Tag: how to choose a study abroad program
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Hello & Welcome.
Hi there — I’m Kimber, The Founder & Managing Editor of The LiveStudyLearn Abroad Association.
It thrills me that you are here exploring your options for study abroad and I hope Team LSL can be part of your semester away journey.
The concept of The LiveStudyLearn Abroad Association was originally created in 2014 as a blog and part-time one-to-one advising business. I had just returned from a successful second stint living abroad in London for six years, suffering from severe reverse culture shock, and trying to figure out my next steps for my career.
During this time, a family friend reached out to see if I could offer advice to their niece who was planning to study abroad the following year. I was excited to provide all the info I could to help and decided to write a short summary packet for her (here at LSL we now call these monthly bundles.)
Over the course of the following six months, I began offering one-to-one advising to several local students and friends of friends, which eventually led me to start the LiveStudyLearn Abroad blog ‘Anchor Me Abroad’ in late summer 2014. I was still working on my reverse culture shock and my next steps, so this was a welcomed distraction.
After nearly two years of speaking with students about their study abroad pain points, I realized that there was a common thread to their stumbling blocks. There was a significant ‘problem’ that they all faced, which was one I had discovered many years before.
A few mind mapping sessions later, LiveStudyLearn Abroad was born.
My Path to Study Abroad
I always like to say that I did not chase after study abroad, but that it found me unexpectedly. In all honesty, it was never in my plans. After graduating high school in 2004, I headed off to college at a large state university in New York State. This year would become one big “teachable” moment to say the least.
In high school, I was an honors student and a (pre) pre-med student. A member of two of my high school’s selective subject area academies, I had told myself for years that I wanted to be a doctor because they were ‘respected’ and ‘made lots of money’.
My Advice: Never chase money or titles. It won’t end well. Do what you love, you’ll get to where you need to be.
Once I transitioned into college-level pre-med, reality set in completely. I was suddenly faced with having to learn things like Advanced Biology, Chemistry, and even Trig (really? Do doctors REALLY need Trig formulas to do doctor-y things?).
In addition to driving myself into a ditch academically, it became clearer by the day that this university was just not the place for me. For starters, it was a state school. As a non-New Yorker, I was, without a doubt, a cultural outsider. Secondly, it was a major party school. I knew this going in, but figured on a campus of 20,000 students, I’d be able to avoid this scene. I was wrong and as a non-party kid, it felt isolating. Lastly, and in many ways most importantly, because it was such a large university, classes are extremely large. The smallest class during my 1st semester had 351 kids in it.
So yes, I was drowning in social and academic misery, but I could not just crumble and fade out. I’m a fourth-generation college attendee in my family, so academic excellence is an expectation and quitting up was not in the cards.
I had to make some tough decisions. I knew the pain of my first semester would hurt badly (I failed my Chemistry course (I was able to get this dropped from my transcript later), and barely passed Biology by doing 10 extra credit assignments. It was a hard pill to swallow but I was determined to turn the experience into something positive.
And so it began….
My next two decisions were critical. By the end of Christmas 2004, I had decided that I would finish out my first year there, but would transition to a Communications & Public Relations Track. I had also decided that I would begin applying to other colleges and transfer for my second year.
The former was doable. I had spoken extensively with the Director of the Communications Program and he was thrilled that I was considering changing programs since I excelled at writing, had been the editor of my high school newspaper for two years, and had a knack for interpersonal skills.
The latter was going to be a challenge.
In the US, it’s very hard to transfer schools after one year. In fact, it’s rather unheard of. Whether you’re at a community college or interested in a different program somewhere else, most schools prefer that you have four semesters under your belt.
But, like many instances in my life, I was determined to defy that logic – so I did.
I applied to six small colleges, but ultimately it was a small women’s college in Pennsylvania that won my heart. There were many pluses about this school: I admittedly liked that they contacted me 72 hours after I applied. It showed they had an organized application intake process. They had a fantastic Professional Communications program, including professors with real-world journalism experience, and I loved that there were only 500 students on campus. That’s right, my biology class at UB, was the same total of all the students in the whole college. It was a complete thumbs up.
Their impressive track record of the empowerment of young women was also a draw for me. A historically women’s only college, Their motto at the time was ‘World Ready Women’. It was crafted to encourage the female student body to design their lives to not just tackle the day-to-day on campus, but to prepare for the world, your way.
I also appreciated that unlike most women’s colleges, they did not go overboard with shoving third-way feminism down our throats and were welcoming to both conservative and liberal political views, along with strong support for open religious freedom, something that if we’re being honest, is not always found on college campuses in this country.
From the moment I transferred in September 2005, I fully pressed into the idea of becoming a “World Ready” woman. I joined several on-campus societies, connected quickly with fellow new transfers, and also leaned heavily on the career services team. I was ultimately matched with an advisor who turned out to be a true gem. She was encouraging, always willing to give great feedback, and challenged me to step out of my comfort zone, personally and professionally. (You know who you are – Thanks for everything!).
The next semester, I stepped away from campus to complete the Walt Disney World College Program. It was my first college-level internship and I was lucky enough to be able to negotiate 12 elective credits at school for completing it. For six months, I worked in nine stores throughout the Magic Kingdom, had unlimited access to all the Orlando parks, and made friendships that have lasted to this day.
When I returned to my campus in the fall, I knew I had to start getting serious about building my resume for future prospects. My Disney internship was a blast, but it was not directly tied to my major. I needed to set my sights on something more aligned. After many conversations with Amy and other advisors, I explored the idea of interning at a local TV station or newspaper to gain ‘real world’ experience.
I applied for individual internships in several states, but eventually found a for-profit organization called the University of Dreams (UoD), now called Dream Careers, that helped me find something much better.
Through UoD, I was able to secure an internship at a major southern California TV station for Summer 2007. It was a major deal. Internships in a market like L.A. (second-largest media market in the US) are extremely competitive, and the idea that someone who’s not a local or who wasn’t attending college there gave me the confidence to see that sometimes using services that assist you in getting in the door is necessary.
While UoD is a very expensive investment (nearly $8000), they have the track record to prove themselves. As always, I recommend researching any services like this before parting with your (family’s) money.
One day as I was wrapping up my last days before Summer 2007 kicked into full effect, I received a random email from my advisor. The subject line read: ‘Media Internship in London’. When I opened the message, it just said something like ‘Saw this and thought you might be interested’ and it included a link.
I humored the thought for a minute.
I was prepping to head back home for a few weeks before my L.A. internship, but suddenly there was a chance to learn more about interning in the Fall as well? AND in a foreign country? I was mildly intrigued.
The internship was through an organization called AIFS (The American Institute for Foreign Study). Offering Fall and Spring London internships in 20+ sectors, the website said they only accepted 20-25 students per semester, with nearly 500 applicants for each intake. While super competitive, I felt confident because I matched all the criteria: Excellent GPA: Check!. Declared Major: Check! Availability to live in London for five months: SURE!.
It’s important to mention though, at the time of applying, It still wasn’t clear if my school would even accept these credits because it was a non-university affiliated program, but I figured I’d work that out once I got to that step in the process.
I applied that week and was interviewed shortly after. By the end of May 2007, the decision was in: I would be heading to London after I was done in L.A.
There was a point where I had to ask myself if this was real life.
A summer internship in L.A., home for two weeks then headed off to London for five months? Hollywood could not have written this more perfectly. And to top it off, the college was supportive and willing to accept my internship credits once I returned. I was set.
Finding My Anchor Abroad
My internship in L.A. started in mid-June and ran until mid-August. While unpaid, it was full-on, 8+ hours a day, and in my particular situation, my internship was split across two divisions, so I had to always keep mindful when switching hats and changing gears based on the day. In the evenings, I spent time preparing for London. My first step of action was to learn as much as I could not just about the culture, but also about how to “successfully study abroad” if there was such a process.
And there it was as I embarked on this journey, The Problem.
It’s the same problem you likely encountered before stumbling upon this site. There are 1000s of articles and resources online about study abroad. Many of them, well written and well-intentioned, but often out of context and useless.
Some “experts” who write about study abroad talk about it from a dinosaur perspective. While I appreciate hearing about the struggles of navigating a semester in Seville in 1981 or adventures of learning a new language in Kyiv in 1970, the advice offered is usually outdated and not relevant now.
You then have other “knowledgable people” who I like to call ‘Aspirational study abroad wannabes’. They write advice columns and blogs about ‘How to survive your semester abroad’ or ‘Top 10 Things to do While Studying Abroad in Dubai’, but when you research them, they’ve never actually studied abroad and are basically curating content from around the internet for clicks. #thatsashame and isn’t helpful.
I was you. A student trying to organize and plan my semester away. It felt like I had been given a giant puzzle to solve, but was missing the cover of the packaging to model my journey from. It took piecing information together from different sources, connecting with people who I knew who had already done SA, and living on a prayer to figure it out.
I built LiveStudyLearn to take the mystery out of study abroad and help students properly assemble their “puzzle pieces” so they and their families feel confident in their investment to spend a semester away.
In case you’re wondering, interning in London was amazing. I was able to add on an additional semester in Florence, Italy for Spring 2008. I fell so in love with London, I returned in Fall 2009 and would end up living there for 6 more years.
(Photo Credit: Me, 2012. One of my favorite photo wall installations in London)
(Photo Credit: Me, 2012. Random Beautiful Sky in Central London aka my happy place)
Photo Credit: Me, 2012. Fencing Finals @ 2012 London Olympics. #Magic
During this time, I completed two Master’s degrees at two leading London universities, completed a few more internships, and began my “grown-up” career, working as a marketing manager for a global test prep company.
To think, it all started with a casual email from an amazing mentor.
I want the same type of success for you too!
Before You Become a Member, Read This
The leading ground rule for LiveStudyLearn is Respect and Positivity. We’re an inclusive and welcoming community that supports each other. Your birthplace, religion, sexual orientation or political stances do not matter to me. If you’re excited to study abroad and want to connect and learn more about other students on the same path, we want you here. FULL STOP, as the Brits say.
In the previous few semesters, students have found ways to meet as groups, study together, even coordinate travel to visit each other’s cities. It’s been exciting to see them all come together!
(Photo Credit: Me, 2008. Venice Skyline at Sunrise from a Water Taxi)
(Photo Credit: Me, 2008. Carnivale Street Performers in Venice)
(Photo Credit: Me, 2008. Italian Flag in Center of Siena)
For now, take a bit more time to enjoy the freebies, then do yourself a favor and get a membership (guaranteed student budget-friendly, always!).
I’ll see you inside the members’ hub real soon.
(Photo Credit: Me, 2008. Taking a Selfie in Venice before Selfies were “Selfies”)