Making the leap: steps to study abroad success

Student shares tips for starting your international journey

Courtney Knight

Sometimes prepping for the next academic adventure isn’t as easy as it seems. Students hoping to study abroad must choose a host country, apply to a program, get their potential classes approved and finally enroll in a foreign university or program. These steps can be particularly overwhelming.

According to the W&L website, there are a series of things to consider when choosing your host country. It is recommended to examine the calendar dates of the term because some countries have different academic school years. The website also advises students to research the cost, housing arrangements and course offerings available through each program.

Sakina Kapasi ’15 offered some advice which might not be found on a traditional website. Kapasi is a business major, an IFSA-Butler global ambassador, and has worked at the international office since her freshmen year. Kapasi shared some advice with the Phi regarding the steps of studying abroad.

First, it is important to determine whether or not practicing a language is important. Kapasi selected Melbourne, Australia, because she did not want to learn a new language. She was also the only student from W&L in Melbourne.

Kapasi said, “It was also really cool to be the only W&L student because it pushed me to make friends.”

When selecting a country, Kapasi encourages other students to look beyond the usual destinations. “A lot of the time W&L students want to go to Italy, Spain, or France,” Kapasi said. “You’re really limiting yourself by only looking where your friends have gone.”

The next step in the process is deciding whether or not to directly enroll in a university or to use a third-party provider.

By directly enrolling in a foreign university, much more of the responsibility rests on the student. Students who enroll directly have to organize housing, send payments to the university, enroll in classes and find travel. Third party programs help facilitate this process.

Kapasi studied abroad through a third party provider called ISFA-Butler. “Overall, it made the experience easier so I could concentrate on going to school and cultural immersion,” she said.

Kapasi began her study abroad experience with a week-long orientation in Sydney. The orientation allowed IFSA-Butler to teach students about safety and health information.

When applying to programs, it is important to plan ahead. While W&L’s study abroad application may be simple, getting classes approved may be a bit more difficult.

“As long as you plan ahead and send out emails, department heads are really good about giving you credit or directing you to someone who can,” Kapasi said.

For students who are on financial aid, assistance can transfer to a program abroad. W&L has a proportional program, meaning that any money that a student would receive on campus, they will also receive abroad. However, if the program is less expensive than a semester at W&L, they do not get to pocket the leftover money. Upon getting accepted to a program, students on financial aid will send the financial aid office a proposal of expenses and meet with them to evaluate how much money the student will get based on the program.