Much of this blog is dedicated to the amusing or surprising experiences of students abroad. Yet we often forget about the financial or practical obstacles that students face before they can even think about boarding a plane. For some people, like my friend Jenna, a Psychology major, study abroad isn’t in the cards. Here, we chat about how she became stranded in the Midwest.

Merisa: For someone who loves travel, destination weddings, and people watching at airports, I can’t believe you’ve never studied abroad. Haven’t you ever thought about it?

Jenna: I have definitely thought about it! I researched it a lot and made some plans. I even went to a first step meeting.

Merisa: I know how you love to plan! What was the first step meeting like? Did they give you specific advice, or just describe how to go about applying to the program?

Jenna: I do love planning! So I was really excited to start really getting things figured out. The meeting was more about basic stuff like how you need a passport and what to do to apply. There was also a lot of time devoted to how to pay for study abroad, like with scholarships or financial aid. After the group meeting, you can wait for a person that works in the office to talk to you about a specific program if you have one in mind, but they don’t help you plan anything specific to your major or schedule.

Merisa: Does that mean you have to research all of the individual programs on your own?

Jenna: Yes, I used the website to look into different countries I was interested in. Most of the people that were in my group meeting already had a general idea of where they wanted to go, so I got the impression that most people sort of have a plan when they go into a first step meeting.

Merisa: I haven’t been to a meeting yet, but I’ve always thought England would be the easiest place to go. Where did you think you wanted to go?

Jenna: Well, at first I was thinking Spain, because I was planning to do a Spanish minor. But when I decided against that, I started looking into various programs for my major, which is Child Psych. I looked into Australia and Denmark to try to take some classes in my major.

Merisa: Aside from the language barrier, all of those places sound way better than England. Why did you decide not to go?

Jenna: Well, I think I’ve forgotten most of my Spanish anyway. But there were a few reasons I decided not to go. First of all, it really is very expensive! My parents were not willing to pay for it, and I wasn’t ready to spend that much money on something that doesn’t really fit into my plan well enough. The most important reason was that I had a hard time fitting it into my plan for classes. I’m a huge fan of grad planner, and I had everything perfectly mapped out for graduating, so when there weren’t any programs that fit my plan, I knew it wasn’t going to work out.

Merisa: Any advice for someone who may end up in the same, study abroad-less position?

Jenna: I think that the main reason it didn’t work out for me is that I had a very specific plan, as I had certain classes I had to take for my major and minor. Ultimately, none of the programs fulfilled everything I needed in order for me to choose to study abroad and still graduate on time. I am the kind of person that is not very flexible once I’ve set a plan, and study abroad requires flexibility, as not everything is going to transfer or work out perfectly. So I guess advice I would give someone is to decide what is important to you. If just the overall experience of studying abroad is what you are looking for, then go for it! There are some really great programs out there! But if you have a plan you need to stick to, then it will be a little more difficult to find something that works in your schedule.

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