Why Should I Study Abroad?

By: Cassie

You know those things that you know you are always meant to do? The goal that you feel a huge drive towards and you are willing to do anything and everything to accomplish it. Well for me, that has always been traveling the world. I want to see everything, experience everything, and go everywhere. Well, I’m sure you’re thinking, “Well how do you plan to do that when you’re a poor college student and you know you have student loans to pay off after you graduate?” I have asked myself this exact same question. Then the realization dawned on me; study abroad is there for people who are experiencing the exact same feelings as me. You might be thinking, “I don’t know if study abroad is right for me”, and I am here to tell you all the reasons you should at least consider it as a part of your college experience.

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The first reason that you should consider study abroad is that it is SO flexible. There are so many different programs; you can pretty much go anywhere in the world. If UMD doesn’t have a program that you want to go on, don’t worry! They can find an affiliate program that will work with you so you can go wherever you want to go. You can also go any time of year. You can take May terms, J terms, semester long programs, or you can even go the whole year. The study abroad office is absolutely willing to work with you through every step of the way so you can make the best decision for you.

Another reason you should consider study abroad is, why not now? College is the time in your life when you are supposed to be able to take risks and experience new things. Once you get out into the real world you aren’t going to get very much time to vacation (especially right away as an entry level employee) so now is a great time. Another great reason is that when you study abroad, your whole trip, or a majority of it, is planned for you. It is much easier to travel with the help of experienced professionals than try and plan it on your own.

Finally not only is study abroad fun and exciting, but for practical reasons, it looks great on a resume! By putting study abroad on a resume you are telling employers that you are willing to put yourself out there and try new things. It also shows employers that you are willing to go international and are able to market yourself that way which is so valuable!

This May I am traveling with the Innovation in Ireland program. This is an entrepreneurship and innovation course that is offered through the business school. It is a three-week program where I will be traveling all around Ireland and I get to see all the sights while also enhancing my college experience and gaining knowledge. I chose this program because as Health Care Management major I don’t have a lot of flexibility in my schedule and this was a course that fit into my course requirements. It also is great because it is only three-weeks and I don’t know if I could go abroad for any longer than that. We are traveling in a big group as well, which was an added bonus for me because I don’t think I would be able to go abroad on my own. This has added a lot of work on my plate for this semester, and I know in the end it will all be completely worth it.

For all these reasons I think that if you haven’t at looked into study abroad, you really should. It is a lot of work and there are a lot of things to consider, but there are so many people who are here to help you through the steps. All you need to do is take the first step and look on the study abroad website to get some ideas. It never hurts to look, and you never know you could find something you like and change your life!

Of Possible Interest:

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Steps to Teaching Abroad

By: Emily

Editor’s note: Emily is a C&IS Peer Educator alumna. You can read her previous post, Adventures in Teaching Abroad, to get all the background info about why she and her partner decided to spend a year in South Korea teaching. Here is the rest of her advice about getting started with the teaching abroad process.

How do I teach abroad?

The entire process of becoming a qualified candidate, interviewing with a recruiter, lining up a job, and completing all the paperwork took about 6 months.

Steps to teaching abroad

Step #1: Find a reputable recruiting agency

  • Fees can be a red flag. Keep in mind that we didn’t pay a cent to submit an application, to interview, to apply for work, or to sign a contract. There are recruiters, like Don (ESL Joblink), that are paid by schools to find quality candidates to teach abroad. Our largest expense was mailing paperwork and the processing fees for required documents such as FBI background checks.
  • Ask others. Begin talking about your desire to teach abroad in casual conversations. Oftentimes people will bring up a relative or friend or reveal that they had an experience teaching overseas. This is a great opportunity to be assertive. In several instances, Danny contacted strangers on Facebook after having a conversation with a mutual acquaintance. For us this resulted in Skype sessions and informational interviews at coffee shops. Each time we asked if they went through a recruiter or organization. We found this to be the most helpful way of finding a reputable agency.

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Cambodia

Step #2: Complete paperwork

  • This includes getting an FBI background check, a passport, and work visas. Our recruiter Don guided us through this process. He kept track of deadlines and was available to answer questions. For questions he couldn’t answer, I was often able to find an answer online.

Step #3: Sign a Contract

  • Danny and I were very anxious to sign our contract because we had read horror stories of teachers stuck in terrible contracts. We asked for a few days to make a final decision and read our contract carefully, we had our families and friends read it and we sent several messages with questions to our prospective employers to clarify. My biggest piece of advice: take your time making this decision. Don’t become too excited or desperate, or you might become stuck in a difficult situation that could become increasing complex negotiating with language and cultural barriers.

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Floating market, Bangkok, Thailand

Step #4: Prepare to leave

  • You will need to order currency and start packing. Packing for a year away from home can be daunting. I started in phases and relied on packing lists I found on countless travel blogs. Keep in mind that you need less than you think you do. Almost everything you can buy in America you can buy in Korea. If you have even a little doubt, don’t pack it. You will accumulate things in Korea and it will become expensive to move your things back home. If you are planning on teaching in Korea, focus on a professional wardrobe. Koreans are dressed to impress, all day, every day.

Step #5: Go!

  • After making time to visit and say goodbye to your friends and family, it’s time to go! The big leap is exhausting and terrifying at first, but it will be one of the best years of your life.

Photo on 2015-12-08 at 15.48

Emily with a few of her students.

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1st Photo Source: Unsplash | Ambir Tolang
Other photo sources: Emily

Making the Most of Your Short Time Abroad

By: Katie

I’ve had the opportunity to participate in two of UMD’s short term study abroad programs during my time here: one for a month in Salamanca, Spain, and the other for 2 weeks in various cities in Italy. Both of these experiences were the most incredible of my life, but there was one major downside to both: I didn’t have nearly enough time.

Short term programs are great for many reasons, but they don’t leave you with much time to participate in all the things that add richness to the experience. However, there are ways to fully immerse yourself in the culture and get the most you possibly can out of your study abroad experience, even in such a short period of time.

Venice
Venice

Use Local Transportation

Walk. Walk everywhere. Many cities outside of the U.S. (in Europe, at least) are made to be much more walkable than they are here, and people certainly take advantage of that. Walking around allows you to experience the city the way locals do, and you get to see things you wouldn’t see if you traveled by car or other means of transportation.
While I do think walking is the best way to get around, checking out the public transportation system the city offers can also be fun. Just make sure to watch out for pickpockets…and don’t put anything valuable in your back pockets or a bag that rests behind you!

Explore & Get Lost

There really is no substitute for experiencing foreign cities as they light up after the sun sets. You can walk around and see where people are hanging out or find something to eat. While you’re wandering during the day, check out the different shops around the city. And I don’t mean just the tacky tourist-y shops – go into the stores the people who live there visit, and see what interesting things you can find. For example, the way they weigh and buy fruit is different in Spain than it is here. Even something as small as that adds to your experience.

Florence
Florence

Talk to Locals

While this may seem intimidating, particularly when in a country with a different native language, it’s totally worth it. I have so many great memories of conversations (and pictures taken) with the people I met in Italy and Spain. Talk to them about their culture, and tell them about yours. Ask them for recommendations on where to eat, what to do, and what the must-do experiences to have before you leave are. Ask for directions, and do your best to follow them…but always carry a map with you, for when you inevitably get lost. And on that note, make sure you know how to read a map before you leave the States!

Try all the things!

Or at least do as many as you can in two, three, or four weeks. Find out what foods that area of the world/country is known for (Salamanca loves its cured meats, and Italy loves, well, pasta and pizza), and try as many of them as possible. If there are any events or celebrations going on while you’re there, check them out. On our first day in Salamanca, we witnessed the annual Procesión del Corpus Christi. Later, we listened to musicians performing in the plazas. If you have the opportunity to take advantage of similar extra opportunities, definitely do so!

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La Plaza de Espana

 

Journal, take pictures, and make all the memories you can.

One thing I didn’t do much of my first go around but chose to do my second was to journal. I already took a ridiculous amount of pictures, but pictures can’t give you as much detail as a verbal description of what you did and how you felt. I look back on my journal from Italy and it instantly brings back all the memories the pictures are unable to. While it might feel like a bit of a chore at the time, you’ll appreciate it later as the memories begin to fade.

Most importantly…

The main piece of advice I can give you is if you’re thinking of studying abroad, do it, and if you’re not thinking of studying abroad, think about it. No one ever regrets studying abroad, but they do regret not doing it. It’s scary to venture outside of your comfort zone, but if you do, studying abroad will certainly be one of the most incredible experiences of your life.

Of Possible Interest: 

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All photos taken by Katie on her travels.

Study Abroad: Common Misconceptions

By: Zach

When it comes to even the thought of studying abroad, there seem to be some students who get deterred from the idea because of a variety of different factors. Getting the opportunity to go global is not only highly beneficial to your career and personal self, but there is only a limited window in your life where you will have the opportunity to spend a long period of time in a different country. For this short post, I want to break away a bit from our normal career focused material, and share more about the believed barriers to studying abroad. My goal is that the information I pass along about study abroad comes full circle. This is an opportunity that platforms you for success after graduation and creates a invaluable connection to personal career aspirations. So let’s get to it then. The real question is, “why are more students not taking advantage of study abroad during their time at UMD?” It is the University of Minnesota’s goal to have at least 50% of students take a global experience before they graduate and only 3% of UMD student do! So why is that? I want to address and explore the three main concerns I have heard from students about why they decide not to study abroad.

Abroad Misconceptions

I can’t afford to study abroad…

Indeed, the cost of one study abroad program may vary from another, yet you may surprisingly find that there are some programs that are less of a cost than a semester at UMD! No matter where you choose to go, the biggest financial factor to take into account is cost of living. Places in Europe may prove to be a bit more expensive when buying your loaf of bread at the store verses places in South America. The main thing to remember when planning your study abroad experience is that if you currently have financial aid, it is possible to have this aid rollover to the program tuition fee. Not only that, but UMD alone awards around $90,000 each year in scholarships to students studying abroad! There are many penny saving plans that will help you reach your study abroad destination, but the key to success is to do your research and develop a budget.

Classes I need won’t transfer…

While students with history, political science, language, and arts majors may find it easier to transfer classes taken overseas, that does not mean you won’t find classes for your criminology, health education, or even anthropology major. When it comes to planning your study abroad experience, it is important for you to do a bit of digging and research on what universities or programs will have classes you could take to stay on course for graduation. Remember that universities overseas also have majors and fields of study, and they also have classes to focus their studies around. After you have narrowed down a few locations, take a look at which universities offer classes you may need. At the end of the day, remember that the point of studying abroad is to think outside of the box and explore other interests that you may have never thought of before. Fill those upper division liberal education classes you still need in the history or arts. I took an Architecture of London course and took field trips to buildings across the city throughout the semester in England. I can say with certainty that this is not offered at UMD. Take a look at what UMD students have already taken while studying abroad and have gotten credit for. Just like before, it will take a bit of searching to find the best programs to fit your major, but ultimately, I promise there is a program that fits for you.

It’s too late for me to study abroad

Anytime between sophomore and junior year is the time to take advantage of a global program, however, don’t write yourself off even as a senior. There are plenty of opportunities as an upper division student not only to study abroad, but even international internships, volunteer work, and UROPs as well. When it comes to the application deadline, normally you will apply mid-way through the semester in advance of the one you want to be away. And if you procrastinate every once and awhile, like me, this still gives you a good amount of time to get all your ducks in a row before you leave. If a full semester over seas is just not for you, or you truly can’t find any options that allow for a clean transfer of classes, look into the UMD short-term programs that can take you around the world over a winter break or summer break, as there are plenty to choose from. Now there should be no excuse for you too say its too late. It’s as easy as landing your finger on the globe and packing!

All-in-all, I hope my short blurbs on studying abroad continue to interest you and provide great insights, as I truly want every student to have the same experience I had. The goal is to travel, learn, and grow. Push yourself out of your comfort zone every once and awhile, and I guarantee you will be happy you did so. Taking advantage of an opportunity like such is not only beneficial to skill development and career advancement, but it is an experience of a lifetime that provides priceless personal growth. During your time at UMD, take advantage of a resource you may never be able to use after graduation and study abroad!

Of Possible Interest:

Until next time,  Zach

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Study Abroad: Telling Stories & Sharing Skills

By: Zach

For most of us, our venture off into the “real world” is approaching sooner than we think, and it is time to update the resume, polish up on interviewing skills, and above all, market our amazing skills to prospective employers! Standing out on paper always seems easier said than done, but what can we do now to set ourselves up for success in the future? In this brief post, I am going to share with you ways in which study abroad experiences can help you separate yourself from the pack when it comes to job and internship hunting. I hope this proves to not only be a good read for students that have already studied abroad, but also for those of you who are even slightly interested in taking that international leap to learn!

When I had returned from my semester in London, many people were curious about my travels. I definitely enjoy sharing these stories with all those that are interested, but all these questions soon started to get me thinking. “So… how have I changed?” and “What did I learn from my time overseas?” It’s always easy to talk about the different places I have been and the adventures I went on, but how do I share the skills I developed when it matters most? More and more employers are not only seeking out students in the right field, with the right grades, and the right school, but they are looking for students with passions, ambitions, involvement, and experience.

When it comes to the skills you learned abroad, remember all of the times you had to think on your own and face some unique challenges alone. For me, it was being tossed into a big city with an overwhelming metro system, learning new etiquette and customs in a fast pace culture, or even sleeping on a bare mattress, no pillow or sheets my first night because after that long trip over, sleep was the thing that was needed most. Ok, so they do not always sound like much, and you’re probably just thinking “Zach, give it a rest already! We get it… you studied abroad and now you’re some world explorer like Bear Grylls…” But whether you realize it or not, each “story” brings its own new skill that you are able to share with employers on your resume, cover letter, and interview. Below are a couple of the best ways I believe someone’s travels abroad can be highlighted to employers:

Resume

Standard and simple! Slap the study abroad experience on your resume. It’s best to keep this one short and concise under the Education section of a resume. Sometimes it feels like it would be nice to give this type of experience a whole page to itself, but unfortunately that’s not quite how resumes work, and I bet the employer at the other end will have more important things to be doing. Under the education section of a resume, it is as easy as listing the program or school you attended while abroad, location, and maybe GPA info if you care to put it. Our Career Handbook in our office has some good examples on how to add study abroad to your resume, so head on down and take a look when you can!

Cover Letter

When it comes to a cover letter, just like any other shared experience, we are able to elaborate more than on a resume. This is where you are able to share those life changing experiences and skills you gained while abroad. For me, it is still important to tie in my academic work and group projects from the school I went to in a cover letter. In doing this, I am able to explain the projects and assignments I worked on, and also talk about things such as different team or report types. If done correctly, your cover letter will highlight your new independence skills and also show your ability to be adaptable, flexible, and truly how to perform well in other environments and settings.

Interview

Last but definitely not least, interviews are going to be your best opportunity to share with an employer the skills you gained while studying abroad. From my experiences this past semester, I have brought up my semester in London when asked questions about greatest achievements and even biggest obstacles and failures. And crazy enough, that is really what the whole experience is about! It’s about overcoming challenges, finding paths for yourself, and creating goals and dreams. Just have a couple stories ready to tell before you head in for an interview, and I even bet most of the nerves will melt away when you are asked a question about your travels. This is because they are fun to talk about! Try not to go on too long, and make sure you are answering their question and coming to a point. Overall, my experience in interviews has showed me that the natural excitement I get when I talk about studying abroad seems to go a long way in the eyes of the employer!

Ok, ok… I promise I am off my study abroad “soap box” now, but if I can say one last thing, it would be that if you have the opportunity to study abroad during your years at UMD, do not hesitate to take it. There is something exciting and almost indescribable about taking an adventure of your own, stepping out of your bubble, and discovering what else is out in our big world.

If you have any other questions about studying abroad, make sure to stop by the International Education Office where they can answer your study abroad questions! Or if you would like to just come chat about any travel opportunities and how to incorporate them into your job search, come steal me for five minutes at Career and Internship Services. Talk soon, all!

Cheers,

– Zach

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Joining the Peace Corps

By: Emily

Has the idea of joining the Peace Corps ever crossed your mind? Although it’s not for everybody, there are certainly many possibilities for those who might enjoy servicing the world in this way. The Peace Corps was established in 1961 by John F. Kennedy as a way to service other countries while representing Americans in positive light and introducing American citizens to other cultures.

Although many people like the idea of making a difference and traveling abroad, joining the Peace Corps is no small commitment. Volunteers agree to 24 months of service, including 3 months of in-country training in 139 countries across the globe. Once trained, a volunteer will be involved in one of six program areas: Education, Youth and Community Development, Health, Business and Information & Communication Technology, Agriculture, or the Environment.

Peace Corps logo

Although the idea of being a part of this may sound intimidating, there are some substantial benefits in doing this kind of work. Some organizations charge participants money to volunteer, but this opportunity is free of charge. Living expenses, transportation and in-country support are all paid for and a regular stipend is provided. In fact, volunteers with student loans can have Stafford, Perkins, direct and consolidated loans deferred or partially cancelled. Volunteers get two vacation days per month, a total of 48 days for the two years of service. If there is a family emergency, volunteers have access to free transportation back home. Once a volunteer is done serving, they are provided with adjustment funds and have employment advantages in many different kinds of federal positions.

If you are planning on joining after graduation, here’s what you should know:

You have to be a U.S. citizen and at least 18 years old to apply, but you don’t have to have any particular major or certification (although 90 percent of volunteers have undergraduate degrees). The process of joining Peace Corps includes an application, interview, nomination, medical and legal review, placement suitability and skill review, then an invitation and departure to your location. It is recommended that you apply 9 months to a year in advance of when you’d like to participate.

Keep in mind these highly sought after skill combinations:

  • Agriculture economics with or without a foreign language
  • Forestry with French
  • Environment with Spanish
  • Agriculture with Spanish or French
  • TEFL or TESL certification with classroom teaching (Teaching English as a Foreign Language)
  • Teaching credential (BA/BS)

If you do not possess these specific skill combinations you can make yourself a more competitive applicant by teaching English abroad, gaining experience in agriculture or educating yourself on health related issues through volunteer work. For more information check out the Peace Corps website at http://www.peacecorps.gov/.

If the idea of Peace Corps sounds a little overwhelming, but you are interested in volunteering, here are some alternatives to the Peace Corps:

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Back from Abroad

Hello All,

Welcome back to UMD, and as always, thanks for tuning into the Career and Internship Services “Peer Into Your Career” Blog! I’m Zach Lyons, and I will be your host for the day… Okay, I’ll drop the TV host act! It truly is great to be back on campus with all the hustle and bustle of classes and activities, and we could not have lucked out with any better weather to kick off Fall semester!

For me in particular, I am extra excited to be back at UMD after spending last Spring studying abroad in London.

Zach with telephone

I had an amazing time in England, and hope you found some valuable information in the blog posts I continued to write. My experiences abroad were that amazing that I am now inspired to spread the word as best I can. I believe every student should have a good understanding of how studying abroad impacts one’s education, career, and ultimately their life. To support this goal, this semester I have become a Global Ambassador for the International Education Office in effort to spread the word on campus and show students the value in these opportunities abroad.

Because of the unique position I am in, being a Peer Educator and former study abroad student, I want to put a focus on how to develop skills from an international education, and in turn, apply those skills to graduation and a successful career. This semester, I will cover career and internship related topics from resumes, cover letters, applications, networking, interviews, and so on, as it applies to returning from a study abroad experience. Ultimately, I want every student to be able to have the same experience I had, because it truly is life changing. The independent skills you develop and the learning you do while abroad is vastly more than any classroom can teach you!

Remember to stop by Career and Internship Services (SCC 22) for all your career needs A-Z, and keep an eye on the calendar for upcoming events, workshops, and drop-in hours!

Until next time,

– Zach

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