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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

January 9, 2012

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

November 7, 2011

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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Want That Job/Internship/Scholarship? Speak Up!

November 29, 2011

Want That Job/Internship/Scholarship? Speak Up!

by Darci Miller

In a perfect world, getting a job or internship would be as easy as sending your cover letter and resume to an employer. The perfect job opportunities would just fall into your lap and hiring managers would be fighting over you. Well, if you’ve ever applied for a job, internship or even scholarship, you’re well aware this isn’t the case.

If you simply send in a cover letter and resume, you’re lucky if they get more than a passing glance...and that’s AFTER the endless search for opportunities. Rejection notices are rare and actually getting hired is even more so. I don’t pretend to be an expert on getting jobs, internships or scholarships – far from it, in fact – but if there’s one thing I’ve learned in my quest is that you can’t do it on your own. It’s the lucky few that get their dream job or internship on a lark; the rest of us have to do some legwork, which includes networking and making some contacts.

My personal dream is to work for the Olympics in some capacity and I’m studying abroad in London next semester to be there in the lead-up to the Summer Games in 2012. So, I thought, why not try for an internship? The website of the London Organising Committee for the Olympic Games (LOCOG) was utterly unhelpful, so my mom and I started spreading the word that I was on the hunt.

It turns out that one of my mom’s friends has a cousin who works in LOCOG’s technology department! We’ve emailed and spoken on the phone and he’s been nothing but helpful. I told him that, as a journalism major, I’d like to do something in that area and it just so happens that one of his friends heads the press team; he’s going to send over my resume, cover letter and clips.

Of course, this doesn’t guarantee anything and I still have to worry about my student visa application being accepted. But because I got the word out and asked for help, I got to pass Go and collect $200. Your mom may know a guy who knows a guy, too, so in your internship, job or scholarship search, don’t forget the crucial step of being vocal about what you want.

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?

December 8, 2011

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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Is It Too Early to Make Spring Break Plans?

January 24, 2012

Is It Too Early to Make Spring Break Plans?

by Jessica Seals

Although the spring semester is just barely here, it’s never too soon to start thinking about what you want to do during spring break. Just the thought of spending an entire week at a sunny beach with your friends is enough to make anyone start planning but the reality is that many of us might not be able to afford to squeeze some fun in the sun into our busy schedules. For those of us who will remain at home or school, there are several options to make spring break just as fulfilling as it will be for those students hitting the beaches.

Get some rest. It might sound boring but once the semester begins, you will find yourself wishing that you had time to catch up on your sleep. Doing so during spring break allows you to recharge your body so that you can make it through the rest of the semester.

Work ahead. By now, we all know how most professors like to set deadlines for big projects and papers for the end of the semester. Doing schoolwork over spring break may not necessarily be fun but you can save yourself a great deal of stress by working ahead. When the end-of-semester chaos hits in the form of finals and papers, you will be more relaxed knowing that you are ahead of the game.

Participate in an alternative spring break. Many schools offer alternative spring breaks to students so that they can spend the week volunteering for a good cause. Not only do you give back to a community in need but future employers will be impressed to see that you spent your spring break helping others. Even if your school does not have this option, you can still go out and volunteer on your own.

It’s never too early to start planning for spring break. If you plan wisely, you may have the chance to get some rest, work ahead on your homework, catch up with friends and volunteer at the same time while still managing to go back to school energized and ready to conquer the rest of the semester.

Jessica Seals is recent graduate of the University of Memphis, where she majored in political science and minored in English. She was the secretary of the Pre-Law Society, the philanthropy chair of the Phi Kappa Phi Student Council and a member of Professional Assertive United Sisters of Excellence (PAUSE), Golden Key Honor Society, Alpha Lambda Delta Honor Society, Sigma Alpha Lambda Honor Society and Black Scholars Unlimited. As she prepares for law school, Jessica will continue to tutor and volunteer in her community.

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See the World in the Summertime!

Exploring the Many Benefits of Summer Abroad Programs

August 10, 2012

See the World in the Summertime!

by Kara Coleman

Many universities across the country offer study abroad programs for students who wish to spend a semester in another country. Every student that I know of who has ever participated in one of these programs hails it as a once-in-a-lifetime experience...but what if you can’t afford to spend an entire semester overseas or you don’t want to interfere with your planned graduation date or schoolwork? Consider seeing the world on shorter-term trips during the summer! You’ll still get the experience of traveling and seeing what life is like in other countries without taking a lot of time off from work or school.

This past May, my university sent 10 students from its honors program to China for two weeks. Though they did do a few touristy things, they spent most of their time learning at Taizhou University. Because the Chinese academic year is different than ours in the U.S., the Chinese students were still in classes and the American students were able to jump in and study alongside them after their final exams had been completed at home. The best part? The trip was completely paid for by JSU!

You can also use the summer months to explore the world on a trip not associated with your college. Last month, I spent a week in Honduras on a mission trip, where I volunteered in a shelter for homeless children. I was able to experience firsthand what life is like in a third-world country and have plenty to tell my friends about when school starts back up later this month.

So where will you be at this time next year? Studying kung fu in a Chinese university? Playing soccer with kids in Central America? Or maybe something completely different? A whole world of opportunities awaits you – literally!

Kara Coleman graduated from Gadsden State Community College with an Associate of Arts degree and she is currently studying communications with concentration in print journalism at Jacksonville State University. Kara's writing has been featured in Teen Ink magazine and she is a children's author through Big Dif Books; she is also the editor-in-chief of JSU's student newspaper, The Chanticleer.

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Graduation...Then What?

November 15, 2011

Graduation...Then What?

by Katie Askew

So maybe you’re the type of person that had their entire life planned by 7th grade, so you already know what you’ll be doing after college graduation. But if you’re like most busy college students, you might only start thinking about post-grad plans by your second or third year of school. And that is perfectly okay because there are many different options and opportunities available depending on your major, personality or life goals! Here are just a few:

Grad school, law school and medical school: Post-graduate study may be your next step if you want access to jobs that have higher starting salaries or jobs that require more than four years of schooling. Law school prepares you to pass the bar exam before becoming a lawyer and medical school allows you to obtain your MD before becoming a practicing doctor – two things you just can’t do with an undergraduate degree alone. Many majors encourage their students to go to grad school after undergrad as well because they’ll be better educated and prepared before entering the work force. Grad school is a much more specialized course of study in comparison to undergraduate education so be sure you know what you want before you begin!

Peace Corps: Maybe you finished your undergraduate education and don’t feel ready for more schooling or a job just yet. But what’s another option? Join the Peace Corps or some other volunteer or missionary opportunity! It’s a great way to help out those less fortunate than you, see the world (and get paid while doing so!) and you can even add it to your resume to impress future employers. Once you volunteer in the Peace Corps, however, you are committed to a 27-month job – if more than two years out of the country is ok with you, so is this opportunity!

Workforce: Maybe you feel prepared enough after your undergraduate years to transition into the work force. If so, go for it! Be aware that you’ll be paid an entry-level salary (which isn’t glamorous) and while you most likely won’t land your dream job right out of the gate, you’ll gain the career experience necessary to do so in the near future.

Katie Askew is a sophomore at the University of Minnesota pursuing degrees in journalism and English. At school, Katie can be found reading, drumming or working in the Office of Admissions. Outside of school, she enjoys traveling, teaching and performing music and spending time outdoors with friends and family. Katie loves all things zebra and has a necessary addiction to coffee. Her iPod is perpetually playing Death Cab for Cutie or classical music because she truly believes that when words fail, music speaks.

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