Bon Voyage! The Pros and Cons of Studying Abroad

Studying abroad may be one of the most beneficial and impactful experiences a person can have in college. However, there is a lot to be considered when deciding if study abroad is the right choice. You must make considerations regarding the location, cost, time you would like to spend abroad, and how the courses offered fit into your coursework at your home institution.

Studying abroad is an experience I will never forget but I did not make the decision lightly. I went back and forth for months trying to decide if I wanted to study in England, Ghana, or Italy and if I wanted a short-term or long-term experience. After considering cost, duration, and coursework, I chose to study abroad in Florence, Italy for five-weeks during the summer and take a sociology of the Italian Mafia class (fun times!). Based on my experiences prior to leaving and once I was abroad, I have compiled some pros and cons to consider when deciding to study abroad.

Pro: Language Immersion. If you are studying a language in college, visiting a country where that is the native language can bolster your speaking skills. Additionally, taking a language class with a native speaker can be incredibly beneficial.

Con: Not Knowing the Language. Conversely, if you are not fluent in the language, it can make everyday life difficult. There will be a lot of opportunities to push yourself to learn as much of the language as you can, but you will definitely be outside your comfort zone.

Pro: Resume Builder. Studying abroad is a great addition to your resume whether you are looking for an internship or job or pursuing a graduate degree. You can showcase your ability to be independent and flexible, and you can demonstrate cultural humility.

Con: The Cost. A major hurdle to overcome is the cost of studying abroad. Many factors can affect the cost such as duration of the program and cost of living in the country you are visiting. However, oftentimes colleges have many resources, such as scholarships and loans, to help pay for the cost of a study abroad program.

Pro: New Friendships. One of the best parts of studying abroad was the chance to make lifelong friendships with the people I traveled with. If you travel with a program, typically people are just as motivated to make new connections. If you do not travel with a standard program, there are probably still many other students who are studying abroad and eager to make friends.

Jenny _ Kam in Capri

Con: Homesickness. Being a new country for any amount of time will make you miss being at home. A good solution is to create a new routine for yourself and try to stick to that. Additionally, setting up times to talk with friends and family may prove beneficial.

Pro: More Course Options. Studying abroad offers coursework that may not be available at your home institution. While in Italy, I was able to study the sociology of the Mafia. That was definitely not a course offering I had at my undergraduate institution.

Con: Navigating the Requirements. Depending upon your location of choice, it can be quite a lengthy and confusing process to get the appropriate documentation for travel and enrollment but there are resources to help navigate the requirements. The study abroad office (or their website) at your institution is a great first step, as they have probably assisted hundreds, if not thousands of students study abroad. The U.S. Department of State also has numerous resources on their website such as a traveler’s checklist and visa requirements for each country.

Pro: New Holidays. When studying abroad, you may have the chance to participate in and appreciate a new celebration or holiday. This is a fantastic way to get the most out of your study abroad experience.

Pro/Con: New Customs & Culture. Navigating new customs can bring about many feelings. It is thrilling to try new foods, see new sites, and exist in a new country; but, not knowing a country’s customs can serve as a constant reminder that you are an outsider.

There are many compelling reasons to study abroad but there are equally profound reasons why it may seem like studying abroad is out of your reach. After college, you may never get another chance to study abroad, so it is important to carefully consider all the options and resources available to you. My decision to study abroad gave me an opportunity to learn unique stories about Italian history, make irreplaceable memories with new friends, and gain confidence I might not have at my home institution.

Welcome to 2018’s New Corvias Scholars and Alumni

Corvias in Boston 2018

My Fellow Graduates and New Corvias Scholars,

I first want to say, congratulations to the new graduates and welcome to the new scholars! Meeting the new scholars and reconnecting with the 2018 class in Boston was a rejuvenating experience. Being with such a dynamic and accomplished group of scholars left me feeling even more inspired to set new goals and start my new beginning in graduate school. As myself and many others begin to walk through the doorway of a new season in life, I want to spend some time reflecting on the potential of a new beginning.

Two years ago, I was sitting in an Ancient Philosophy class with one of my beloved philosophy professors, and he made a remark that has stuck with me. Plato said “The beginning is the most important part of the work”. My professor said this quote in reference to what felt like a thousand page long essay about the importance of philosophical thought but it applies to so much more than just academia. New beginnings are a blank slate that have endless possibilities, and sometimes this can lead to difficulty in identifying where to start in your new beginning.

Whether you are just joining your campus community, joining the workforce, or continuing your education, choosing where to start in your journey can be a daunting task. The possibilities can be overwhelming. There is so much blank space to work with, but I encourage each of you to walk into the unfamiliar and begin painting that picture that is your new life.

To all those starting undergrad this fall– congratulations on your accomplishment! I hope during this new and potentially challenging time, you lean on your Corvias family for support and guidance because believe it or not, we have all been there before. You are not alone in this journey and we want nothing more for you than to see your success and help you through your shortcomings.

To those of us who just graduated– I am so proud of our accomplishments and the change we have made on our campuses and in our community. I hope you continue to engage with the ever expanding Corvias family and continue to take advantage of the opportunities that this community presents us with.

So whether you are beginning your undergraduate career, going to graduate school, starting a new job, or still trying to figure out what’s next in your life, I wish you luck on your new beginning. I will leave you with this quote from Arthur Ashe, “Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.”

Welcome to your new beginning!

Applying to Graduate School: M.Ed. Edition

I have spent quite literally the past year prepping to apply to graduate programs and most recently, traveling to those schools for interview weekends. This journey has filled me with anxiety about my future. Applying to graduate programs has so many moving parts that are hard to navigate. Now that I am done applying and have chosen my program, it may be helpful to share some of my experiences and suggestions. I am going to earn a Master’s of Education (M.Ed.) in Student Affairs, so this might not all be applicable to you but take what serves you and leave the rest!

Originally, I went into college hoping to study political science and then possibly teach the subject at the collegiate level. Higher education and the college experience had always been important to me but that passion intensified the more involved I became on NC State’s campus through our University Activities Board, Student Government and my sorority. My advisors in these organizations also played an extremely important role in shaping my outlook on the importance of student development, multiculturalism/social justice, leadership, scholarship and research. So, I changed my life path a little bit and decided to pursue Student Affairs and Higher Education as my career.

Choosing Your List of Schools

Choosing the degree you would like to pursue is obviously the first step in applying to graduate school. Once that decision is made, you can start doing research on schools you would possibly like to attend. There are a lot of ways to consider which school would be your best option but don’t let rankings alone dictate where you want to get your degree.

Personally, I considered the following benefits in no particular order:

  1. Location – I was not a fan of moving too far from my family but I knew that I wanted to get into a bigger city with more opportunity for personal and professional development. Thinking about cost of living, accessibility, and how I could advance my career in that area was definitely a determining factor.
  2. Professors – Considering the faculty’s research interests and how they could contribute to my experience was another key point for me. Based on my experience, I would say it is important to write about this in your personal statement. Sure enough, when I visited my school of choice I was reassured that I wanted to be taught by these faculty members.
  3. Affordability – Tuition remission was another important aspect of my decision. Not all programs/institutions have graduate assistantships, but they can be valuable for easing the financial burden by offering a stipend, professional experience, and sometimes tuition remission. There are also teaching assistantship opportunities that can offer the same benefits if that is more your style. Determining what you can afford is an extremely personal decision but there are plenty of options out there.
  4. The Feel – Everyone kept saying this to me, and I did not really understand what it meant until I visited a few schools. How you feel there is so essential! You can do anything for two years but I am sure most of us would rather be comfortable during that time. Visit the programs if you can, and if you attend a preview/interview weekend, being intentional in your conversations with people.  Their experience can help you navigate if you truly want to attend that program.

 

Application Costs and Materials

Applying to graduate school can cost a pretty penny and requires a lot of planning. This can be a little difficult if you are still in undergrad (like me). Just about every application will cost $75, and the GRE costs $200 for the test alone. Applying to programs and taking the GRE cost me about $700 in total. Whatever your financial situation, this is an important aspect to consider and plan for. There are exemptions for application fees if you live below the poverty line or are an AmeriCorps member   Considering this, your total expenses may look a lot different.

The spring before applications were due, I started researching programs, and in the summer I started my application. There were a lot of aspects to consider: I needed a handful of recommendations, a fine-tuned resume, an eloquent personal statement, and a GRE score. My advice is to get started as early as possible.

 

The GRE

I took the GRE two months before my first deadline. This gave me a small window of opportunity to retake the test if I needed to (which I did). Advice for the GRE is going to vary by institution; some programs don’t put too much emphasis on standardized testing, others may. My advice is to ask around and find out. I asked professionals in my field and other graduate students what their experiences were in applying to schools and what they might know about the application process. Luckily, the GRE was not heavily factored into my admission process so I studied off and on for four months. I’ll be honest, I did average on the GRE and still got accepted into my top choices. How schools value your test scores is completely arbitrary but I still encourage you to try your hardest.

Personal Statement

Personal statements can make or break your application packet. This is one of the only chances you will have to stand apart from the hundreds of other applicants. Each school will have a different prompt, character limit or format, so you will need to tailor your statement to each school.

I started my personal statement writing in July and my first application was due in November. This still did not feel like enough time, but every person will need to set their own pace. You will absolutely have to revise and edit several times.  I found it was best to ask multiple people what their thoughts were on my writing. Some people analyzed content and others looked for grammatical mistakes. While writing, I thought of the following things:

  • What led me to this decision? What could I contribute to the field? What makes me unique?
  • Has something happened to me that led me to this field? How did I overcome or learn from this experience?
  • Why do I want to go to this school? What about their program makes me want to go there?
  • What has academically/professionally prepared me to do well?

The key word here is personal. I wrote my statement almost like a diary entry in hopes that I conveyed myself in the most intimate way possible. My overall advice, get as many eyes on your personal statement as you can, but in the end, go with your gut because the statement is a reflection of you!

Applying to graduate programs is a complex task, and once you have been accepted there are only more questions. However, I found that this task fulfilling. Spending time reflecting on my professional goals, talking to mentors and family about these next steps, and visiting schools has been nothing short of amazing. With all this work behind me, thankfully, in the fall I’ll be attending the University of Maryland, College Park to work on a M.Ed. in Student Affairs. Go Terps!