Studying abroad is something that I’ve always pictured myself doing, even when I was a kid. I think it was because my cousin spent a gap year abroad and I thought that was way better than going to the fourth grade, so I decided I wanted to do it, too.
The process of studying abroad is not something that I would recommend for the faint of heart. I decided early on that I would take my junior year’s spring semester to go abroad, but Trinity had other plans. When I was talking with my professor, she told me to check out Trinity’s first faculty-led, semester-long study abroad program. I was afraid to study abroad, so having the comfort of knowing my own Trinity family would be backing me up while abroad made me feel safer.
Unfortunately, as with all new programs, there are some glitches. I think it’s safe to say that Trinity tried its best to make this process as easy as possible, but I definitely ran into some problems when preparing to go abroad.
Trinity partnered with IES Abroad to run the Trinity in Spain program. While this organization has a reputable background of experience “” over 50 years, according to their website “” I don’t find them very equipped to help students get to where we need to go.
Don’t quote me on dates, but I remember Trinity’s spring semester ending around May 10. A few days before then, I received my first email from IES Abroad that instructed me to log in to their online portal and begin turning in all the forms that were needed for me to study abroad. For the majority of the forms necessary, excepting a background check and a physical examination, the due date was set for May 30. This would theoretically give students around a month to get their acts together. But! I had a family vacation planned from May 20 to May 30, which cut my timeline from 20 days to 10. This made things much more difficult.
For an organization that has been sending students abroad for 50 years, I found it pretty difficult to find all the information I needed to get all of my paperwork in, the worst being the application for a visa. But that’s a different, equally frustrating story. The main problem was simply that I had questions and their email correspondence was less than informative. I had to send several emails describing my problem until someone finally realized that the website I was being sent to had not been updated, which explained why I was so damn confused. At this point, I think I had around three to five days left before I left for vacation.
After a lot of stress, back-and-forth emails, and driving all over town “” made harder by the fact that I’m an out-of-state student who was stuck in San Antonio for the summer “” I managed to submit all of my forms electronically, as well as send off all of my physical paperwork via UPS. The amount of relief that I felt was overwhelming. Pending my six-week-long background check, I was almost definitely going to study abroad.
Now, a mere week before my departure date, I’m feeling a different kind of anxiety. But I know it’s all due to me being excited to finally get there. This article isn’t meant to discourage you from studying abroad in any way, shape or form. Even though I was frustrated, I knew it would all be worth it because I would be a part of Trinity’s first semester-long study abroad program. The things I’ll be learning, about myself as well as within my classes, are things I could never get at Trinity.
I can’t stress the importance of following your gut if you believe you want to study abroad. Over 40 percent of Trinity students study abroad at least once, if not multiple times. According to NAFSA: Association of International Educators, an organization that promotes international education, the percentages of U.S. students studying abroad have been steadily growing each year. This could be caused by companies demanding internationally competent employees, but that’s an article for a different day.
Compared to other schools, Trinity’s population of students who go abroad can be considered high. That’s one reason why I chose this university. I’m grateful that my school encourages its students to explore and expand, even outside of its cozy red-brick walls. One of my friends who recently came back from abroad really encouraged me by saying, “Even if you love Trinity, it’s good to get out. You need to escape the Trinity bubble every once in a while.”
So, if you’re thinking of studying abroad: Go for it. If you have the smallest inclination to get out of Trinity for a summer, semester or year, then go talk to a study abroad adviser before it’s too late. Over the course of this semester, I’ll be writing about my experiences while in Madrid, Spain, on Trinity’s first ever semester-long program. I have no doubt that my time abroad will be special, even if it’s not the grand adventure that everyone makes it out to be. In the end, it’s good to leave the bubble every once in a while.