This past semester was an extraordinary chapter in my life. I had the incredible privilege and adventure of studying abroad in Rome, Italy for four months. Living with six other women – five of whom were fellow Kelley students – we shared unforgettable memories as we explored Europe together. While I had the time of my life abroad, pre-departure was a different story. Given my limited prior exposure to such opportunities, deciding on and navigating the study abroad experience was undeniably challenging. Hopefully, I can help you avoid the same turbulent experience that I had.
A few things I’d like to address about studying abroad.
STRATEGIES TO CONSIDER
In considering my options, I initially grappled with choosing between studying abroad in Barcelona or Rome. My desire to speak Spanish and the vibrant, musical culture of Spain were alluring, but my close friend, Paul, highly recommended Rome. I was torn. The decision-making process was daunting, and my lack of experience with studying abroad further complicated the situation. I remember submitting my application to the Barcelona program at 11:59 PM on the due date, only to wake up the next morning, withdraw that application, and submit one for Rome. While I don’t recommend such a chaotic approach, I was fortunate that the later Rome deadline meant I could transfer my application.
For those contemplating studying abroad without a clear destination in mind, I offer a few recommendations. If you’re fortunate to know someone who has participated in a program of interest, tapping into their first-hand insights can be invaluable. Paul and I spoke for an hour about the pros and cons of both Rome and Barcelona. That’s because he studied in Rome and had visited Barcelona during his study abroad. Upon choosing the Rome program, he had recommendations for travel, restaurants, and classes that made my experience all the better.
Alternatively, if you lack such connections, the Kelley Abroad Global Ambassadors serve as excellent resources. These ambassadors, passionate about sharing their experiences in Kelley abroad programs, provide first-hand experiences and valuable advice. On various occasions, I had potential abroad candidates’ text or call at random hours. They would ask questions on everything from best places to visit while abroad to helping them decide between abroad locations.
Connecting with the Kelley International Programs office is another way to gain a better understanding of available programs. I had a particularly positive experience working closely with Sara Mumma, responsible for managing the CIEE Rome program. Prior to submitting my applications, I dropped into her office hours and she was so helpful. Her honest, straightforward guidance proved invaluable in navigating the decision-making process. We stayed connected beyond the application phase, maintaining contact with her throughout my semester in Rome and even now. Additionally, Sara was able to help me understand the potential impact of study abroad on my professional and academic trajectory. In my case, the program in Rome provided courses that aligned with my international business and marketing majors. The offices even provide conversion keys, facilitating a clearer understanding of degree requirements that can be fulfilled while abroad.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
Beyond the decision-making process there are considerations that I had addressed beforehand. Stress over my decision led to some oversights, so I encourage you to think about the following:
1. Studying abroad is not for everyone. I wholeheartedly recommend it and believe that everyone can benefit from getting those cross-cultural experiences.
2. Choosing not to study abroad for a semester does not foreclose future abroad opportunities. For example, the BUS-X 272 Global Business Immersion class has a travel abroad component.
3. Kelley facilitates connections with fellow students in the same programs, ensuring you won’t be alone before embarking on your study abroad journey.
4. If you’re getting FOMO, try to focus on what you stand to gain from the experience rather than what you might lose by not being at IU.
Additionally, I recommend asking yourself these questions when selecting a program:
1, What do I want to get out of my study abroad experience? What is my number one priority?
2. If I want to travel, is this a good location to travel to or from?
3. What is the structure of the academic program? Is it five days a week? Is it more or less rigorous?
4. What does it look like in this program and lifestyle on a day-to-day level?
Studying abroad is a transformative experience, and the gravity of these decisions can feel overwhelming. I hope that this article has helped you feel more confident moving forward in your study abroad journey!
Bio: Madeline Heath is senior year at Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business where she is majoring in Marketing and International Business and minoring in Studio Art. Maddie is passionate about the Kelley community and has devoted much of her time to Kelley Student Government where she has served as Director of Student Life and First Year Engagement Lead. She currently serves as President of the Kelley Women’s Council. A creative at heart, Maddie believes in the power of an imaginative approach and is excited to share favorite experiences and insights about Kelley with you!
Questions about this article? Email us or leave a comment below.