The Real Deal About Studying Abroad

By Ashley Tripp, Student at the University of Alabama

Studying abroad is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that you’ll want to experience during college. However, many of you will most likely pass up this incredible adventure because of the reoccurring myths people tell you about studying abroad such as the different costs, languages, classes, housing, etc.

First of all, studying abroad can be extremely overwhelming in figuring out where to start. The best way to know what's out there is to contact your adviser and let him/her know what your interests are and find out which scholarships you can apply for.

After researching various programs, I narrowed it down to three particular programs that stuck out to me as affordable and most helpful!

International Studies Abroad (ISA):
This program offers destination locations such as Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Chile, China, Costa Rica, Czech Republic, Dominican Republic, England, France, Italy, Jordan, Mexico, Panama, Peru, South Korea and Spain. The costs of spring and fall semesters range from $2,500 to $15,600 and the yearly costs range from $15,500 to $30,000.

Study Down Under (SDU):
The upcoming Study Down Under trip makes wave this July through November for only $20,000. The minimum GPA requirement is a 3.0 and students are expected to of completed one and a half years or more at your college. Included in the $20,000 are numerous events: day trips to the Blue Mountains, dolphin excursions, Opera House Shows, watching the Australian Rugby play New Zealand at the Sydney Olympic Stadium and visiting wine tours in the Hunter Valley. Most importantly, the unforgettable trip to the Great Barrier Reef includes a 4-star hotel stay, restaurant dinners, scuba diving at the Reef, crocodile tours, white-water rafting and rainforest tours as part of the package.

Academic Programs International (API):
API visits include England, Ireland and Italy. The majority of the program costs go straight to tuition and accommodation. API recommends you start budgeting early. One benefit of API is they offer scholarships for financial aid and support.

In addition, I decided to interview two of my sorority sisters, Sarah and Rachael, and my brother, Andrew, on their personal experiences studying abroad. Both Sarah and Rachael studied broad in Italy with the University of Alabama through a faculty-led program in their department. Andrew studied abroad as a part of the Florida State University School of Theatre program, the FSU Theatre London Academy.

1) How much did your trip cost and what ways are there to help fund your trip (scholarships, etc.)?

S: It was around $5,000. There is financial aid, if you qualify.

R: My trip cost about $4,000 and the university offered scholarships through the study abroad program. I used some of my school loans to help pay for my trip as well.

2) What are the benefits and rewards? What would you say was your most memorable place to visit?

S: Being away from home and in a new place, you become independent. I traveled to Rome, Venice and Florence and I'd have to say that Florence was by far the best. It's a great city to walk and there is history everywhere. It is very charming. It was also great to meet other UA students with the same interests.

R: The benefit of studying abroad was the exposure to something other than the lifestyle and culture I'm used to in Alabama and back home in Georgia. It gave me the opportunity to experience different types of people, food and ways of thinking. I think my most memorable to visit was Cinque Terre right along the coast of Italy. Not only was it incredibly beautiful, but also Sarah traveled there with me and sharing it with a sorority sister made it unforgettable.

A: For one, you are exposed to another culture, which can be extremely exciting. Also what you are studying and where you are on your abroad program is probably one of the best places to learn about your area of study. You are in your environment where you can get the most out of what you are studying. London, for me, was probably one of the best places to study theatre because of the rich history and the birthplace of Shakespeare's plays.

3) How did studying abroad influence your major/resume/career path?

S: I'm an art history major, so being in Florence and Italy was amazing to study all the works I had learned before — but in person. It was a great experience.

R: As a fashion major studying abroad in one of the fashion capitals of the world, it really enhanced my love and passion for what I want to do. I received an education with several hands-on experiences that I would not have received here in the U.S.

4) What is some advice you would give to college students looking at studying abroad?

S: I would definitely try to meet with a study abroad adviser. There is a program out there for any major whether you want to study with the university or another program.

R: Go with an open mind.

A: I highly suggest having someone that you know or study with to go abroad with you. Some people I know get very homesick and it's nice to have people that you know to experience your trips and to have some common ground.

Image: Damian Brandon /

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