Alliance Abroad Student Guide: FAQ’s
Why should I think about studying abroad?
The benefits of studying abroad cannot be overstated. They center on three types of reasons:
• Personal growth
• New perspective on world affairs
• Career enhancement
Study abroad can be an enriching and eye-opening adventure, where learning extends to the world beyond the classroom walls. There is no substitute for living and studying in a foreign country if you want to gain in-depth knowledge of another culture’s customs, people, and language. In addition, you will find that living and studying or working in another country can develop important transnational competencies that can be of interest to future employers.
How do I select the right program?
Several of the primary factors in selecting the right program include the subject you will study, the language you will be taught in, and the academic credit available for the course. Many people are looking for courses either to expand their knowledge of their primary field of study or to expand their knowledge of a particular language. Most people also want to earn credit that will count for their PR status. If these are not concerns for you, it gives you more freedom. These factors should probably be primary ones in your decision, however.
The next set of factors will probably be location, timing and duration. Location is a logistical issue, but it tends to have a direct impact on the language and subjects available. If you want to study in Germany because you want to explore your German heritage, you may have to work a little harder to find a program offered in English if you don’t speak German. However, if you are willing to be a little flexible and work to find options, you can study almost anything anywhere in the world. Timing and duration are decisions related to how much time you can take off from you program at home as well as what programs are offered that meet your needs.
In order to find the perfect program, you need to know the answers to the following questions:
• What do you want or need to study?
• Do you need to earn credit while abroad, or would a work abroad program not for credit be possible?
• Are you fluent enough in a foreign language to take classes in it, or will it be necessary for you to take some or all of your coursework in English?
• How much time can you afford to spend abroad, in terms of academic time and economic resources?
• Where do you want to go? Why?
• How structured or open of a program are you looking for?
• Do you want to live in a dorm with other Indians, stay with a local family, or have some other housing option?
• How much money can you spend on tuition and fees? On housing and food? On international transportation?
• Will you need to apply for financial aid? Is it available?
How do I research my options?
Talk to a study abroad adviser from Alliance Abroad about how and where to research programs. Many colleges and universities have a study abroad library, or a section of the college library that is devoted to study abroad. The best reference guides are Alliance Abroad counselors. Your campus study abroad library may also carry the Study Abroad magazines; with articles about study, work, and travel abroad written by recently returned student participants (also see the helpful links page in website, www.allianceabroad.in.
Using the Internet, you can gather information on hundreds of programs and foreign universities; on financial aid: scholarships, fellowships, and grants specifically geared to study abroad; on internships and volunteer opportunities; on international travel; on particular countries or specific fields; on getting your passport and visa requirements; on health and safety conditions; and on international currency exchange rates and banking. Information alone will not be sufficient, so it should be gathered, studied, and discussed with your campus advisers and fellow students.
If you are interested in a particular program, talking to returned students who have recently taken part in it is often the best way to find out what it’s really like. Be aware, however, that no two students on the same program ever have precisely the same experience or response, and you may have different goals and interests. If it’s not possible to talk to students who’ve been on programs that interest you, talking to students who have taken part in any study abroad program will be useful, since you’ll hear about what it’s like to live and study in a foreign country.
Talking with program representatives can provide invaluable insight and information, which is direct and personalized. Ask questions, and gain insights from persons who know their program from direct experience.
How do I pay for this?
Contact Alliance Abroad Counselors or go to website, www.allianceabroad.in. On it, you can search for Financing Education. We would recommend that you check this website out early in your search process as many scholarships are dependent on the program you choose.
If you are currently receiving financial aid for your college education, in many cases you can use it to study abroad. This can be the case with aid from an institution, a foundation, the state or central government, or other private or public sources. Talk to your Alliance Abroad adviser or financial aid officer about what can and can’t be applied to a study abroad program. Depending on the cost of your program, you may find that it is the same cost or cheaper than attending your home university. There are many scholarships designed specifically to help students study abroad so be sure to investigate all your options.
What if I want to work or volunteer?
An increasing number of students are interested in hands-on experience abroad, either as a way to immerse them selves in the local culture or to prepare for an international career. You can get this experience through:
• An internship
• Participation in a voluntary service project
• Paid work abroad programs
• Teaching English abroad
The main questions you need to ask are whether you are looking for credit points or not, whether you want to be paid or not, or whether you are looking for an internship. Some work experiences will be offered as an integral part of a study abroad program and include credit points while others may not. If you want to be paid you will need a work permit, which is much easier to obtain if you are going abroad with an officially-recognized work exchange program. Internships may give you the perfect foundation for an international career with direct experience in your field of study and can vary in length and whether or not they are paid.
Another option may be to volunteer. This gives you a wide range of options as voluntary service projects may be sponsored by NGOs, religious organizations, or government organizations such as the Peace Corps and could involve a variety of activities such as building a school , planting trees , or taking care of children in a orphanage.
What do I need to do before I leave home?
Travel documents are one of the first things you’ll need. When traveling abroad, you need to carry a passport, the only form of identification recognized everywhere in the world that verifies your citizenship. A valid passport is always the best form of identification. Countries will also require an additional entry document called a visa. Passports are issued by your country of citizenship, while visas-usually a stamp on a page of the passport, though they can be a separate certificate-are issued by the country to be visited. Apply early for your travel documents. Normal processing time for passports is four to six weeks, but this can take longer and visa requirements and processing times vary by country. Also valuable may be a student identity card that will identify your student status and may entitle you to discounts on anything from airline tickets to museum entrance fees.
Many study abroad programs take care of participants’ international travel and housing arrangements. If this is not the case with your program, then it will be your responsibility to arrange for travel to your program site and/or find your own accommodations. You may also want to consider making plans for your own transportation and housing if you decide to do additional traveling at the end of your program.
How do I handle money abroad?
Some of the preparations need to be made while you are still at home. Be prepared with a combination of travelers checks, cash, and appropriate credit and bank cards.
Most of your major costs for the semester (tuition and fees, housing, and sometimes food or airfare) will usually be taken care of while at home. If at all possible, try to do so because it can be more difficult than you might anticipate paying large bills abroad.
After your major fees are paid you should try to create a budget and stick to it while abroad so you do not find yourself running out of money or unable to travel or complete the excursions you wished to do because of lack of funds.
Learn the local exchange rate and what options you have available to you for changing money. Avoid the exchanging money on the “black market” as this is illegal in most countries. Toward the end of your trip be careful to exchange only as much money as you’ll need since some countries limit how much hard currency can be changed back.
How do I stay healthy?
Before you go abroad make sure to have your regular physical and dental checkups. If you take prescription medications regularly, bring a supply to last throughout your time abroad, if practical. It might be wise to also have a letter from your home physician or pharmacist describing your medicines, their dosage, a generic name for them and describing the condition being treated. Make sure all drugs are in the original pharmacy containers and are clearly labeled. You should carry copies of the prescriptions to avoid problems with Customs. If you are diabetic or have another medical condition in which a syringe is needed to administer medication, bring a supply of disposable syringes. For the flight to your program site, put any prescription medication, eyeglasses, and contact lenses in your carry-on bag. Don’t take the risk of these items being misrouted or lost with your checked luggage.
Immunizations may be required by certain countries. Even if they are not required, consult your doctor, local travel clinic or county health department to see if they are recommended. It may also be wise for you to have your basic childhood immunizations (tetanus, polio, diphtheria, etc.) updated. If you will be traveling to a developing country, then typhoid fever, hepatitis A and B, cholera and yellow fever are frequently recommended immunizations. Don’t forget anti-malarial medicine if traveling to malarial areas.
Try to get information about the health care system of where you will be studying so you are prepared and take a medical kit along with basic first aid items. Be aware of issues you might face regarding a new diet, water that may be unhealthy, and other such concerns. Be prepared for basic ailments such as diarrhea with standard over the counter medications or potentially prescription strength options.
The rules for staying safe and healthy abroad are typically very similar to those at home. Avoid drug use or excessive alcohol consumption. Be aware of the dangers of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases, particularly in certain countries where HIV is a widespread health problem. Be aware of your surroundings and use common sense. Don’t wander alone at night or in unfamiliar areas. Be careful when dealing with unfamiliar traffic patterns and situations. Don’t attract unnecessary attention to yourself. Protect your passport.
What will my arrival be like?
Your first welcome to the country after you exit the plane will be Immigration and Customs. Immigration officials will ask you the purpose of your visit and how long you propose to stay in their country. They will examine your passport, as well as visa and immunization certificates if they are required. They may or may not then stamp your passport, and you are free to enter the country. Depending on local practice, as well as the season and time of your arrival, this procedure can range from being quick and cursory to laborious and time-consuming. Even though you will be eager to exit the airport and start your study abroad adventure, it is important to be patient and respond very politely to any questions.
After Immigration comes Customs. You will be asked to declare (perhaps in writing) if you are carrying certain items in your luggage. Be sure to declare any restricted items, as luggage may be opened and checked. Always be respectful and polite. Never make jokes about bombs or illegal drugs. This kind of behavior can get you detained by the police.
Student travelers are sometimes viewed suspiciously by Immigration and Customs officials. It helps to dress neatly and be well-groomed.
Another concern when you arrive will be jet lag. In the first few days after your arrival, you are likely to experience physical changes as a result of taking a long flight and traveling through a number of time zones. You will probably be sleeping and waking at the ‘wrong’ times, feel tired, and have less patience than usual. This will pass within a few days. Upon arrival, get some exercise and do your best to wait to go to sleep until it is bedtime in the new time zone. This disorientation may be minimized some by avoiding alcohol and caffeinated products prior to and during your flight, and drinking plenty of other fluids.
How do I adjust to a new culture?
Culture shock is common and can affect even seasoned travelers. If you find yourself experiencing any of the symptoms of culture shock (depression, sleeping difficulties, homesickness, trouble concentrating, an urge to isolate yourself, and irritation with your host culture), just recognize what’s going on and try to take some of the following steps to combat these feelings until they pass.
• Learn as much as possible from local residents about their culture.
• Keep in touch with other Indian students. If you are directly enrolled in a foreign university, find out if there is a local hangout for Indian students. It can sometimes be helpful to meet with them and share experiences. Avoid letting these become gripe sessions, however.
• Keep yourself busy doing things you enjoy. When you have free time, visit museums, go to movies, and tour local sites of interest.
• Keep in touch with your family and friends at home. Letters, phone calls, or e-mail contact will make you feel less isolated.
• Try to keep your long-range goals in mind. Experiencing a new culture will inevitably involve some frustration and feelings of loneliness as you leave the familiar and incorporate the new, but they don’t last forever.
• Don’t overdo any of the preceding suggestions or you risk never making the adjustments to your new environment which are requisite to your purposes for being overseas.
• In sum, since there is almost no way to avoid culture shock completely, you should try to accept it as something everyone goes through. Keep in mind that students returning from study abroad often describe working their way through culture shock as a necessary maturing experience, something that provided insight into their own cultural assumptions.
What can I expect when I return?
Just as living abroad required you to make a number of adjustments, so does coming home. After all, you’re not the same person you were when you went abroad. After spending anywhere from a month to a year living in a different culture, you have absorbed new knowledge and attitudes that have changed you intellectually and personally. While you’re trying to find your new niche at home, you may wonder how to build on your study abroad experience. Like many returning students, you may want to immediately start planning to go abroad again.
For further information
If you need to know more, visit the Alliance Abroad office or website at: www.allianceabroad.in or call +91 172 466 1333/ +91 9878633377 or +919878633378.
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