For all the STEM Majors that want to study abroad, here’s a blog from someone who isn’t from the Business side of campus.
At least from my experiences, American culture fantasizes travel. Young children are taught that a successful life usually includes some instances of travelling to other countries and high-paying jobs naturally include it. So, myself and probably every other blogger on this website has at least this base level of motivation to study abroad. Currently, I am a senior though, and I always had a latent desire to study abroad, but never found the time to prioritize it. I kept putting it off till I was posed with this thought experiment:
“If a machine could evaluate how much each day of your life was worth, how much would your tomorrow would sell for?”
where the machine evaluates based on your happiness, successfulness and how you interact with others (the actual question ask about each day of your life, then follows up with how many days would you sell for instant cash now, but that’s not the focus here). I know it’s kinda a lame question, but it resonated with me for some reason. As such, it got me thinking. I *could* spend a single day at UA, doing the same ol’ routine, not really being pushed to excel in class, spending yet another day in the robotics lab. On the other hand, I could spend a day in Amsterdam, a day in Norway, or a day in Germany doing god-knows-what. In the end, I found that if you compare a single day in UA to a single day studying abroad, UA was almost always worth less.
If this was the case, then why am I not studying abroad? I had no answer for that, and I contacted the study abroad office that very same day.
Thus began the endless process of preparation. Frankly, I probably put way too many hours into it, but (as of right now), I’m content with my choices. I looked at things like cost, educational prowess, percent of the population speaking English and proximity to other places I thought were cool. There was an entire spreadsheet, and I can sheepishly say that I nearly memorized every engineering, psychology or biology program offered at UA. If you can avoid doing this, I highly recommend that. If you worry about where you’re going, I promise that the spreadsheet is possible and it’ll work out in the end, despite how much effort it seems like it’ll take.
An aside regarding cost: I know that many of the people I have talked to, as well as myself, were fairly worried about the cost of the trip. If it helps at all, think about it like this: Being a student with tuition is significantly cheaper than if you want to spend four months just vacationing. Invest in your memories now at a cheaper rate than what you would pay later.
Beyond deciding my initial location, I’m a proponent of “tasting” a little bit of all the nearby cultures. Thus, I’m planning on doing a lot of travelling to nearby countries and my travel bag reflects that. Some people prefer to explore one place very thoroughly, and all I can say is… you do you. If you want to study abroad, make it all about you. Do exactly what you want because there won’t be a single person that you need to appease other than yourself (and the police). So, while I will enjoy learning about a field outside of my major, my personal goals are to figure out what makes Europe different than the US, attempt to find the most picture-esque spots available and to spend some time figuring out exactly what I want from my life. Do I actually like travel? Who knows.
As a final word about how I prepared, I want to say this. There are many guides on how to travel, and they occasionally have some fairly frightening “tips” or statistics (ex. crime is #% higher than the US). When you distill it all down though, everything is basically saying the same thing: Treat it as if you were moving to the country. If you wouldn’t want to move there for any reason, you’re going to have problems, so maybe you should look at studying abroad somewhere else. Because, after all, you *will* be living there.
Things I found helpful:
* timeshighereducation.com – I thought it had more succinct info than QS or any of the other ranking sites
* Atlas Obscura – Website for finding things to do
* Skyscanner, Skiplagged, Momondo, Secretflights – Websites to find cheap flights
* HostelWorld – Website for cheap places to stay (can’t be a germaphobe though)
* Small time travel blogger’s websites – Better quality info than the popular guys and definitely better than travel sites like Booking/TripAdvisor