People choose to study abroad for different reasons, but for me, it is to grow my understanding of the world. I was struggling to decide where I wanted to go because every place seemed so fascinating. Then I was introduced to Semester at Sea, and the decision suddenly became easy. Through this program, I would get to travel to eleven different countries while studying on a ship in between ports – pretty much the real-life version of The Suite Life on Deck!
I started preparing as soon as I got accepted. First, I needed to find out how this would affect me academically. Since I am a senior, I was concerned that this would push my graduation behind if I couldn’t take classes that I needed. As you get into higher level courses, not all of them are offered in different programs (or you already have taken them), so it’s my recommendation to study aboard sophomore or junior year in order to have more options. However, if there is flexibility in your schedule, it is a great opening to take courses you never would have taken otherwise. For myself, I am taking Global Studies, Human Nutrition, and International Issues of Tourism and Recreation simply because they piqued my interest. Next, I looked into my financials and knew I would need to apply for scholarships. There was a good amount within in the program and many opportunities outside the program. It’s important to start your research ahead of time so that you don’t miss important deadlines. Any and all ways you can fundraise will be helpful too. Personally, I started a GoFundMe page, but I was more successful holding a raffle for one of my grandfather’s paintings who graciously offered to create a new piece for it. I never thought I would get the opportunity to study abroad strictly because of my financial situation, but it is 100% possible!
As the time got closer to my departure date, I had a range of emotions. At first it was excitement from the reality of this really happening. Then it was stress of making sure I was prepared and had everything I needed. Secretly, there was a hint of fear because I would be stepping out of my comfort zone. Despite my anxiety (which of course is normal and nothing to be ashamed of), I chose to focus on the positives of where my adventures would lead me to. When the time came, I waved goodbye to my sister, mom, and grandmother in the airport and started my journey around the world. My first stop… Amsterdam, The Netherlands.