Welcome to the first post detailing my adventures studying abroad in Japan at Meiji University. This is an exciting opportunity. I hope this blog will be of some use to other students thinking of studying abroad as well as anyone else interested in visiting Japan.
Without going into detail about my background I first want to share my thoughts of studying abroad. In order to do that let's go back in time to when I was a bright eyed and bushy-tailed study abroad applicant seeking an exchange program. In this post I'm not going to give a play-by-play of the whole process, but rather a glance of the opportunities as well as my own motivation and concerns at the time.
Unsure of the possibilities. Wondering if studying abroad would be the best use of my time and money. I decided to take a look at SUU's Global Engagement Center's semester programs. There I found many opportunities to study abroad in different parts of the world ranging from Argentina and all the way back here to the United States of America. Yes it's apparently even possible to study within North America in a National Student Exchange. As interesting as it would be to study in another state (thinking of my home away from, Hawaii), the Bahamas, or Switzerland, my eyes were mainly set only on Japan. Meiji University in Tokyo offers spring, fall, and full year exchange programs with many areas of study and I eagerly chose them.
Can spending time abroad be deemed worthwhile? Absolutely! There's no telling the magnificent things that one will experience while delving into a different culture. Productive use of one's time is achievable intellectually, academically, and socially while studying abroad. What's truly difficulty with time is that it's fleeting and mysterious to procrastinators such as myself. There's never enough time to do everything, but all the time in the world to do nothing. Or better yet, "There's never enough time to do all the nothing you want" as Calvin and Hobbs so eloquently put it. However, if I were to do nothing then I would accomplish nothing and that's no good.
Despite my desire to study abroad I had always felt like it would result in living beyond my means. Student debt is a crippling problem in the US and I had decided long ago that if I couldn't finance at least most of my own schooling then I shouldn't go until I could. Money can be difficult to come by as a college student. I strongly dislike any debt and generally pay things off immediately, but like many others I gratefully utilize Federal grants and loans as necessary. Those that are financially strapped though should seek additional support from scholarships like the Global Engagement EDGE Scholarship if using the study abroad program as your SUU EDGE Global Project; the scholarship is available during the study abroad application. Other worthwhile scholarships are the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship, Japan Bridging Scholarship, and many others found here.
When money is the main concern, find solace in knowing that exchange students pay tuition to the financial department at their home school, a.k.a. SUU. That's right, when studying abroad the exchange student pays the regular full time tuition costs of the home school even though they'll be studying at the partner school somewhere else in the world. Taking that into account, realistically the time and money that's necessary to study abroad will be spent one way or the other; regardless of attending school at home or abroad. Not only that, but Federal grants and loans can be applied to the tuition even when studying abroad. As is normally the case with financial aid, any offered federal grants and scholarships should be accepted first before considering taking out a loan.
I do strongly suggest students only apply to study abroad if enough money is at their disposal to cover the tuition, books, travel, housing, and food as well as enough set aside in case of any unforeseen emergency. It is after all unlikely that students will be allowed to work while studying abroad so don't count on that offsetting any of the costs.
Afraid to live far away from everything and everyone you've ever known? I too know that feeling as I will miss my friends and family. Missing others and one's home is natural, but nowadays just think of all the ways we have at our disposal to stay in contact with each other. Even while abroad people are going to want to hear from you. Social media in all its forms will in some capacity help fill this void.
Time, money, and people were the top three things that I contemplated before I finally applied. As I've just explained those three concerns initially held me back when they shouldn't have. The unforeseen opportunities to meet new people is exhilarating. I highly recommend taking a look at the what the Global Engagement Center at SUU can offer. Go to school and earn credits while studying abroad!