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March 25, 2015

10 Study Abroad Myths

I never really heard anything bad about studying abroad before going to college, but maybe that's because I was so dead-set on traveling I refused to hear anything bad! Here are some common misconceptions about studying abroad I've heard from people and why they aren't quite accurate.

1. It costs too much
Quite the opposite actually. Your financial aid from Iowa State will still apply and some tuitions abroad are cheaper than Iowa State! There are also exchange programs you can apply for where you pay the same tuition as you do at Iowa State and again, all your financial aid applies. There are also plenty of scholarships available to apply for through ISU and outside programs. If you do your research, you’re sure to find the perfect program that you can afford!
2. You’ll graduate later
There are programs for every major and plenty of courses offered at different schools. You will receive transfer credits for your courses taken while abroad. You will take the equivalent of at least 12 ISU credits to remain a full time student while abroad so there’s really no reason studying abroad would hinder your graduation plans at all. You’ll be a full time student with all the same responsibilities, just in a different country!
3. You have to know a foreign language
Definitely not true! Studying abroad is certainly a great way to learn another language if you're studying one, but it's certainly not a requirement. Almost all of the programs we offer have courses taught in English and you are generally with a group and in an area that knows English. It just depends on your personal comfort level. Your courses will be taught in English but if you are in a country that speaks a different language we obviously can’t guarantee everyone you speak to will know English. It all depends on your comfort level and you can always stop in to the Study Abroad Center and talk to peer advisors about their experiences.
4. People only study abroad in Europe
Europe may be popular, but it’s definitely not the only option. We have programs available either through ISU or affiliate organizations in every continent – including Antarctica! Europe and Australia are popular program choices, but if you want to go somewhere unique, you do you!
5. I won’t find courses in my major
Now that’s just a silly thought. How many different degree programs are offered at ISU? Why would it be any different in another country? They need engineers and teachers and biologists just as much as the U.S. does! You can generally find course options on the website of the school you are looking to study abroad at, so be sure to do your research and discuss what courses you want to take with your advisor. If you bring in the school’s course information to your advisor, he or she will be able to help you figure out what course it will be equivalent to at ISU.
6. Studying abroad is only for juniors or seniors
You can study abroad whenever you want. Sometimes it can even be easier as a freshman or sophomore since there are a lot of general education courses that you can take while abroad. There are multiple options on when you can go as well so you have a lot of options. There are spring break trips, summer trips, and of course the semester and year long studies. There should be nothing stopping you from studying abroad whenever you see fit.
7. Studying abroad isn’t important to employers
You learn a great deal of skills while abroad that employers look for. Studying abroad shows that you can adapt to difficult situations or changing environments, can work independently, and are resilient and flexible. Beyond these individual attributes, employers are increasingly looking globally and seeking out employees who can work cross-culturally and collaborate with people from around the world. Studying abroad shows that you already have experience doing just that.
8. It’s dangerous to study abroad
I’m not even sure where people got this idea, but studying abroad isn’t any more or less dangerous than being in the U.S. You just have to be smart and act the same way you would in any other unfamiliar area in the United States. Our pre-departure orientations go over health and safety while abroad as well. Just use common sense and learn the emergency numbers for your country of study just in case.
9. I can travel later in life after graduating
This is easier said than done. Once you’re set on a career track and are settled in, it’s hard to find the time to go travel. There’s also a large difference between studying abroad and traveling. When you study in another country you are truly immersed in the culture and gain a different perspective than simply traveling through and being a tourist. Studying abroad gives you the benefit of being a part of the student body while also being a tourist.
10. It’s difficult to be accepted into programs

If you meet the minimum qualifications and complete the application in time, you are very likely to get accepted. It is very, very rare for ISU to accept a student and for the student to not be accepted by the other school. The programs are set up as a partnership so the schools trust ISU to pick great students to send abroad. If you meet the qualifications set by ISU, then it’s easy to be accepted. If it’s something you’re worried about, you can always talk to someone in the Study Abroad Center.

March 24, 2015

Things to do before you leave

There are a lot of things to think about before you study abroad and it can be a little difficult to remember everything. Lists become the most useful things ever during this planning period. Lists of what to pack, lists of paperwork to be completed, lists of things to do, etc. Here is my own list of necessities I almost overlooked before leaving the country.’t forget your medications. Some people don’t use prescription medications so this won’t apply to everyone, but if you do have prescriptions don’t forget to talk with your insurance and get the amount of medication you’ll need while abroad. It’s usually not a problem, but sometimes the process leading up to it can be a little bit of a hassle so make sure you get this figured out in plenty of time. And when it comes to packing, it’s always a good idea to keep your prescriptions in your carry on. 

How are you getting your money? There are multiple options on banking while abroad. You could open a banking account at a bank in your country of study. There is usually a conversion fee if you take money out of your home bank account using an ATM in a different country, but some banks offer one ATM withdrawal per month without a conversion fee. Some banks in the U.S. have relationships with banks in other countries, so it’s always a good thing to ask your bank what your options are. There are also travel credit cards that you can apply for. If you apply for a credit card, make sure to get one with a microchip in it if you are going to a European country. This is common in Europe and cards without one can sometimes cause confusion when buying things. But most importantly don’t forget to let your bank know where you will be and for how long! The last thing you want to happen is for your accounts to be frozen once you’re in a different country!
Will you need a visa? Depending on the country you’re traveling to and the amount of time you’ll be spending there you may need a visa. The application process can take a while, so it’s good to research ahead of time whether you need one or not and what you need to do so you can start the process early. The requirements for every country are very different, so you’ll need to research what you need to do or you can go to the study abroad office to have someone help you! a budget plan. This goes along with how you’ll be getting your money. Will you make one transaction from an ATM every month so you don’t pay the conversion fee? Will you pay for things only with cash or do you plan on using a credit or debit card? It’s good to plan ahead on how you’ll be obtaining and spending your money. 

Know simple phrases in the native language. If you’ll be traveling to a country that speaks a language different from what you know it’s good to know basic phrases and words. Even if you aren’t fluent, it shows respect for the people and culture of the country you’ll be visiting if you at least try to learn a little of the language and use it. 

So those are just a few things to do and think of before you leave the country. Otherwise, happy travels!

Loch Ness and Urquhart Castle, Inverness, Scotland