Words by Kiana Duncan

AYEEE, I’m back. So, as you may or may not have heard, I had the pleasure of embarrassing myself in a foreign country this month: slightly kidding, but mostly not. I had the absolute pleasure of visiting Cyprus and Greece over spring break. I also got kicked out of Parliament way more than I’m proud of (#journalism). You haven’t lived until a politician says, “No, seriously, you really need to leave.” I also spent way too much money on Kinder Eggs, but I’m lowkey proud of that one.

So this week, I thought about how much I wanted to study abroad as a freshman, but my family told me I was too young, and how I could put way too many pictures of my travels  somewhere and force people to look at them. Now, I’m a sophomore, and while I’m glad I waited to save money, let me preface by saying you are never too young. So what would I tell my bumbling freshman self if I could go back? Easy on the contouring for one. And I’d also ask: Why do you always look like you rolled out of a trashcan?

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Photo by Kiana Duncan

  1. Get your passport now. Like yesterday. As in yesterday, five years ago. Seriously, ASAP. This is a nightmare in and of itself, and much like printers and professors going through divorces, the public office you’re getting yours from can smell fear like a rabid dog. It never fails that by the time you usually get it, you’re putting the fastest rush on it as possible (news flash: they don’t care), and you’re leaving next weekend (no, seriously, they care less than you care about the test you’re not studying for). And make sure you get your photo taken at a post office or DMV instead of a drugstore. Your girl thought she could save some money getting them done at Rite Aid Pharmacy, but it turns out, in fact, that my town is full of uncultured swine, and they probably haven’t taken a passport photo since 1964. So, needless to say, drugstore photos are best left for your mom who swears she’s still going to get your second grade pictures developed.

Did all that happen to me? Of course not, I’m not irresponsible (this one time). I did, however, start laughing when the man took mine and got yelled at by a post office worker, so now it looks like a mugshot. True story.

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Photo by Kiana Duncan

2) Research study abroad programs at Kent. Even if you’re only thinking about it, you don’t want to wait until your senior year to discover you could have gone to the Himalayas or Narnia, or wherever your dream location may be. Even if traveling out of the country isn’t your thing, Kent has the National Student Exchange which allows you to go to another university for a semester, including Puerto Rico. Kent has tons of cool study abroad programs, anywhere from two week excursions to a full year. My old roommate is in England right now studying and has traveled all around Europe. So, obviously, I hate her. Seriously, she went to the Harry Potter Studios without me, and that’s just not cool. I’ve included a very long list of links for you to look at. Every college at Kent State has some study abroad program available. Just because yours isn’t listed doesn’t mean it doesn’t existI’m dead serious, all you do is Google your college name and “abroad.” Even if your preferred program isn’t there, it doesn’t mean it’s not possibleI actually had a professor tell me that if I had somewhere I wanted to go, he would find a way to get me there. And that’s just freakin’ cool.

 

  • National Student Exchange:

http://www.kent.edu/nse

  • General Study Abroad:

http://www.kent.edu/EducationAbroad

  • CCI Study Abroad:

https://www.kent.edu/ccistudyabroad

  • Business Study Abroad:

http://business.kent.edu/global/opportunities

  • Office of Global Education:

http://www.kent.edu/globaleducation

  • College of Arts and Sciences:

http://www.kent.edu/cas/studyabroad

  • College of Arts:

https://www.kent.edu/artscollege/study-away

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Photo by Kiana Duncan

3) How expensive is studying abroad? Hella. Look for scholarships. Do this as soon as possible. I’m still waiting for Oprah to write back to me offering me thousands of dollars, but you know, I can wait (YOU get a trip, and YOU get a trip). Write to your local rotary club. Write to your chamber of commerce. Write actual letters, not emails. I know, I know, it’s hard, but you’re a grownup, and I believe in you. Write to every organization in high school that gave you money to attend Kent, and first address how that money has helped you so far. Write your high school organizations, like 4-H and Boy Scouts. They didn’t give me money, but they did send me a blanket which was very soft. So, you know, priorities.  Write your college professors, your high school teachers, your coaches. Write your dentist: just kidding, that’s weirdwell, unless you’re really close, which is even more weird. Tell them all the organizations you’re involved in and why you think they should give you money. In layman’s terms, be persuasive as hell.

Lookup study abroad scholarships through Kent. You can actually view relevant scholarships here: https://www.kent.edu/financialaid/scholarship-search. Some colleges, like the College of Business, will automatically give you $2,500 if you apply. Talk to professors and the director of your school to see what’s available to you. Tell everyone you know you’re thinking about going abroad. Set up a GoFundMe. Talk to relatives. Yes, asking people for money is super awkward, but if you do it professionally, then it doesn’t have to be nearly as panic-inducing—unless you actually ask your dentist. Weirdo.

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Photo by Kiana Duncan

4) Don’t make excuses. There are real reasons why you can’t study abroad, and then there are excuses you make about study abroad because big adult trips are scary and expensive. That’s not even condescending; big adult trips are actually very scary. I’m not going to spell out every stupid excuse I’ve heard because only you really know, but here are some general reassurances:

  • You can’t live your life for other people.
  • Your life is still going to be here when you get back.
  • You can raise the money, and you will.
  • Traveling is an experience that is only this easy in college. Don’t take it for granted.
  • YOLOATKS (You only live once. and that’s kind of scary).
  • Nike. Just do it.
  • This is going to end in disaster, and you have no one to blame but yourself.

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Photo by Kiana Duncan

5) Realize that studying abroad is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, so make sure you get the most out of it and prepare for it. Research things you want to try while you’re there, but don’t get so hung up on every detail that you develop FOMO. As I discovered, even in a foreign country, a night in can be much-needed, especially when you’re legal and wine is dirt cheap. Personally, I recommend the Winx Club if you need a foreign Netflix suggestionmy roommates and I watched way too much of it. Research packing methods, common tourist attractions, not-so-common tourist attractions, nearby cities to visit, cultural habits, food and anything else you want to know.

Bonus round:

  • Try Kinder Eggs. They’re like Wonderballs with better chocolate.
  • Taxis are both fun and scary because people drive like maniacs. #jesustakethewheel
  • Eat local. I swear if I see you eating at a Subway or TGI Fridays, I’ll smack you.
  • People are a lot nicer to you if you tell them you’re an exchange student at their local university.
  • Experiment with the native language. It feels painfully awkward at first, but the more you learn, the more confident you feel.

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Photo by Lauren Stebelton

If you have any questions or want me to write about something specific, feel free to hit me up on twitter: @strawberrykilee

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Photo by Kiana Duncan

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