A bed. A window. A new year.

the best thing you can do is find a comfortable spot to look ahead

I’m sitting cross-legged on my bed, facing my window. My laptop is propped up on a maroon-colored antique stool with pink and orange flower embroidery that I inherited from my grandmother.

I was sitting in this exact same position yesterday, staring out the window, lost in thought as I tried to focus on studying my PADI open water diver manual. And I realized something. Strangely enough, and maybe this is just a disjointed correlation that can only be made in my brain alone, but just less than a year ago I was sitting cross legged on a bed, laptop propped up in front of me, sun shining in through a large glass window and sliding door – in another country. Continue reading

Case of the missing college credits

Keeping track of study abroad transfer and substitution credits

It’s not even Christmas break yet and I already have spring break on the mind.

Last Sunday evening, as I hammered out a long-procrastinated Latin American History paper due the following morning, an email from my advisor jingled as it popped into my inbox. It’s contents informed me that I’m several credits short for graduation, putting me more than a semester behind.

What ensued was a tantrum of stomping up and down the hallway of our home and yelling phrases of frustration at my laptop screen (not an unreasonable reaction when such news is sprung upon someone). How could I have possibly overlooked multiple courses despite meticulous planning of my college career? That just couldn’t be… something had to have been overlooked with my transfer credits from studying abroad.

The following blog is intended to share my experiences with other students who are currently or preparing to study abroad. While I can’t give exact advice on what to do if you encounter a situation like mine — simply because every university has their own, albeit similar procedures for transferring credits and substituting classes — I can help you understand the transfer credit process and how credits can be accidentally overlooked. Continue reading

Study Abroad: Not what I expected

Everyone’s experiences are different, some more challenging than others

I flipped through pages of the black spiral notebook I used while in Chile, fingers brushing over hastily scrawled notes written in anticipation of upcoming travels. I tore out randomized papers from the “Cultura Chilena” (Chilean Culture) Spanish class I took while I was there and stashed them in a blue folder to submit to my Spanish adviser at NDSU.

Last Wednesday at 11:30 I walked into her office and plopped down in a chair, ready to explain the class units and review essays and exams so she could determine if it would fulfill the requirements for my minor. After a coursework discussion that took less than five minutes, our conversation wandered to my experiences in Chile.

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Chillin’ in Santiago

When people ask me if studying abroad was the time of my life, I’ve always hesitated.

“It was quite the learning experience!” I respond honestly.

So as I sat in my adviser’s office, staring at a shelf of colorful Spanish textbooks and other resources, I wondered if she would fault me for admitting that studying abroad wasn’t what I expected – it hadn’t been the walk in the park I anticipated. Continue reading

The Beginning of the End

Studying abroad in Chile was 4 months well spent

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Museo Fonck, where it all began

My final 12 days in Chile were fast and furious, so much so that I promptly came down with the flu the day I returned home to the States. Thankfully, my body held off just long enough for me to pack several weeks’ worth of adventuring into a matter of days.

I didn’t travel nearly as much as some students during my 4 months in Chile. I have friends who went to Argentina, Brazil, Patagonia, San Pedro and a number of other locations within Chile. While I would love to have seen other South American countries, I had my own list of adventures that I partook in. And I don’t feel at all like I missed out, for I had my own motives for choosing each particular adventure. Continue reading

Lessons from Pigeon Man

Some of the most beautiful things I’ve experienced in Chile can’t be fully captured in a photo, because it’s not the image itself that’s important. It’s the way I felt in the moment and the lesson I learned. One of the reasons why I like to write is because it allows me to describe the way things make me feel and build pictures with words.

One of these life snapshots and the respective lesson I took away has to do with an individual whom I’ll call “Pigeon Man.” Those of you who follow me on Instagram will know who I’m talking about. This is an elderly gentleman who sits in an alley-way I pass to and from my apartment building.

He perches on a white plastic chair next to a little cart laden with odds and end items – newspapers, packages of cookies, water bottles – random things that people might want to purchase as they hustle off to work. Plastic bags hang off the sides of the cart, most likely holding his meager belongings, and a giant white umbrella sticks out the top. Continue reading

Advice for aspiring study-abroaders, Part 2

SA part 2 (3)Picking up where we left off in Advice for study-abroaders, Part 1, Part 2 will review how I selected my country, university and program, and the considerations I had to make for each one.

When you study abroad, the most important thing to keep in mind is that your ULTIMATE GOAL is to graduate from college. But whether you’re determined to graduate in exactly 4 years or you’re OK with taking an extra semester to make up a few credits can play a role in deciding where to study abroad.

If you have a country in mind that seems perfect, aligning with your travel aspirations of swimming in the ocean, climbing mountains or learning French and whatever else floats your boat, head to your university’s study abroad office and see what advice they can offer you on programs and universities. Because even if you’re dead-set on going to a particular country, your decision might change depending on what universities are available and the courses they offer.

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Examples of study abroad program books

My university’s study abroad department has a little online search engine where I can enter the duration of time I want to study abroad, my major and the country I wish to visit, and it will bring up a list of options. Most study abroad advisers will also hand you a bunch of program books, such as API, CEA and AIFS that offer study abroad in your country of interest.

But to be completely honest with you, Books + Online Materials = Confusion & Uncertainty!

All of this can add up to information overload, so take it S.L.O.W.L.Y. Start planning in advance so you’re not trying to take it all in a week before the application due date. Continue reading