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To Go or Not to Go?

Andriana writes about her study abroad plans!

Andriana writes about her study abroad plans!

Hi everyone!

It is sixth week, meaning that we are past midterm break and the term is winding down! As I prepare to finish my sophomore year, I am thinking ahead to next year. Currently, my junior year plans feature a significant college experience: study abroad. This week, I’ll write about the study abroad application process, my current hopes, and how the pandemic has affected my expectations.

Background Information

When I entered college, I had hoped to study abroad my junior year. Early on, I decided to go to Greece, one reason being that I wanted the opportunity to work on my language skills. Although Carleton didn’t offer an experience that matched my preferences, I found an independent program that seemed like a perfect fit. Located in Athens near my family, the program features an array of courses that closely align with my interests.

From my last trip to Athens

Navigating Term Differences for Study Abroad

I also chose a non-Carleton program because I wanted a semester study abroad program. When I started at Carleton, my parents and I discussed the possibility of me either taking a term off or graduating early. I had accrued a lot of AP credits in high school, and I wanted the chance to apply them so that we could save some money. I wasn’t excited about the idea of being away from an educational setting for a whole trimester, though.

This program then offered the perfect opportunity to both save a bit of money and continue to learn. In a semester system, the spring semester roughly encompasses Carleton’s winter and spring trimesters. In the case of my study abroad program specifically, the cost of one semester is only slightly higher than that of a Carleton trimester. By attending the program’s spring semester session, then, I’m essentially getting two trimesters for the price of one.

Of course, plenty of Carleton students choose to do semester programs without being gone for more than one term. In these cases, students go abroad for a fall semester, with the dates and cost aligning pretty closely with those of Carleton’s fall trimester. There is a third option still: to attend a Carleton-sponsored program, which adheres to the trimester system.

The Application Process

Since the program I chose isn’t affiliated with Carleton, I first completed the organization’s application process. This was fairly simple—to apply, I basically had to provide an essay and some academic information. Once I received my acceptance, I went through Carleton’s study abroad application process as well. This, too, was straightforward, and I essentially provided information about my academic plans while abroad.

Throughout these processes, I worked closely with both my adviser and the director of Carleton’s Off-Campus Studies (OCS) department. They helped me fill out the forms required to verify my program participation, and also gave me the necessary information to complete Carleton’s application process. (For anyone considering study abroad, I would strongly recommend communicating with your adviser. My adviser played a significant role in helping me navigate the steps required to make my plans official.)

My Current Plans

During fall term, I wrote a post on reassessing my expectations about my college experience. One of the aspects of my experience that I specifically mentioned was study abroad, which was—and is—really important to me. Since writing that post, I officially decided to postpone my trip, scheduled for spring semester this year, until the same time next year. I deferred my application, and since I already received my acceptance, there will luckily be little to do beyond updating academic information.

And yet part of me is hesitant to spend two more terms away from campus. Because of the pandemic, I have already spent four terms at home. If I am gone for two more terms, then a full two years of my time at Carleton will not have actually been at Carleton. The thought of this makes me sad—I really love campus, and want more time to be there.

But I also know how much study abroad means to me, and I think I would regret it if I didn’t take the opportunity to go. In addition to the prospect of learning the Greek language in a formal classroom setting, I would love the chance to explore Greece and have time with my family. And although I won’t be at Carleton, I will still have exposure to a new learning experience, which is very appealing.

So… What Next?

Unless the pandemic prevents me from going to Greece, I am determined to study abroad next year. As such, I will spend the next couple of months preparing to attend the program. In addition to updating my academic information, I will also try to map out my Carleton credits. Essentially, because I’ll be abroad for two terms, I want to ensure that I’m able to fill my Carleton credits–both the general requirements and those specific to the English major.

For those of you thinking you might like to study abroad, my best advice is to plan early. This will help you not feel so overwhelmed while applying and managing course requirements. Reach out to people who can help you prepare—your adviser, members of the OCS department, program representatives, etc. If you’re even thinking of study abroad, schedule a meeting to get more information.

I’m not suggesting you need to know immediately what you want to do (you don’t). But plan ahead! Beyond the benefits that I already mentioned, starting to prepare early will give you even more time to get excited about this really amazing opportunity.

Andriana is a sophomore at Carleton, where she is earning a major in English and a minor in Cross-Cultural Studies. Although she is spending the year at home in Richmond, VA, Andriana is already excited to return to Carleton in the fall. When she isn’t busy studying, Andriana can be found binge-reading, playing music, or watching a favorite movie or show for the umpteenth time. Meet the other bloggers!