I was a pretty romantic kid growing up; at eight years old I was a true idealist with access to HBO. One night, at three in the morning (the magic hour), I witnessed my first black and white film, Sabrina starring Audrey Hepburn. It’s the story of a young working class girl, the daughter of a chauffeur. Who falls in love with her father’s, employer’s son, which of course, doesn’t work out. Sabrina decides she can’t take it and runs to the garage. Turns on all the cars in an eight car garage and tries to fall asleep forever (yes I was eight years old, it seems much darker now than I remember). Humphrey cool and collected as he was saves her. The next morning she leaves for a year to mend a broken heart and transform herself in the midst of one of the most amazing cities in the world. The movie ended and I went to bed that morning feeling giddy half from sleep deprivation and the other because I felt as if i’d been whispered a secret. A secret whispered just for me, It held magic and I held to it tight. At eight old I didn’t need a beau to know that I should travel the globe. For the first time I was seeing the world through rose colored glasses and just like Sabrina I knew that everything I would ever want or had wanted was reaching for me, I merely had to open my mind to its possibilities.
From that moment on, I would say I was on a quest for adventure but my parents would say I had become obsessed. As I grew up I began to realize many people shared my dream. Thousands of students from around the world were hungry for new experiences and have watched as their dream transformed and solidified from goal to reality. And they’ve all asked the same question you’re asking yourself right now. How do I wake up and turn this dream into a reality? When dreaming, it’s easy to get caught up in the fantasy of what the experience might be like rather than the reality of the situation. If you are like me, your imagination can take you so far you’ll be in OZ, never knowing how you got there.
Setting realistic and attainable goals is the only way to truly accomplish anything, big or small in your life. Imagine you’re at the foot of a staircase, looking up. You know where’d you’d like to go. Straight to the top, that’s simple. But how do you get there? Each step to the top will take you where you want to go. You may be out of breath once you get there but it will always be worth it. This article will be your eye opener, taking you through all the steps of turning your dream of studying abroad in to another accomplishment to place on your updated resume.
First things first, A S.M.A.R.T. goal is defined as one that is specific, measurable, achievable, results-focused, and timebound. It is highly important that before you start moving, you begin planning. So go ahead and click the link to a S.M.A.R.T goal worksheet. Fill it out and define for yourself what those key steps in between are. This will allow for a clear path to accomplish your goals. Once you’ve written everything out limit your scope, by doing your research. I’m a big fan of doing your due diligence. There are a host of factors to consider when choosing an institution. It’s vital to focus not only on the nightlife but the culture of the area, the resources the school offers its study abroad students, length of your stay etc. Choose wisely and when you’re ready, get a whiteboard, a cork board or calendar— really anything you can place in your room to physically mark off days and intermediate goals. It will be tremendously beneficial to see yourself getting closer day by day with a check or slash through an accomplishment.
After you’ve planned out your trip via your S.M.A.R.T goals, it’s important to identify the obstacles that may slow you down you. Enabling you to side step them when the need arise. The number one barrier that the majority of us face when planning a trip of this magnitude is how do we finance it ? Thus tackling your money issues first will be the traction your dream needs to get off the floor. Attending a university abroad is the best way to travel at a discounted rate. You may even receive state funding to do it. As long as they coincide with your education, you can kill two birds with one stone. Remember you must fill out your FASFA and have been eligible to receive aid to accept the benefits of using your educational grants toward a study abroad experience. If you have already done so you’re ahead of the game. When looking for a study abroad program use your current institutions resources. Your study abroad department will help to find a program that fits you, possibly even finding more financial assistance. There are deadlines for scholarships and financial aid packages, so stay on top of them or you will miss opportunities. This is a perfect time to mark down these dates on your calendar. I’d use pencil or stickey notes nothing is set in stone until your bags are packed and you’re out the door.
Lastly I’d seriously consider getting a second job, in many cases there will be extra expenses that will not be covered by your scholarships you’ll want to have that covered. Having a second job while tiring will keep you focused and motivated along the way. In addition there is always the bonus of extra shopping money. Believing you are going and working hard to get there is 90% of the battle. when you’ve locked down where your funds will be coming from, you can check that off your list and move on.
Now that the institution has been picked and funds have been secured — it’s time to get your passport, if you don’t already have one. The process can take anywhere from 4-6 weeks in America so start the process early. Since your passport will take 4-6 weeks (unless you pay $60 to expedite the process), you should go ahead and buy your tickets. Make sure you buy them 2-3 months before your departure, even earlier if you are traveling to Europe. Because you started the process so early, it gives you plenty of time to deal with life’s little surprises as they arise. And while it can be completely frustrating in the moment, remembering that the better prepared you are now, the less overwhelmed you will be in a foreign state knee deep in verb tenses.
Some key things to note: U.S. passport cards are only valid when traveling to the Caribbean, Bermuda, Mexico and Canada. The U.S. Passport card is $55 for first time applicants. The U.S. passport is valid for all international travel, and at $135 for first time applicants —it will be the best money you’ve ever spent. Make sure to make two copies: leave the second copy at home with someone you trust. Your intense planning and preparation should leave you with peace of mind your entire trip.
There are few things that you should remember to do and find out for your trip. First, let your bank know the dates that you will be traveling and where you will traveling, so your card doesn’t get blocked- which happens more often than you would think. Second, does the country that you will be residing in require a visa? Thirdly, what is the contact information of the closest embassy to where you will be staying? Finally, what vaccinations will you need to travel? For those of us who need any type of medication to sustain our livelihood, it’s a good idea to bring a little extra. Also, have your doctor write a note for your prescriptions so you can bypass the long security check and awkward questions.
Before you go, make a list to check off necessities that can only be found in the U.S or things needed specifically for the host country you will be residing in. Technology, as we all know, can be as difficult as it can be enjoyable. The great thing about our smartphones are their app stores filled to the brim with a variety of applications built to make life abroad a breeze. For example: downloading apps such as Viber, Skype and Whatsapp will permit you to talk to people around the world for free. Also download apps like Triplingo— to help you navigate through and learn key phrases in different languages. While finally, Safety Map Worldwide will allow you to be kept abreast of current safety hazards monitoring crime levels as you travel. For the difficult aspects of technology, such as adapters and converters, I would suggest buying those ahead of time so there’s no stress when your phone has died in a place with not a single plug to match your charger.
If you’ve taken care of the above mentioned, you’re probably starting to get excited because the out of focus picture that was your dream is finally coming in clear. This is really happening and Packing is a huge thing to think about.What to take, what to leave behind, but before you pack your entire closet, map out your suitcase like you’ve mapped out this trip. If you need to buy a new one, definitely do so— the sturdier the better. Make sure you are aware of what you can and cannot bring; liquids are always something people have trouble with, so just a refresher. Pack all liquids over 3.4 ounces in your checked baggage. You are not getting your Coke through security so chuck it,and don’t put your extra large bottle of lotion in your carry on. You can’t be mad at TSA for your forgetfulness.
If you’ve only just started this process know that at times this will be one of the most grueling and trying moments in your life; but no one will ever say it wasn’t worth it. Following your plan, putting in the extra hours and staying on top of things will lead you to the top of the staircase. But when you get there, do me a favor will you? Take a deep breath and look back. We are only allowed one opportunity to look back before we close one door and open the other. Congratulate yourself for a job well done. But when you turn forward, headed down that long adjoining walkway know that there is more work to do. Leave the accomplishments of yesterday in the past along with who you thought you were and what you thought you knew, this is just the beginning, be open and learn a ton.