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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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Meet Scholarships.com’s Virtual Interns: Liz Coffin-Karlin

by Liz Coffin-Karlin

Hi all! I’m Liz, the newest virtual intern here at Scholarships.com. I’m from Sarasota, Florida originally, and then moved way up to Chicago to attend college. I picked Northwestern University for a lot of reasons – it was in a whole new part of the country, it had great academics and it had a lot of student involvement – and I wound up with double majors in Spanish and history and a minor in Latin American and Caribbean Studies.

While academics were important to me, I always felt I expressed myself best through student activities. I worked on our newspaper, The Daily Northwestern, for four years, was an executive board member on the Global Engagement Summit and participated in NU’s huge Dance Marathon. Along the way, I also volunteered at a Chicago soup kitchen, worked as a lifeguard for our sports center and once even sold hot dogs at a football game to raise money for a student group. (It is COLD in those stands!) I also studied abroad in Buenos Aires, where I fell in love with empanadas, tango music and backpacking in the Andes.

I loved my time at NU but most of all, I loved the connections I made and the friends I met. I took a public service fellowship in Chicago right after graduating from college in 2010 and ran a teen internship program last summer at the Adler Planetarium. When that ended, I felt it was time to use my Spanish skills and after studying abroad in Buenos Aires and then getting a research grant to come back before my senior year, I had the language skills and the connections to get an internship at the Center for Studies on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information.

Now, I’m excited to be with Scholarships.com, where I'll be sharing travel tips, college tips (make sure you set the microwave timer for two minutes not 20 minutes...unless you want to burn your dorm down) and professional tips for getting that internship or job you wanted. Nice to meet you guys – can’t wait to start writing!


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Majoring in an "Endangered" Field? You Still Have Options!

by Lisa Lowdermilk

We've all read those articles that tell you what NOT to major in but what do you do if you're already majoring in one of the fields mentioned? Do you continue along the path you’ve chosen or start working toward a new goal that will cost more time and money to complete?

This is the dilemma facing architecture majors and the New York Times recently posted an article discussing how architecture majors are facing the highest unemployment rate in the nation (13.9%). Unsurprisingly, the housing market collapse has a lot to do with this and until our economy starts improving, the housing market (and the unemployment rate for those commissioned to design those houses) will likely stay where it's at.

But before all you architecture majors despair, remember that we will always need buildings. There may not be as great of a demand as there used to be but there are still plenty of job opportunities available, especially if you're willing to work in another country. From China to London and plenty of countries in between, there are lots of great options for up-and-coming architects abroad. China alone has dozens of positions available and some of them don't even require you to know Mandarin. Of course, if you've always wanted to learn Mandarin (or any other foreign language for that matter), what better way to do so than to live and work abroad? Of course, living abroad isn't for everyone and there are still employment options in the U.S. And the median salary for an architect is $55,248, which is nothing to sneeze at.

Whether you're an architecture major or a student trying to find a summer job, securing employment can be a daunting task. But as clichéd as it sounds, you will eventually find something if you keep looking. You may need to relocate in order to find what you're looking for but your hard work toward that college degree will pay off in the end.

Lisa Lowdermilk is a published poet, avid video gamer and artist. Her poems have appeared in Celebrate Young Poets: West (Fall 2006) edition and Widener University's The Blue Route. She enjoys watching thrillers, trying different restaurants and attempting to breakdance. Lisa is now majoring in professional writing at the University of Colorado Denver.


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Bilingual Benefits at Home and Abroad

by Liz Coffin-Karlin

I live in Buenos Aires full time, I was a Spanish major in college and I’m about as obsessive about Latin pop music as any actual Latina I know so naturally, people laugh when I tell them I almost didn’t take AP Spanish my senior year of high school. Once upon a time, I thought foreign language classes were good for silly skits and fluffing up your college resume but looking back, I can honestly say that even if I had no idea at the time, my high school Spanish classes were probably the most important classes I took in those four years.

Most colleges require language classes to graduate and have varying levels of language requirements for different study abroad programs. The thing about really trying to learn that tricky foreign language is that it lets you become part of whatever culture you’re visiting, whether you flew to another continent or just visited a part of your own college city that you’d never been. Instead of being just a tourist, you can become an observer – an anthropologist of that new and exciting land – but if you don’t know the language (or your basic cultural history), that task becomes impossible and you’re just a tourist with a resident visa. Think about practicing your French in a New York Haitian neighborhood, your Cantonese in San Francisco Chinatown or your Arabic in Dearborn, Michigan. You don’t have to fly a thousand miles away to get out of your comfort zone or expand your horizons.

Now I’m not advocating walking into Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood and expecting your six words of Spanish to make you a whole bunch of new friends. Just like when you’re a visitor in someone’s home, be polite and know that your presence can easily become a burden rather than a novelty. If you work at understanding the people around you, finding out about their lives and listening to their opinions and goals, your limited language skills might rapidly expand.

Liz Coffin-Karlin grew up in Sarasota, Florida where the sun is always shining and it’s unbearably hot outside. She went to college at Northwestern University and after studying Spanish and history, she decided to study abroad in Buenos Aires. In college, she worked on the student newspaper (The Daily Northwestern), met people from all over the world at the Global Engagement Summit and, by her senior year, earned the title of 120-hour dancer at NU’s annual Dance Marathon. She currently works in Buenos Aires on freedom of speech issues but is thinking about returning to the U.S. for a job in urban education.


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Minimesters Provide International Experience in Less Time

by Alexis Mattera

Spending a semester abroad may not be feasible for students with rigid major requirements or ones who are aiming to graduate in the shortest amount of time possible to save on tuition. Instead of having students miss out on what could be one of the most rewarding experiences of their lives, schools like the University of Maryland are offering truncated programs called minimesters to foster international travel.

This winter alone, UMD’s study abroad office offered 42 short-term programs to destinations including Costa Rica, Mexico and Thailand with courses covering government and politics, art history, architecture, education, geography and more. These trips are usually about three weeks in length and students (including the article’s author, Elizabeth Roberts, who completed two minimesters to Chile and Brazil) have reported it’s plenty of time to immerse themselves in the culture without sacrificing school, work and other obligations back home. This time abroad even causes some students to alter their educational directions: One UMD senior's minimester in South Africa last winter sparked an interest in health issues and has since translated into an internship with the Department of Health and Human Services in Washington, D.C.

Do you think a minimester is a good way to interact with the age of globalization without compromising progress toward graduation?


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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 Best Research Methods for College Students

by Jacquelene Bennett

There is going to come a time when you are writing a paper or doing a research project when simply doing a Google search will not be enough to get the information you need. As you progress through your college career, the papers you write and the projects you do will get harder and more in depth and the research tools you used in high school and in intro-level classes won’t help much. So how do you do proper research?

Start off by going to the library and looking at books – real, actual books. Contrary to what people think, books are not outdated or irrelevant but are actually great sources for papers and projects. The plus side to going to the library is that if you have trouble finding sources, you can ask a librarian who will be more than happy to help you out.

Another way to find reliable and informative sources for a paper is through scholarly journals. Scholarly journals are collections or databases of articles written by experts and professionals on different subjects and issues in almost every academic field of study. The databases I use are JSTOR, Project MUSE and LexisNexis but there are literally hundreds of different journals and students generally have free access to them through their universities. You can usually find these sites linked to your school’s library website, through a class’s Blackboard site, Google Scholar (though you generally have to pay for these), or, of course, a librarian can help you access them.

While a Google search might give you fast surface facts, you will have to search for a long time to find citation-worthy in-depth analyses and reliable information. With books and scholarly articles, you get the information you need and you never have to question their legitimacy.

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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Studying Abroad Without Breaking the Bank

by Liz Coffin-Karlin

In my last article, I talked a lot about language classes at school and how you can use those skills in your own cities. But honestly the best way to practice a foreign language is to immerse yourself in it so in this column, I’m going to talk about studying abroad – but cost effectively.

Like with real estate, the costs associated with studying abroad depend on location, location, location. While your parents didn’t have a lot of study abroad options outside Europe, the world is changing and becoming more global every day; by changing that dream European vacation into a jaunt to a different continent, you can save a lot of money and have a unique experience. I studied abroad here in Buenos Aires, which at the time was about $10,000 cheaper than an equivalent program I could have done in Barcelona. Plus, my study abroad program was about a month and a half longer, meaning I had a lot more cultural immersion than I would have had with the program in Spain.

Also, think about if you really need the college credits you’ll get abroad. If you can just go for a summer and give up the academic courses or if you’re ahead on credits and can take a semester off, it might be worth it to check out volunteering abroad programs aimed at young people. Generally, the prices are significantly lower for a few months of building houses than for university classes; however, the experience is very different than taking university classes with native students (which is what I did...and loved) so think about what you’re really looking for in an abroad experience before choosing.

Finally, there are ways to actually make money while you’re studying abroad! Many countries are looking for English teachers and it’s worth checking out expatriate websites to see if anyone needs a babysitter who is a native English speaker. Similarly, if your language skills are good enough, there are lots of translation jobs out there – just check Craigslist like I did!

Liz Coffin-Karlin grew up in Sarasota, Florida where the sun is always shining and it’s unbearably hot outside. She went to college at Northwestern University and after studying Spanish and history, she decided to study abroad in Buenos Aires. In college, she worked on the student newspaper (The Daily Northwestern), met people from all over the world at the Global Engagement Summit and, by her senior year, earned the title of 120-hour dancer at NU’s annual Dance Marathon. She currently works in Buenos Aires on freedom of speech issues but is thinking about returning to the U.S. for a job in urban education.


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British School vs. American School

by Darci Miller

Upon arriving in London for study abroad, I was initially amazed by how normal everything felt. I mean, everyone speaks the same language – how different could things possibly be? But two days later, as I was standing in an endless line and waiting to register for classes, I realized that some things here might not be quite the same.

While the lack of a language barrier definitely helps (we all know what a “lift” is, right?), the British school system does its own thing. Most British universities are three years rather than four and get this: the first year doesn’t even count. That’s right! If Brits want to slack off their entire first year of “uni,” they absolutely can. Of course, it’ll affect their ability to get work placement but it won’t mean anything when it comes to their degrees. This means a whole ton of drinking and skipped lectures followed by two years of mountains of work.

In America, handing in an assignment means printing it out and giving it to your professor. Not across the pond: Each assignment needs some sort of cover sheet that’s provided to you on Blackboard (or the “Virtual Learning Environment”) and needs to be handed into the department office. Not the lecturer or seminar tutor, but the department office. Does this make sense?

The grading system is different as well. One hundreds are completely unheard of: Eighty is basically the equivalent of a perfect score so don’t freak out about getting a 60 – that’s a decent grade here! There are all sorts of different labels assigned to seemingly arbitrary numbers and not even the educators have any idea why it’s done like this. Trust me, I’ve asked.

And then, of course, there’s registering for classes. British students only take classes in their “course,” or major so when associate students attempt to take classes in multiple courses, the online system isn’t equipped to handle it. You may be able to take out books from the school library using a touch screen and a scanner, but you have to run around to the different departments and have them physically sign you up for classes. I never thought I’d miss waking up early for my registration time back in the states!

Bottom line: No matter where you study abroad, you’re going to have culture shock, even if it means writing papers with footnotes instead of in-text citations. Just smile and chalk it all up to experience!

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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