The Process of Studying Abroad

Experiencing new cultures, exploring new countries, and meeting new people can all be considered intriguing factors of study abroad. However, before a student even steps foot on a plane, there is a long process to begin the journey. The steps to apply for studying abroad could be considered an adventure in itself.

Lauren Brokaw, a student at Northern Arizona University (NAU), is one student planning to study abroad in England next spring. “I wanted to go somewhere in Europe, so I could get a Euro pass and travel around to a bunch of different countries,” Brokaw said.

Sarracino’s map of Universities NAU students can travel to in Canada, Africa and the Middle East. Photo by Ashley Phillis

The first step to any study abroad trip is talking with a study abroad adviser. Andrew Sarracino is the study abroad adviser for Canada, the Middle East and Africa. “My job is to make sure students understand first of all where they want to go and do,” said Sarracino.

Brokaw has already started her application process. “For my application process so far, I have mainly met with advisers from the Communication department and the study abroad office just to make sure that I am on track credit wise and setting up the process,” said Brokaw.

To help students figure out their trip, study abroad advisors will ask them a series of questions including: ‘What do you want to get out of this experience?’ ‘What do you want to do while you’re abroad and ‘What compelled you to study abroad?’ Student’s answers to these questions will assist the advisers in helping them to find the best university and program for the student to study abroad.

Brielle Gisemann is an NAU alumna who study abroad during the 2012–2013 school year. “I picked Chile because I was a Spanish major and I needed to find a Spanish speaking country,” said Giesemann. “I wanted to go to Latin America; I was not interested in going to Europe and I heard that Costa Rica was more westernized, and I was looking for a different experience.”

Choosing where to go abroad is not the only concern of students. “A lot of students don’t know how to finance the trip,” said Sarracino. “We talk them through and tell them that going through one of our study abroad exchange programs, you can use all your finical aid you get from the university (NAU).”

Brokaw is familiar with how her financial aid will work. “I know that my tuition waivers and financial aid will transfer, I’m just worried about the other fees and how I’m going to pay those.”

Another major factor for students studying abroad is finding a program that focus then on their major. “We help them realize that, educational systems around the world aren’t the same,” said Sarracino. Advisors will help students pick a region that will help satisfy their credit requirements.

There’s more than just filling out an application through NAU to study abroad. Students have to apply to their host universities and sometimes apply for housing or home-stays.

“When I applied to the program through University of Santiago, Chile, they asked more personal questions that was more specifically for the home stay, for matching me with a family,” said Giesemann. “They matched me up really, really well. I ended up making friends with my host mom.”

This long process can be weary for students because of everything they have to complete. “I’m looking forwarded to getting the application process over with,” said Brokaw. “I’m dreading the anticipation of whether the host school accepts me or not.”

But dread is not the only emotion Brokaw is experiencing.

“I’m nervous for going out alone into the world. I’ve never really gone anywhere completely alone before. I’m so far away from everyone I know, but I’m looking forward to it as well.”

“I would definitely encourage students to study abroad, but I would also say that it is important to be conscious of your intentions,” said Giesemann. People decided to go abroad for different reasons. Some are looking to be immersed in the culture, some want to learn a new language, some want to travel and other want to party. “Whatever your intention is, tune in to that and what that really means,” said Giesemann.