Before I jump into a crash course on starting your study abroad process, I want to quickly update you on life on campus these days. Here at PC, this weekend is Freshmen Family Weekend, so there are many proud parents and happy freshmen roaming around. I’m sure they are all heading to dinner reservations on Federal Hill later on tonight. Even though I have a car on campus now and could head home for dinner, my parents still make trips to Providence quite often to take me to dinner on “The Hill”. And I can tell you I get just as excited as I did when my parents first came to visit during Freshmen Family Weekend two short years ago. So, campus is buzzing with families, sporting events and conversations about the big “Junior Ring Weekend” next weekend. I’ll give you some more details on that later this week, but first I want to give you a crash course in study abroad, how to go about beginning the process, and my reasons for wanting to study in another country next semester.
Last fall, myself and the rest of the Class of 2014 started getting flooded with emails from the International Studies office in Harkins, a place I have come to know quite well. Per usual, I figured study abroad like everything else is so far off and I didn’t have to worry about it just yet. But, my roommates and I would attend the information sessions and quickly came to the realization that planning for study abroad began during our sophomore year. As the youngest child in my family, I have heard countless stories from both my brother and sister of their experiences during college. Amongst both of their experiences was a semester abroad in Australia. My sister, Caitlin, a graduate of Assumption College, studied at the University of New South Wales in Sydney in the spring of 2009. My brother, Ryan, a graduate of Middlebury College, also studied at the same school in Australia during the spring of 2010. Let’s just say the high school version of myself was very jealous when both of them were having the time of their lives in what I consider paradise. The pictures were breathtaking, the friendships they started have been nurtured ever since, and the school itself provided strong academics. What more can you ask for when studying abroad?
When beginning to think about where I wanted to study abroad, Europe crossed my mind as well as South Africa. Having been to Africa in high school and completely falling in love with it, I knew I would love living there for a whole semester. But, realistically, I knew the chances of me going back to Africa for another mission trip later on in life were fairly high. When you love a place and the people that live there more than any other experience in your life, you try to be optimistic in going back and being with those people again. So, I tell myself that I will make it back there. Crossing my fingers. Therefore, Australia came into the realm of possibilities. I wanted so badly not to do exactly what my siblings did, but why? Why wouldn’t I want to go to a place that we could all have in common? Why wouldn’t I want to see all the places they saw and share similar memories with my two best friends? I got over my stubborn non-conformist period typical of any baby of the family and decided that Australia is a.) somewhere I will probably never get the opportunity to visit again and b.) somewhere I have always wanted to visit ever since the Mary-Kate and Ashley movie, “Our Lips are Sealed”. My reasons for going abroad weren’t just revolving around the fact that I love to travel, but I am so eager to meet people from all over the world that I otherwise wouldn’t have the chance to interact with. Those types of interactions are hard to come by. I crave those first conversations with people that may become my best friends. A quick story of some great friends that my sister made: Julie and Colton. Caitlin met these two while at UNSW as they all ended up in the same social group. Julie and Colton have been dating ever since that spring of 2009. Julie went to Arizona State and Colton went to the University of Nebraska. The couple now lives together in Colorado. Without both of their decisions to study abroad, they would have never met, would have never fallen in love, and Cait wouldn’t be so lucky to be able to call them her lifelong friends. Below are a few pictures:
Anyways, during the spring of last year, sophomores were required to apply to PC first before applying to any institutions abroad. In doing so, PC can assure that students looking to go abroad have a certain GPA and are in good disciplinary standing. At this time, students also choose two institutions abroad that they will eventually pick from. This is a somewhat difficult task since you are choosing between schools that you have only read about and see pictures of, but follow your heart on this one. If you can picture yourself there, don’t hesitate. Upon completing my application to PC’s International Studies office, I was excited to get the ball rolling so to speak. The first step of such an exciting process had been completed. I waited patiently to hear back and within a few days, I had been accepted. Now, the real fun began.
Every program is different, but the two schools I chose had later deadlines during the fall of my junior year. Initially, I wanted to study at the same school that my siblings did, but it was not offered through PC. I had the option of going there through another university (Fairfield, BU, etc.) but ultimately decided that I wanted to attend a university that was PC approved. That way, you are sure that the credits will transfer. I spent the summer doing some research on the schools I had chosen, University of Technology in Brisbane and University of Technology in Sydney. Brisbane was incredibly appealing to me, a city campus right on a beautiful waterfront and an impeccable academic reputation. I just couldn’t deny the heart and spirit of Sydney that I had heard so much about from my siblings. Similar to Brisbane, UT Sydney was also nestled in a beautiful city, on a waterfront, and surrounded by some of the most beautiful sights in Australia. My decision proved to be fairly easy.
Upon arriving to school this fall, the study abroad process continued. The first information session was held during the first weeks of school, one of the many examples of the Study Abroad office wasting no time. Ms. Katherine Jacobs, the director of Study Abroad, informed a room full of eager juniors where they should be in the process by that point. Feeling a little overwhelmed, I got back to my dorm, opened my laptop, and went to town on my UT Sydney application. Teacher recommendations, essays, housing preferences, class preferences, etc. My advice is do not try to complete your entire application during one sitting. You will get overwhelmed. Complete it over the course of a week or two and fill it in little by little. That way, you can look at it with a fresh set of eyes day to day and hopefully find your mistakes. I decided to use a program called IFSA-Butler, which stands for the Institute for Study Abroad at Butler University in Indiana. They do an excellent job at organizing group flights, hosting a special orientation upon arrival, planning trips during the semester abroad, and being the middle man between you and your university in Australia. Like everyone else, I came across questions in my application that confused me, so I would shoot Ms. Jacobs an e-mail and she’d respond within minutes. I had multiple meetings with her where she walked me through classes that would transfer, the best housing options, and she even helped me weigh the pros and cons of both of the schools I was considering. I cannot say enough about how helpful the Study Abroad office has been throughout this sometimes stressful experience.
After a few weeks of completing and reviewing my application, it was time to submit it. The feeling of relief upon putting that manila envelope in the mail was unmatchable. My fate was in the hands of someone else by this point and I was happy to be taking that next step. After a few weeks of seeing that “Acceptance Pending” box on my online student portal, of course I began to worry. My advice: Don’t worry and always reach out to your adviser at the program you are applying to. My IFSA-Butler adviser, Chris, reassured me that my application had been submitted and he would let me know as soon as he heard back. I received a voice-mail from him just a few days after following up and he told me I had been accepted. The courses I had asked for were approved and I was ecstatic. At this point, I am beginning to plan my trip. Overall, there are a few very important times during this process, but if you manage your time and don’t rush the completion of your applications to both PC and your institution abroad, you will be just fine.
As I mentioned, the Study Abroad office has been more than helpful. My roommate, Meghan, is abroad in Italy right now and loving every minute of it. There is an option of studying abroad in the fall or the spring. Some majors have limitations as to where and when a student can study abroad, but for the most part PC is very flexible in working with your wants and needs. I plan on continuing to blog while in Australia, so I encourage anyone interested to reach out to me if they have any questions regarding the process of studying abroad and eventually my experience while in Australia. If you have any questions (parents, future students, current students), please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a comment below. I would love to hear from you!