Thinking about location, money, and the best study abroad program for you? With a semester in Barcelona almost wrapped up, Maya shares 5 important tips on how to prepare ahead for an exciting experience!
While studying abroad is an exciting and fun experience, there is a lot of work that goes into getting yourself ready to embark on that journey. There's paperwork, money, flights, and more that you must handle, and it is pretty much all up to you to make sure it gets done. In this blog post I will tell you about what that process is like, and some things I did to prepare myself.
Tip #1: Think Before You Choose Your Location
First off, you must choose where you want to study. What country would be the best fit for you? Are you trying to learn a new language? Is there a certain culture you are fascinated by? What is fueling your desire to study abroad? Sometimes people know that they want to study abroad but do not know exactly where, so researching or even asking friends about where they studied could really help you make this decision. I chose Barcelona because I am obsessed with the culture, food, beautiful scenery, and language—I am currently learning to speak Spanish.
Tip #2: Research Your Program Ahead of Time
Next, the program you decide to travel with is VERY important and will really have an impact on your experience. There are SO MANY study abroad programs and they are all so different. Do you like large groups and want to do a big program? Or are you better in small groups? Are you looking for an apartment and the chance to live like the locals? Or do you want to stay in dorms on a campus? Do you want a program that plans excursions? There are so many factors that make each program different, and this is important to look into. One of the biggest things that separates CAPA from other programs is they do not use a local university; instead, CAPA has its own building, professors, and curriculum, while other programs use local universities and their courses. CAPA has multiple programs in different countries, some larger than others. Barcelona had 6 people in my group, but in places like London where a friend of mine studied, they have over 100 students. I was unaware of the size before arriving, so if that is an important factor to you be sure to ask about the average sizes of the programs in different countries!
Tip #3: Pay Attention to the Many Deadlines
My passport and visa had finally arrived! It was a long process, but it came in just in time.
There are a LOT of important deadlines, paperwork, and meetings you will have to complete in order to study abroad. Applications for most programs, including CAPA, are due months in advance, so it is important to pay attention to deadlines. Some schools (including mine) have a separate application for your home campus’ study abroad office that you must fill out and be approved by them before you can apply to outside programs. Once you finish the application process and are accepted, if you have a US passport, you need to book a visa appointment ASAP (for most countries/programs). The appointments go fast—when I booked mine the soonest appointment was over a month later, and for others even longer! If you do not have a passport, you must, of course, apply for and receive one before you are eligible for a visa; once you complete your visa appointment it can take up to 3 weeks to receive your visa, so expect the whole process to take a few months.
There are also forms for course credit transfers, approvals that certain courses will count toward your degree, and more. Probably the most important advice I can give you is to check in with your study abroad office often to make sure you’re on track and everything is up to date! Depending on your home university, there may be preparation meetings that are required before you can study abroad. My school had two, and they were super informative! When you decide to study abroad with CAPA, you are also appointed an advisor before you are even accepted. My advisor was so helpful and was able to guide me through the entire process from the start until I was boarding my plane to Barcelona.
Tip #4: Start Planning Your Financing Early
Euros I picked up a few days before departing for Barcelona!
One of the biggest things CAPA advisors help you with is the financial portion of this journey. They recommend scholarships, grants, and more that you can apply for—both through CAPA and outside sources. One of the grants is the blogger/vlogger grant which is what I was accepted for, and you can learn more about it on CAPA’s website! Meeting with your school’s financial aid office is also really important, as you may be able to apply your financial aid to your study abroad program fee. My office was SO helpful, and was able to explain certain things that were confusing (because, trust me, this stuff can get super confusing), and helped me to fund my trip in a way that did not hurt me financially at all!
Tip #5: Save Up Spending Money in Addition to Your Program Fees
I would also recommend saving up as much as you can once you decide you are studying abroad. Even if you have family members or whoever in your life willing to help support your time abroad, it is still a great idea to have other options and sources of spending money! Also, I recommend taking out some foreign currency before you leave the US, so you will have some cash upon arrival. It made things so much easier!
I know all of this may sound super stressful and chaotic; I’m going to be honest—that is exactly what it is. The preparation for studying abroad is going to be super exciting but it will get tough and you will be stressed a good chunk of that time. But I am here to tell you it is worth it, and CAPA makes a point to provide you with as much support as possible to make things as easy as they can be. It is all SO worth it in the end, trust me!
Maya Crawford is an official CAPA blogger for fall 2018, sharing her story in weekly posts on CAPA World. A Business Administration major at University of Massachusetts Lowell, she is studying abroad in Barcelona this semester.
Maya's journey continues every Thursday so stay tuned.