Student Blogs & Vlogs | College Study Abroad Programs, IFSA-Butler

Outside the Classroom

Time February 23rd, 2017 in 2017 Spring, Ireland | No Comments by

“There is only so much you can learn in a classroom.”

This is one of the quotes I had heard throughout school, but didn’t understand until this weekend. This weekend, IFSA-Butler took the Ireland group to Belfast, Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland is ruled under The Crown, part of the United Kingdom, but there is no immigration to get from The Republic of Ireland to Northern Ireland (yet). With the students through IFSA in Ireland adding to almost 100 (Dublin, Galway, Limerick, and Cork all combined) I figured we wouldn’t get to do much. Little was I was wrong, and little did I know how much I could learn about Belfast in the two full days we had there. Read More »

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My First Week

Time January 23rd, 2017 in 2017 Spring, Scotland | No Comments by

My first week abroad was mixed with so many different emotions! I honestly think that I felt every emotion possible this week. I was excited to move into my dorm and see how everything was set up. I was surprised to see that I had my own bathroom and shower right in my room! I was so happy to finally unpack my bags! Living out of a suitcase was really  drag and it was starting to get to me.

The day after I moved in I got to meet my flatmates. I was very nervous about this because I really hoped that I would like them all. I was so delighted because all of my flatmates were wonderful! It was amazing how all of us just clicked and instantly got along! One of my biggest fears before studying abroad was that I would not get along with my flatmates. Luckily, all of my concerns went away after meeting them! I must say that I feel lucky to have been placed in such a wonderful flat with amazing people.

Unfortunately, on Sunday night I started to feel regret. I began to feel as if I had made the wrong decision to study abroad. I kept thinking that it would just be easier if I was home in my usual routine. I could be at home with my family and friends enjoying life the way it was. I was feeling so down that I even looked up how much it would cost to fly home. I had only been in Scotland a few days and I was already missing home. Even though everything was going right, I felt that my decision to leave was wrong. I went through this inner struggle most of the day on Sunday. Then I was watching the sunset and my feelings started to change. I was walking outside and the sunset had been perfectly placed behind a tree. The branches were lit up by the sun and in that moment I felt complete peace. I knew in my heart that studying abroad was the right thing to do. In my life I will never get to experience anything like this again! I felt a type of tranquility that I’ve never felt before. It was like something was telling me that I had nothing to worry about.

16114442_1351103798243184_1814365309122428851_n Here’s the image of the sunset behind the tree

Once I actually started classes my week started to get even better! I’ve always liked school and part of studying abroad is learn things that I may not learn any other way. In my classes I was even happier with my adventure whilst studying abroad! I felt that my life began to be structured which was missing from the trip so far. Now that things were starting to get settled I’m very happy with my decision to study abroad! Even though I struggled to be where I’m at now, it was worth it.

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Letter to A Future Study Abroad Student

Time November 1st, 2016 in 2016 Fall, Australia | No Comments by

Dear Future Study Abroad Students,

There’s a reason there are so many clichés about studying abroad and that’s because most of them are completely accurate. It’s easy to say “don’t be afraid,” “try new things,” or “it’s okay to feel homesick” because most of the time these things apply to everything you do. When you’re in a foreign country suddenly going grocery shopping can be the biggest adventure of your life or the most familiar thing to being back home. The truth is your study abroad experience is what you make of it. That’s the plainest advice I can give. I came to Australia with an idea in my mind of what my study abroad experience would be. I couldn’t be more grateful that it didn’t turn out the way I had planned.

First, you’re going to have a preconceived notion of what the country you’re going to will be like. You’ll be thinking of stereotypes as much as you’ll deny it and you’ll be expecting things to be a certain way. This notion will be shattered, you will be surprised, and you might even be disappointed. Don’t let this upset you. Did I wish that everywhere I went there would be koalas and kangaroos and other crazy Australian wildlife, of course, because I love animals and that was a large reason I came to Australia. What I didn’t expect was to instead experience the culture and life of a city I’ve begun to call my home. I didn’t live in the middle of an outback or surf every day, but I did live a different life here. Flexibility is so important when experiencing life abroad. Things are going to be different, and different is the best way to describe them. Nothing is wrong or worse than the way you’re used to living back home, just different. The sooner you can realize this, the sooner things will begin to seem brighter. Homesickness will fade in and out, and you can respect the lives people are living around you and if you’re lucky you can become a part of it.

My second piece of advice is to travel as much as you can. This does not mean buy a hundred plane tickets throughout the semester and visit big touristy places for 2 days at a time, it means explore the place you’re living. It can be so easy, especially once you start classes, to get into a routine. You go to university, come home, do work, and repeat. Break the routine and walk down a street you haven’t been down before. Take a bus or a train to a different town, walk around, and ask the locals where their favorite spots are. These places can end up being your favorite places in the entire country and half the time you wouldn’t realize that they’re just around the corner from you.

Lastly, there’s the worn out “try new things!” but I truly can’t emphasize how important this is. You’re going to be in an entirely new country, surrounded by new people and new places. Don’t fall into what’s comfortable, but rather try to push yourself into trying something you would never be able to try back home. It’s terrifying, I know, but the result is worth the cost. Putting yourself out there isn’t easy and just taking the leap to up and leave everything you know behind is incredibly brave. Give yourself credit for what you’ve already done and remember that this is a once in a lifetime opportunity. You’ll be so thankful in the end of your journey if you look back remembering all the things you tried rather than all the things you watched pass by.

You’re going to have a wonderful time, wherever you go. Everything will different, and sometimes different is the greatest thing you could ask for.

From,

A Study Abroad Student

Victor Harbor 7.21.16-36

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Advice About Budgeting in Buenos Aires

Time October 27th, 2016 in 2016 Fall, Argentina, First Generation Scholars | No Comments by

The title is a misnomer because I’m not really going to be talking about budgeting during study abroad. If you are a firstgen college student/ poor and planning on studying abroad, I really hope you’ve been planning for this for awhile now. Basically, study abroad is different from “real life” at whatever university. If you don’t treat study abroad like it’s different, you’re going to have a bad time. Don’t expect to be as frugal as you are back home. It’s definitely possible, but you will be miserable. There are expenses in study abroad that don’t come up in regular school situations. You will be going out more, eating out more, and hopefully travelling more. Anticipate these expenses and plan for them. The two biggest money-handling mistakes I’ve seen on study abroad are:

  1. Spending as frugally as one would back home and not being able to experience study abroad as it should be experienced
  2. Spending more money than one normally would because it’s #studyabroad but then constantly berating oneself for the reckless spending

Both of these behaviors are a MISTAKE and will detract from your study abroad experience. I was in the first boat for about 3 weeks, the second boat for another 3 weeks, and now I am free from both! I already sort of went over why number 1 is a mistake above. Don’t treat study abroad like it’s back home. If you have a college budget, don’t just carry it to study abroad and expect it to work and be fine. Number 2 should be obvious to everyone. If you’re berating yourself for your spending, you’re just going to make yourself feel awful. Also, study-abroad spending is not “reckless spending”. It’s a once in a lifetime experience and should be treated as such. The best thing to do is spend the extra money on the study abroad experiences (relative to each individual person’s  means/ budget) and be fine with it.

Alright, so how do you get to that point where you can spend and be fine? This is where the planning comes in…That I hope y’all were doing way beforehand. If you are like me and don’t have family members to hand you money at your every whim, having the ultimate study-abroad experience takes a little finessing.

Apply for IFSA scholarships/jobs! The IFSA first-generation scholarship literally saved me so much grief. Apply for other scholarships as well. Apply for all of them, if you have the time. If you are eligible, apply for the Gilman scholarship. There are also a lot of university/region specific scholarships out there. These are usually less competitive than the nationwide scholarship programs. Brush up on your writing skills because you will be writing a lot of essays. My university has people that specifically help with proofreading scholarship/fellowship application essays. Check to see if your university has something similar.

For those that have a job during the school year: SAVE. I am serious. It is painful and hard, but it must be done. I managed to save a significant amount of money in a little over a year by consciously restricting my spending. That is in addition to paying for my miscellaneous expenses( like soap, conditioner, etc.). I created an incredibly restrictive budget for myself and stuck to it. My sophomore year social life suffered considerably, but I saved that $$$. Watch Netflix with your friends. It is free and fun. Don’t eat out. Don’t buy Starbucks. Don’t take that Uber to the bar/wherever. Obviously, it’s impossible to completely follow these guidelines unless you are a complete recluse, but you need to make a concerted effort to spend less. Sometimes I’d go to random club meetings/career events to get the Pizza/catered food when I really, really wasn’t feeling the dining hall.

Other options are, of course, loans. But taking out a loan is a personal decision and everyone qualifies for different types/rates.

Also! IFSA specifically provides students with budget calculators, so look that up. Just make sure to be realistic and don’t plan on spending $5 USD a week in expenses. Good luck!

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Reflections at the halfway mark

Time September 12th, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

September 11, 2013

67 days.

67 days I’ve been in my new home of Costa Rica.

67 days until I go back home the U-S-of-A.

I have a  lot of mixed feelings about that revelation, some of them clichés but all genuine.

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Week Two and class selections

Time March 21st, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

So I have now been in Lima f or two weeks. Orientation is over but it was amazingly fun while it lasted. The entire group here is great and they are all very fun to be around. Through orientation we learned strategies to keep ourselves safe in life as well as interesting slang that is only used here. We ate lots of cool Peruvian food and also explored the closest place to get a decent Burger and Pizza. We traveled all around Lima, from the Plaza de Armas to El barrio Chino. All of which was very fun and interesting. A couple of days ago I was able to go down to the beach for the first time since arriving and that was really fun, we all just chilled and listened to music while the sun shone and vendors came around selling Inka Kolas (Peru’s national soft drink, also utterly delicious) and Churros.

 

One of the things that has been difficult to get use to is the traffic here. As a resident of New Hampshire I view any sort of traffic as inherently evil. In Lima traffic is hell. Riding around in the small, cramped and always full combis while stuck in rush hour (which feels like it always is) is torture beyond belief. Not to mention that in Peru textbooks are incredibly expensive so Professors just photocopy the text. This means that as a student we have to go to the Fotocopiadoras and ask for them to copy the required reading. This wouldn’t be awful if Peruvians believed in lines. But alas they do not and it is typically a giant mass of students yelling there class codes to get the texts they need. It’s incredibly inefficient and it is easily one of my least favorite aspects of being in Peru.

 

There are some very interesting aspects to Peruvian culture that either does not exist in the United States or is slightly different. Something that I have struggled with is the amount of public displays of affection. It is not uncommon to walk down the street or ride a bus and see a couple sharing a passionate kiss. Another thing is that Peruvians tend to disregard personal space, obviously not out of rudeness but because it’s just not a cultural thing here. The “personal bubble” is a very United States invention and it’s sometimes off putting when speaking with locals who will stand very very close to you. I have only experienced this once or twice and each time it came from none Limenos. Another thing that I have struggled to get use to is the besito, also known as the kiss on the cheek, when greeting or leaving the company of a woman. It’s very strange and can make you uncomfortable but it’s something that’s done here and something that I will have to overcome.

 

Lima is classified as a desert so it never ever rains. However, it is the most humid place I’ve ever been to in my life. The Summers here are much the same as the one in New England with a high in the 80s or so. The place where it differs is the humidity. In New England the humidity fluctuates day to day and some days are better than others. In Lima, it is always humid. Typically your average day is about 90%-98% humidity. This makes living here an absolute killer. There are days when just getting up from bed has caused me to break out sweating. It also makes me much more tired by the end of the day. But the weather is always consistent which is something to be said. Lets face it, New England can’t exactly say the same.

 

My time in Lima has been short but I can honestly say that I enjoy being here. There’s something to be said about living in a place that truly feels alive. I use to hate cities but this may change my mind about them. So far my experience has been a rather positive one, there will always be some things that may upset us as people in a new culture but for the most part I can look past most, if not all of them. Some days are obviously harder than others. Some days you miss your friends and family, while sometimes you just simply miss your culture, you miss the consistency of the things you know. In another culture you are always wondering what to do next. But I am happy and that is what counts and I look forward to sharing more of my experiences in future posts.

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