Robert Pistochi, The Paisano
Studying abroad can be a life-changing experience, but preparing for these excursions is just as important as the trip itself.
Lori Brady, sophomore pre-nursing student at UTSA, will be traveling to Madrid, Spain this fall semester and shared some of her insight regarding the to-do list that must be completed before boarding the plane.
In regards to the packing process, Brady said “You can’t pack much, and you don’t even have dressers in your apartment.” However, all rooms come equipped with bedding, towels, dishes and any other household items students might need, which frees up some suitcase space.
Living quarters are small and anywhere from four to ten people might share one apartment. However, Brady doesn’t plan on spending too much time in her dorm room as she is mostly looking forward to immersing herself in the culture.
“I’m going there basically just to take Spanish courses,” Brady said. “I want to travel; I want to learn the language.”
Cultural Experiences Abroad (CEA) is a company that helps students travel overseas and make the most of their academic experience. A CEA advisor will help with everything from passport applications to roommate profiles. Before applying to a specific program, it’s important to speak with a UTSA advisor as well as a CEA advisor.
Brady shared that her experience was simplified after her application was approved because she could rely on her CEA advisor to provide updates on deadlines, fees and registration.
Commenting on her experience with UTSA’s hand in the process, Brady said “I didn’t think that 500 students went every semester, so I think (the program) is doing pretty well.”
The most vital document to obtain before going abroad is a passport. It can take up to four months to process and receive this sacred piece of paper that is essential for leaving the country. Brady applied for her passport over spring break to ensure some breathing room for the proccess. As the only UTSA student participating in this particular program, Brady will be making this overseas flight alone.
“I’m not that scared,” Brady said. “I’ve traveled alone, so I’m used to being on a plane by myself, but I’ve never been out of the country, and I’m a little bit nervous about when I land there and have to find the people (in my group).”
An entire semester in a foreign place means missing some holidays and going a while without seeing loved ones, but Brady plans to make the best of it. She’ll be turning 21 six days into the trip and says her sister and brother-in-law plan to visit her in Madrid at some point during her stay. CEA also provides students with phones that include free incoming calls, so setting up a schedule to talk with family members can ease homesickness.
For Brady, the experience will be worth a few months of missing home. “It will still look good when I’m working back in Houston where there (are) a lot of Spanish speaking people,” she said of her future plans.
Brady began talking this over with her parents months ago because it involves a lot of tedious planning, financial and otherwise. The overall cost to study abroad varies from country to country, but the charges typically include room and board, tuition and registration fees.
Plane tickets and personal spending money are not included. Brady said her rent in Spain will technically be cheaper than it is now, saving her money in the long run.
Aside from the seemingly endless paperwork, students really are in for an exciting semester. Learning Spanish in Spain while sight-seeing and interacting with natives is sure to make the language stick. Having three months to adapt to the norms and styles will allow time for culture shock to fade and valuable learning experiences to be had.
Brady plans on updating her wardrobe before leaving the U.S. and says, “They wear more neutral colors, so their style is a little different. I want to try and fit in as much as possible, even though I probably look very American.”
Little details like shot records, financial aid forms, renter’s insurance applications and roommate selections can really add up, but looking forward to the adventure ahead makes it all worth it.
“I think a lot of people sign up last minute because they just realize they want to do it,” Brady said.
Planning ahead and getting all the paperwork in order beforehand is the best thing to ensure that little to no turbulence can get in the way of an enjoyable learning experience outside of one’s comfort zone.