Tackling non-traditional study abroad
Study Abroad Columnist
The first inkling I had about study abroad arrived at some point in middle school. My parents and I were at a neighbor’s house, while he and his parents showed off photos of his college study abroad experience in Italy. I didn’t absorb the content of the photos, but I do remember my mother turning to me and saying, “You should do this, too.”
I am in a situation where I have been encouraged from the get-go to embrace study abroad. It manifested in my enrollment in the World Scholars program at the university, which created a small, but insatiable, travel bug in my heart. This time on my study abroad, I’m not enrolled in a university program. It’s important to discuss the process of choosing an alternate study abroad because it is possible, and you should not be limited by a list of places on a webpage.
First and most importantly, the university accepts alternate and third-party programs if you do your homework in advance. My biggest piece of advice is to know the transfer credit process, because, boiled-down, study abroad credits are transfer credits. Some people might have experience with transfer credits, but if not, prepare to communicate with and visit the Registrar’s Office. They hold jurisdiction over all credit types, so they are the first and last step in this process.
The most fun part is researching where you are thinking of traveling. I knew in my mind I would research alternative study abroad locations because I wanted to travel to the Netherlands and the university does not send any programs there. If you are an out-of-state student, search for programs at other colleges in your state — they sometimes accept outside students. Third-party study abroad programs run by businesses are well-established, and many are reputable and popular. Keep in mind time, budget, language and credit hours to create a cohesive match.
If you apply and are accepted, contact personnel in charge of academics quickly. The university requires course descriptions and often syllabi to present to department heads to see if the classes match and can count for credit. This is a protocol for many universities, and in my experience, I was provided with an academic guide with course descriptions. Emailing department heads for approval is the longest part of the process — you will become well-acquainted with sending emails by the end of this process.
Once transfer credits are approved, it’s back to the registrar for another round of approval. They want you to prove you are taking at least 12 credit hours abroad, equal to the number to be a full-time student at the university. To officially declare that you will not be on campus, the university may ask you to sign a leave of absence form, so the registrar’s system officially processes that you are not around and are not just out enjoying The Green somewhere. A leave of absence is not indefinite — you can mark exactly when you plan on returning to campus. It feels final, but it is one step on the path to a very large adventure.
Other practical matters I had to handle before departing were finding a sublease for my Delaware apartment and informing my jobs about my trip. All these tasks appear daunting, a laundry list standing between you and your dream destination, but if you take time, the process unwinds itself. I used the semester in advance to go through the transfer credit process, and it was the right amount of time to deal with the miscellany too.
Everyone with the dream of studying abroad should indulge themselves in a quick scour of the internet to see what their options are — there are probably more waiting out there than you realize. It is a possibility credit-wise to study abroad twice — my transcript is proof of this — so look to both your resources and also to your aspirations and dream over a map of the wide Earth.