Throughout this course, I have learned a lot about myself and the study abroad process. Granted, this transition into college has taught me a lot about myself in general, but this is especially true with UNIV-291. I learned that I would like to pursue a career that enables me to travel, rather than to stay put in one country. I also learned the steps in applying to study abroad, where I would like to go, and formulated a concrete plan on how to get where I want to go. I am now confident in going forward with studying abroad and how to go about doing so properly.
After weighing my options, I have decided to follow my sister’s footsteps and to study abroad in Malta. I plan to study at the University of Malta through ISEP (International Student Exchange Program). Traveling to Malta during either the Fall 2018 or Spring 2019 semester of my junior year would be the most ideal time to study abroad for me. ISEP requires that I have a 2.75 GPA and be of junior or senior academic standing, which is why I would go when I plan to.
Fortunately, the University of Malta offers courses that would contribute towards my degree—that being a Bachelor’s in Social Work. Before taking this course, I assumed that when I would pursue a career in the social work field that I would stay put in the United States. However, now I realize that I could go anywhere in the world as a social worker. In fact, traveling and learning about different cultures and backgrounds would enhance my skills set.
Most of my financial concerns would be taken care of by electing to do the ISEP-Exchange program, versus the ISEP-Direct program. In class, we discussed the main differences between these programs; these being that the ISEP-Exchange program exchanges two students from two countries to essentially switch places for a semester or two. This means that the students would pay regular tuition and fees from their home university, rather than of their host university. Whereas, with ISEP-Direct, the program’s cost is dependent on the host university’s (in my case, the University of Malta) tuition and fees. By doing ISEP-Exchange, everything—with the exception of any spending money—will be the same cost as if I were studying back home, here in Richmond. This is because, with ISEP-Exchange, I would be exchanging places with a student of the University of Malta, rather than directly going to Malta, without a student taking my place here at VCU. Currently, I am working three part-time jobs when I am not in class or studying. All of the money I am earning goes towards my savings, with the exception of fifty dollars every week that I budget towards groceries and other weekly food expenditures. This money in my savings is what I plan to use as my spending money during my study abroad trip, so by the time I do go abroad, I will have a few thousand dollars saved up. I also intend to do fundraising over the next two summers, apply for scholarships, and ask my extended family members if they would be gracious enough to support my studies abroad.
My goals for my time abroad include those of academic, professional, and personal growth. Regarding my academics, I hope to maintain a good GPA during my semester abroad. I also intend to become fluent in Maltese, despite the fact that it is not entirely necessary, since the courses I take in Malta will be taught in English. Professionally, I hope to gain solid connections with individuals in my career field from all across the globe. I would also like to learn about how social work field is handled in their home countries. Finally, on the personal level, I hope to meet great people and soak up the culture—yes, I realize how cliche that is, but it is the truth. After my sister arrived home from her experience in Malta, she could not stop raving about how great the people she met were. She even traveled to meet up with them in London over this past Halloween, and is planning to make another trip over her winter break, as well. It is very safe to say that these once strangers from across the globe are now some of her best friends. These are the kinds of personal ties I hope to make when I go abroad myself.
Thanks to our guest speaker that came to one of our class sessions, I have gained an interest in interning abroad, as well. Now, in addition to my proposed semester abroad to Malta, I would also like to research more on opportunities for international internships. I would like to pursue an internship opportunity somewhere in Europe, hopefully during the summer of 2019. By this point, I would have already gained experience studying abroad, which would aid in making my transition from the United States to overseas a lot more easy and smooth the second time around. This scenario of an internship abroad would be most ideal for me.
Overall, this “Maximizing Your Study Abroad” course has brought a great deal of clarity and understanding to me about the entire study abroad process. I now know with certainty that I want to study abroad at the University of Malta to continue my studies in social work. I also learned a lot about different opportunities there are out there, aside from the typical study abroad experience. Opportunities like interning abroad or short-term study abroad experiences that I could do over school breaks. A big point of clarity that came with this course was how to go about applying to study abroad and the financial obstacles I thought I might encounter. In reality, the whole process is actually very simple and the biggest “obstacle” one could have is deciding where to go. All in all, I am extremely thankful that I chose to take this class and am more excited now than ever to travel.