing, government and religious studies. When she is not studying or working, you can usually find her eating frozen yogurt or blogging about her day. She has a cactus named Kat and believes that Stephen Colbert is a genius. Jacquelene works hard, laughs hard and knows that one day you’ll see her name in lights.


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