College is a time to grow, discover pathways, and gain experience. To study abroad during college is to positively amplify the experiences you gain by a completely different culture and environment.
While most people take advantage of the opportunity to study abroad in their second and third years of college, the second semester of senior year can be the perfect time to do so. My own experience studying abroad as a second semester senior left me feeling prosperous and eager to experience life as a graduate.
It can be stressful figuring out how to allocate your time and make the right decisions about what to see and where to go while abroad; consider your priorities and plan ahead to ease this stress. Based on my experience, here are some helpful tips on how you can choose to study abroad as a second semester senior -- if that’s the perfect time for you to study abroad.
Think Ahead -- Beyond Graduation, Too
Not every study abroad program is well suited for seniors. You can choose to take classes abroad to either fill credits that you have yet to complete or to accomplish most required credits while at your university and take classes abroad that expose you to interests not contained within your major. Depending on which route you take academically, you’ll want to tailor your choice of location and program to your needs.
You’ll need to acquire the appropriate documents, medications, course descriptions, etc. In addition to these, expand your pre-travel checklist to include objects and materials that will service your transition from student to graduate. Will you be able to take advantage of opportunities to document your experiences via text or image for future use on resumes, interviews, or even an employee profile?
Unless you plan on extending your stay in college after your travels are over, it is important to plan out your semester well. As a second-semester senior studying abroad, you must take full responsibility for the preparation.
Practice Smart Financial Planning
Once your experience abroad is over, you will no longer be a full-time student, thus you will need a plan for how you will succeed financially as a graduate.
A great method for ensuring financial success is goal setting. Set them for yourself, both for during studying abroad and post-study abroad, and think about the steps needed to make those goals happen. Determine the amount of money you need to have to remain after your studies abroad and made a budget in correlation, research job openings while abroad if needed, or even participate in a work-study program if saving money is of concern.
Staying motivated to reach these goals will make the transition back home and into the post-college world much smoother. Goals that you may set are limitless, funds are not; manage your finances well so you can feel confident in your decision to study abroad and make the most of your last semester of college.
Prepare for the End
By setting goals, planning ahead of time, and thinking of strategies to stay on track, you’ll be concerned with which natural wonder to visit which weekend, not if you have enough money to last you the length of the semester.
When you spend your last semester of university abroad, your life changes drastically over the course of this experience, during which you are trying to savor each moment. This is not a bad thing, to come back from worldly travels as a different person, but make sure to take a few moments and give thanks to your campus. Carry on conversations via email with one or a few of your favorite professors. What were once professional relationships can quickly turn into personal ones, once the labels of student and teacher are removed.
I was lucky enough to have one professor who reached out to me within my first month abroad. I was having an indescribably great time, but talking with her helped me remember to ground myself, to stay focused on my studies, and to realize what was ahead. The conversations I had with that professor helped me keep in mind why I was able to travel abroad, and what I wanted to gain from the experience in the long term.
Manage Unique Aspects of Studying Abroad “Late”
At such a late point in school, it’s likely that you’ve grown to think from a globally oriented perspective. Studying abroad is so full of moments of happiness, admiration, and exploration, and unlike any opportunity you can find as a college graduate.
During my time studying abroad, I grew close to my host mother; we spent each breakfast and dinner together watching the news and discussing anything on our minds. My status as a senior in college greatly affected my relationship to my new environment and cultural surroundings. I had a greater sense of thankfulness for them than I would have, had I studied abroad before senior year. On top of the explosive gratitude I felt towards being able to study abroad, I never forgot that those were my last few months of college. In that way, my gratitude for studying abroad was multiplied.
Senior year can bring on feelings of “senioritis”, lack of motivation, even apathy towards planning for your future. Studying abroad as a second semester senior won’t exempt you from these feelings. I remember constantly feelings both the desire to finish school and being more in awe of my life studying abroad every new day.
One common theme of most students’ study abroad experiences is the difficulty of leaving your life and community behind to move somewhere new for a substantial amount of time.
You may feel as though you’ll miss out some things by studying abroad during your second semester of senior year, but that does not mean it is a bad decision! The fear of missing out on spending your very last college semester on campus may only be holding you back from an even greater experience waiting for you within foreign borders. Think hard about what is right for you, and be bold when making your final decision.
Process Your Experience & Move Forward
Making the decision to spend your last semester of college abroad can be very hard but it may lead you to have one of the best -- if not the best -- experiences of your academic career. I absolutely struggled with that decision; I wondered if how much I expected to miss my familiar environment would affect me to the point of hindering my enjoyment.
While those fears were valid, from the moment I landed in my host country, I knew I had made the right choice. Studying abroad as a second semester senior will take you places that remaining on campus cannot begin to, and open the door for your future beyond college.