How I Studied Abroad as an International Student (and Why You Should Too)
An International Student Abroad
As a Colombian international student going to college in the US, I had several hesitations with regard to studying abroad. I almost discarded the possibility of going abroad thinking about all the arrangements that had to be made in order for me to study in another country. I also disliked the idea of leaving projects I was working on in my home university unattended. However, I am glad I left all fear behind and embarked on the adventure of living in London. Academically, I expanded my ability to think abstractly. Socially, I made friends from all over the world. Overall, I was able to think globally while enjoying amazing times.
I had never been in London before studying abroad, and it was a dream for me to visit this majestic city. Besides always wanting to visit London, I decided to look for universities in the UK because this country has some of the most prestigious higher education institutions in Europe. I knew I wanted to live in a big city and I felt London was going to be the perfect fit for me. Picking UCL was easy as it is a world-known school that constantly ranks amongst the top ten universities in the world.
After I made my decision, the whole studying abroad preparation was easy. I thought the process was going to be hard as I was an international student as there are several requirements I have to fulfill in the US in order to remain eligible. My best advice is to inform IFSA about any concern that could arise before or during the process. IFSA often deals with international students and they will help you figure out any issues. IFSA helped me organize everything I needed before going abroad. Getting a visa to study in the UK was also an extremely smooth process. After everything was ready to go, I couldn’t believe how easy and convenient the study abroad preparation was.
In terms of the arrangements that had to be done for me to study in the UK, IFSA took care of everything. IFSA has a direct relationship with UCL and both organizations work together so that you can stay in UCL residences, register for classes, and even get a meal plan if you want one. IFSA gives you flexibility to choose the residence that’s the best fit for you. IFSA has apartments in London where you can live with fellow IFSA students, and those are really beautiful and well located. You can also live in UCL residences and have your own room with your own bathroom, which is the option I picked. For me UCL residences were the best fit as I wanted to live with full time UCL students. Also, many UCL residences are a walk away from campus, so I was hoping to live in a residence in which I could save on transportation expenses.
Busting the Myths
Before going abroad, I was worried about losing my “extracurricular progress” at my home university. I am the president of several organization and at the time I was a resident advisor. I thought I was going to lose all that if I studied abroad. While I did step down from my resident advisor position (which I didn’t particularly enjoy in the first place), getting involved with those clubs abroad made me feel better prepared to lead the clubs I was a part of and passionate about at my home university. While I studied abroad, I was able to join other clubs like the Latin American UCL society, the UCL society for economists and the United Nations Club. I came back with fresh ideas of how to grow the clubs at my home university and make them better.
All the worries I had before studying abroad were unjustified. The process was extremely easy thanks to IFSA, and I found that my imaginary fears shouldn’t have been there. Studying abroad definitely seems overwhelming. However, IFSA has every detail handled for you. I felt supported while applying to UCL, before traveling, and throughout the whole program. I wish I hadn’t hesitated for a second because I could have taken advantage of other study abroad opportunities had I gone to London sooner. Studying abroad was definitely one of the best experiences I’ve had in my life as I started to think globally, made connections with people from all around the world, and challenged myself in a fast-paced environment.
Nico Correa is a Business and Foreign Affairs student at Hampden-Sydney College and studied abroad with IFSA at University College London in Fall 2017.