For Ben, studying abroad was a concentrated effort that took a lot of planning. In his first post from Buenos Aires, he shares how he prepared for this experience with the help of people from his college and CAPA's advisors. And not forgetting the fun part of it all—he also talks about looking at recommendations and mapping out what to do and where to go in the city!
I have always valued traveling to new places, learning about new cultures, and embracing different lifestyles. In college, studying abroad is the best way to do that; taking culture-based classes just doesn’t compare. In fact, I have centered my whole education around this principle. By studying International Business at Northeastern University, I will be able to take advantage of a two-year, dual degree study abroad opportunity in Madrid. With a chance to live in Spain and explore Europe across those two years, I set my focus on Latin America, both so I could experience a totally new culture to me, and so I could continue to practice my Spanish. What many students may not realize until it is too late is that study abroad opportunities don’t just come to you. It takes a concentrated effort and a lot of time, but the rewards are unmatchable.
In my case, I met with student mentors, Northeastern’s Global Experience Office, my Financial Aid Counselor, and my Academic Advisor. Having explored all of the options listed on Northeastern’s website, I settled on CAPA Buenos Aires. This particular study abroad had everything I was looking for: a homestay opportunity, the chance to do an internship, coursework pertinent to my degree path, Spanish immersion, and a vibrant, bustling city. Having chosen an opportunity to pursue, I filled out the application and maintained constant contact via email with CAPA. Studying abroad is expensive, and sorting out the details can be complicated; I highly suggest reaching out to CAPA and resources at your school. My CAPA advisor, Mary Brown, was crucial for me to be able to take advantage of the opportunity (Thanks, Mary!!). CAPA’s team is extremely helpful, always willing to help, and I even had a chance to meet with them since CAPA is headquartered in Boston.
Researching any location ahead of time is always a good idea. In this screenshot, I mapped out how to get to Recoleta cemetery from CAPA in Buenos Aires.
My case was particularly complicated because I have very little flexibility in my degree path (since I am doing two years abroad), and I couldn’t afford to pay for classes that would not further me along my course schedule. Basically, once I was accepted to the program, I could not commit until I was sure that a specific course was going to be offered. CAPA worked closely with me and my family, and once the course was all set, my goal had become a reality.
Finally, I could focus on the fun part: preparing for my trip. CAPA gave me plenty of resources outlining what to pack, what to leave at home, and other such details. It is also important to check the weather for where you are traveling—it is summer at home, but winter here. However, winter here is not remotely as cold as the winters I have become accustomed to. Once you have your homestay or living accommodations, I recommend scoping out the area on Google Maps so you know what’s around and where the local transportation is. It might even be a good idea to plan routes from your accommodation to your classes/internship. Furthermore, I suggest getting local money ahead of time, or at least having a plan for exchanging currency when you arrive. Lastly, it would be in your best interest to do some brief prep for your classes and to brush up on your language skills. Doing this prep work ahead of time will save you valuable time in your study abroad destination—it is best to hit the ground running when the program starts.
These are almost equivalent values; checking and exchanging currencies would not be a bad idea.
Here are my biggest takeaways/advice:
1. Get a head start on the process — You can’t be too early, but you can be too late.
2. Communicate — Your school’s resources and CAPA are there to help you.
3. Know what you want to study — Take courses that interest you or fulfill degree requirements.
4. Plan ahead — Take safety into account, pick up some of the local language, and find transportation routes.
5. Don’t lose sight of the big picture — Don’t micromanage, and allow for some spontaneity; planning out every little detail makes it hard to enjoy the little nuances that make traveling so wonderful.
Ben Gunduz is an official CAPA blogger for summer 2019, sharing his story in weekly posts on CAPA World. An International Businessmajor at Northeastern University, he is studying abroad in Buenos Aires this semester.
Ben's journey continues all semester so stay tuned.