It's time to think about next summer, pt. 1

Summer has just ended, we recently returned to our busy schedules of classes and homework and other extra-curricular activities, and… yes, this would be the best time to think about next summer. Many students make the mistake of not planning for the summer until sometime in the spring semester. By then, the deadline for many wonderful opportunities has already passed. Summer is a great time to relax and recharge our batteries for next year, but it also offers the chance to add more dimensions to one’s portfolio of professional and educational experiences. Some students prefer to take summer classes to enable them to graduate early or to substitute classes they have not done so well in during the school year. In this and the next post, however, I will discuss other more exciting and rewarding options: study abroad and internships.

In this age of a global economy, employers and graduate schools are constantly looking for people who have had some experience outside of the United States and who can speak (or at the very least read) a foreign language. If you have not been taking language classes seriously or at all, spending the summer in another country could help you on both fronts.

Let’s make this clear: in this day and age, no one should graduate from college without having spent at least a summer, and preferably a semester, abroad. If you are going to school in the same state in which you grew up (or in a neighboring state), and you’ve had little experience outside your home state, or you’ve never been abroad, you should seriously consider this. Studying or working in a foreign country won’t only reveal a whole world of cultures and languages and tastes to you, but it will also make you a well-rounded and worldly person, the type employers want to hire and top grad schools want to recruit. In other words, spending time overseas (and preferably in a non-English speaking country) will make you a more appealing candidate; not doing so, especially if you’ve had limited or no exposure outside of your state, will leave you with fewer career options, many of which will be those one did not even need a bachelor’s degree for 20 or 30 years ago. Indeed, for students who come from small, remote towns, or who are first-generation college students, spending time overseas might be the ticket to professional and academic opportunities in big cities on the east or west coast, or even in Europe, China, or Japan.

So where do you start? Almost every university has a study abroad office that coordinates all international academic opportunities. That’s the place to visit – first online, then in person – to learn about available programs (there are different types: summer, semester, year-long, short study trips, and more), what credits transfer and what don’t, applying for one, the technical stuff you will need to arrange (don’t have a passport yet? It’s probably time to get one!), and financial aid. So before you decide it is not for you or that you cannot afford it, visit your university’s study abroad office and talk to your adviser or professors about it. And do it soon: many programs for this summer and next fall will have deadlines coming up in the next few months.

Here’s the link to Ball State’s Study Abroad office.
In the next post: Study abroad won’t work for you this summer? Consider an internship.

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