Raise your hand if you studied abroad while in undergrad. Where did you go? Europe? Asia? Australia? I had planned on studying abroad (I wanted to go to Australia) while at SLU but in the end chose pursuing internships that I thought would help my career in the long run. Those jobs did help me, but there are times that I wonder if I should have taken another look at spending time abroad as a student. Now that I am in the student seat again, study abroad has once again become an option and I find myself wondering if now is the time. I have not traveled as much as I would have liked; the only international adventure (other than Canada) on my books is Austria and Germany with my sister’s hockey team in 2012. That was an amazing trip, and I would love to go back and explore even further, but I also have plenty of other places on my checklist. So, when at orientation they released some of the study abroad programs for 2016, I listened and felt that itch to travel start up again. Not only are you able to travel and see business in an international setting, but the two weeks you spend abroad count for a full 3 credits. Travel and reducing the time spent in class? Not a bad combination.
I was initially intrigued by Wayne State’s program that takes students to Italy but the dates overlap with my sister’s college graduation. Other programs go to China (not high on my list) and Poland this year. Reading through the brochures and material my first blush answer was “Yes! I want to do this!” However, this isn’t undergrad anymore and taking off to travel has become a little more complicated. First issue, the trips are two weeks long, which covers all the vacation time I get in a year. While I would love to do this, I have prior obligations this year that prevent me from doing so. But what about next year? Same question arises, can I/do I want to use all my vacation time at once? Maybe, I don’t have anything concrete planned for 2017 so I won’t eliminate the possibility. Second issues, will my work schedule allow me to take two weeks where I am basically unavailable to my coworkers and clients. In an ideal world, vacation time means vacation time and no work, but in reality, that is often not the case. These trips all take place in the spring and summer which tends to be a busy time for my office. Leaving would require approval from my boss and a lot of planning ahead to make sure any questions that could arise could be answered without me. Might be a bit of a pain, but if approval was given extra work before I leave would not be a deterrent. Third issue, and if I am honest this one is the biggest hurdle, is the cost of the trip. Not only do you pay for the cost of being in another country with the program, but you pay for airfare, a majority of meals while abroad, and oh yea, tuition for the 3 credits. At minimum we’re talking $5000-$6000, and it is likely to be higher. Not an exorbitant amount, but not chump change either, especially for someone who is paying for school on their own. To go on the trip costs as much as tuition for a full semester with two classes. Granted, I am getting one class credited for the trip, but is that enough? Can I justify spending that money right now? I don’t have the answer for that at the moment, and if I decide to pursue it next year circumstances could be very different which makes thinking about an answer now difficult. I know I want to travel, and I know I want to do it while I am young and have fewer responsibilities. So what are my tradeoffs between saving for a shorter self planned trip in the reasonably near future, studying abroad through school, or planning a longer trip but having to wait? That is a question that I will have to consider as I balance and consider my options.
If anyone has any sage advice, I am all ears!