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Planning, organization can be tickets to a less stressful study abroad experience

President E. Gordon Gee has often been quoted saying a passport is the driver’s license of the 21st century, but for students planning to study abroad during their time at Ohio State, a passport is the least of your preparation worries.

I’ve been lucky enough to travel a decent amount and thought applying to my program would be simple. I warn you, no amount of prior travel prepares you for the influx of paperwork and research that accompanies the myriad of applications.

My advice to all future study abroad applicants: become familiar with the Office of International Affairs. OSU boasts more than 100 study-abroad programs, and deciding which one is worth the time (and money) can be difficult. Once your program is chosen, the fun begins.

The costs to go abroad are extensive, and for those of us balancing rent, loans and the general expenses of college life, scholarships are a beacon of hope. OIA’s website highlights certain scholarships through the office and OSU, but there are a bunch of other funding opportunities available to those who find the motivation do some extra digging. Some scholarship applications seem overly lengthy for a “small” amount of money, but hey, a $150 scholarship is surely worth the extra hour you spent editing your statement of purpose.

Be forewarned though, many applications require recommendations. It is crucial to connect with professors and faculty who can attest to your work ethic and personality. If you are planning to study abroad, start forming those relationships now. Letters won’t write themselves, and a great one can transform an average application into a stellar one. But ask early; nobody likes to receive frantic last-minute requests to write about how wonderful you are hours before a deadline. 

Another tip is to check in advance how many letters you will need, that way you need only ask once to cover all your bases (instead of bombarding your recommender’s inbox every two weeks like I did).

Speaking of deadlines, there are plenty, and they can be spread out over several months. Beyond application deadlines, keep track of important dates for scholarships, passports and travel payments. I would recommend investing in a planner dedicated solely to study abroad and all of the deadlines that accompany it.

Once the stress of applying has passed, acceptance anticipation sets in.

Don’t let the stress of applying deter you from studying abroad. Spending the extra time researching your perfect program and applicable scholarships is definitely worth it. Seek out departmental awards, have an extra pair of eyes read your essays, and once your final deadline is met, sit back and enjoy the excitement of your upcoming study abroad experience.


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