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How to study abroad (the right way) 

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In the words of Saint Augustine, “The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.” Whether taking a weeklong excursion to Africa or spending a semester in Europe, studying abroad is at the top of many college bucket lists. So read away, mark the pages of your odyssey and decorate your passport with foreign stamps. But when experiencing this rite of passage, remember to heed the advice of those with more wisdom than you – that is, the international program directors at your college. We asked the directors of study-abroad programs at various Central Florida schools to give us some dos and don’ts when it comes to pursuing academic endeavors overseas.

Use these tips to conquer your host country like a travel writer, rather than a clueless tourist.

Giselda Beaudin, director of international programs, Rollins College

Her top tip for studying abroad:
Spend time alone: Beaudin says taking part in activities alone may be challenging, but stepping outside your comfort zone has its own rewards. Whether catching a meal on your own or exploring a neighborhood by yourself, she says, “you’ll be much more likely to interact with locals, and you will have time to observe and reflect.”
Most popular programs:
Rollins in Shanghai and CAPA Semester and Internship in London are the most popular and competitive programs at Rollins College.
Study abroad pitfalls to avoid:
Don’t forget to challenge yourself. This sentiment can take on different meanings for different students. “It might mean speaking the local language more,”
Beaudin says, “or asking a local friend for coffee, or joining a student group, or taking a really intense course.”

Kevin Konecny, director of the Center for Global Engagement, Seminole State College

His top tip for studying abroad:
Plan early: Konecny recommends giving yourself at least a year to plan and save for an international experience. Competitive grants from the U.S. Department of State and student loans via financial aid can make studying abroad “affordable for the average student.”
Most popular programs:
Faculty-led short-term programs to Western European destinations are the most popular study abroad trips at Seminole State. The most competitive program is the Salzburg Global Seminar, where four Grindle Honors Institute students are fully funded ($3,500) to attend an annual conference in Austria.
Study abroad pitfalls to avoid:
Don’t commit to a program abroad that doesn’t provide college credit. Konecny suggests meeting with an international study abroad director, “to identify a program that is a good fit for your major and will help you … fulfill graduation requirements.”

Chris Cook, study abroad coordinator, University of Central Florida

Her top tip for studying abroad:
Set goals: Cook says that since “these experiences tend to fly by,” decide what you want to get out of international study before you sign up for it.
Most popular programs:
Up to 75 percent of UCF students take part in short-term summer programs that last two to six weeks. Programs in Italy tend to be the most popular.
Study abroad pitfalls to avoid:
Don’t forget that studying is a mandatory component of studying abroad. If you don’t want to take the studying seriously, she says, “it is cheaper to go on vacation.” While study abroad is a chance to see and experience new things, you should also learn from that experience.

Jennifer Robertson, director of study abroad and global experiences, Valencia College

Her top tip for studying abroad:
Be flexible: “A student might really want to go to Italy, for example, but there might be a program that’s a better fit in France,” Robertson says. Have three to four solid choices for semester programs, but still “keep your options open.”
Most popular programs:
Humanities courses going to Europe.
Study abroad pitfalls to avoid:
Don’t run low on money; have a back-up plan if funding options fall through. Also, “Don’t carry all cash and don’t put it all in one place,” she says. Many students run out of in-country spending money or get pickpocketed while abroad.

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