Don’t be scared to study abroad. In the “Don’t Be Scared” series, I will highlight some of the most common concerns I’ve received about studying abroad. If you’ve never considered studying abroad, I ask you, WHY NOT? If you are studying abroad as an undergrad, there will never be another time in your life when you have this kind of freedom – freedom from a job, freedom from bills (kinda), or the freedom to explore.
You say, “BUT I WON’T GRADUATE ON TIME!”
My Reply: If you schedule it right and do the right program, many of the classes you take abroad can be transferred to fit your university and will count towards your degree! All it takes is a signature from the head of your department or a study abroad program coordinator. And they are so happy (sometimes) to see someone studying abroad that they readily sign off on this. It works especially well for getting those electives out of the way. Almost every class I took in Italy counted toward my degree and helped, not hindered, my path to graduation.
The earlier you make the decision to go abroad, the more flexibility you can have with the classes you take. Had I made the decision earlier in my undergraduate career, I wouldn’t have taken Spanish (4 semesters!) at Howard U. I wouldn’t have taken a language at my home school and instead used the two Italian classes I took abroad to fulfill my language requirements. Of course hindsight is 20/20 so even though I can’t use that information for myself anymore that is one of the first pieces of advice that I give to underclassmen that are interested in study abroad: SAVE THOSE ELECTIVES to take while you’re abroad! (But remember if the classes count towards your degree, so will the grades you receive – so don’t joke around with the classes because you don’t want your GPA to suffer.)
Get to know your academic advisor as well as your study abroad advisor. With the assistance of these two people you can definitely graduate on time. Most people assume that only liberal arts majors have the kind of flexibility to study abroad – but I was a business major! And study abroad programs are becoming more and more appealing to science, math, communications, and other business majors. All it takes is the desire to go and the willingness to plan ahead.
If you research the different programs and still have some hesitation, there are always summer study abroad programs! And some universities will even allow you to stay a semester after you graduate just to study abroad (but not at HU). Whatever your situation is, there is a solution. Just plan it out!