Study abroad decision process taxing, ultimately satisfying

After entering college, I contemplated studying abroad for a long period of time. I had my fears—missing out on what was going to happen in Geneseo and whether or not my friends were going to forget about me. Questions like, “Do I have enough credits to study abroad?” and “Can I really afford it?” frequented my thoughts, too. I wasn’t sure how exactly I’d be able to do it—or if I really wanted to.

In the fall of my junior year, however, I asked myself if there was really any harm was in applying. One of the great things about studying at a SUNY school is that it’s a statewide program and New York is pretty big. I had the ability to choose from a plethora of study abroad programs spanning from the Western Hemisphere all the way to the Eastern—run through any SUNY institution.

Considering all of my options, I decided to apply for a program in Brazil. I felt it was the best choice for me considering my aspirations to become a foreign correspondent and my desire to address problems affecting Latin American countries. The only barrier that remained was learning the third most widely spoken language in Latin America: Portuguese.

Learning Portuguese motivated me to look for study abroad programs that offered intensive studies in the language. I was ecstatic when I found one: SUNY New Paltz’s partnership with Pontifícia Universidade Católica do Rio de Janeiro. The program not only had a focus on Portugese, but was incredibly affordable—matching Geneseo’s spring tuition bill with only a slight difference. I applied and four days later, I was accepted into the program. From there, I was given a list of forms and requirements. Even though I was sending forms in, I was still unsure of whether or not I really wanted to commit to the program; I did so with hopes that I would be prepared if I chose to go.

The moment I decided to commit to the study abroad program was when I realized the experiences I would gain. If I went to Brazil in the spring, I would add a language to my comparative literature major, learn about Brazilian culture and gain new ways of looking at life. Determining what I’d be able to gain from the experience made it much easier to commit.

A month after my acceptance, I learned that I had been awarded the Gilman Scholarship which would help fund my trip to Brazil. It meant that the worries I had at the beginning of my decision-making process were largely soothed. I had not had any expectations of receiving the scholarship. If the reason you’re worried about studying abroad is based on money, I suggest applying for as many scholarships as you can. You will never be afforded the opportunity to spend six months in a foreign country so frugally. Additionally, many programs are set at Geneseo’s tuition—you just have to look beyond the norm. 

My advice to students contemplating their study abroad decision is to make a list of the pros and cons of studying abroad. Think of it less as leaving things behind and rather as adding so much more. When I leave for Brazil in January, my entire world will tilt. I’m still a bit nervous about how I’ll survive in a country that’s immensely different than the United States, but I’m going into the experience with open arms. Do your research and apply; the world is literally at your fingertips.