How-to: Study Abroad

Katherine Achterman
Contributing Writer

Students who intend to study abroad next semester have just submitted their applications for the Oct. 1 deadline, but there are still plenty of study abroad opportunities for the coming semesters. Studying abroad offers many experiences for students who wish to study, obtain an internship, or participate in community service internationally. “I would advise students to start now!” says Amy Depree, study abroad advisor for the Center for Global Education at USF. “The sooner students start planning, the smoother the process will be.”

The application process, much like the abroad experience itself, is never exactly the same for any two students. “Students can do a semester long, academic year, or short term program,” says Depree. “Short term options can consist of Arrupe Immersions through University Ministry, faculty-led programs, or external programs led by providers or universities abroad.”

Despite the range in options, all students considering an abroad experience need to be aware of the necessary visa requirements of their respective countries. After completing paperwork to enroll in an alternate university and applying to an international program, students must then apply for a student, working, or tourist visa, the specifics of which vary from program to program. Recent Media Studies graduate Matt Miller said, “Navigating the visa retrieval process was not difficult for me, because I already had the appropriate personal documentation.” However, when it came time for him to enter the UK for his London-based internship, he said, “The immigration officers were intimidating. There was a point where I was accused of having a fake visa and needed additional screening to get into Heathrow Airport. Thankfully, the investigation showed that my visa was authentic, but I sometimes wonder if my identity as a person of color or as an American citizen impacted the way I was treated by the immigration security officers.”

Figuring out how to retain an American identity while assimilating to life abroad seems to be a common theme among Dons, and vice versa. Junior Domonique Tait, who came to study abroad at USF from Sydney, Australia, has learned about American culture firsthand during her studies. “I found Americans to be really friendly, like even strangers on the bus love striking up conversation!”

Senior Liza Fischer, who studied abroad in Florence, learned about cultural and societal differences through her experience. “In America, we’re taught to suppress and hold back what we’re feeling in order to benefit others,” she said, “Italians, however, can’t keep their emotions inside. I noticed if they feel something, they people they’re surrounded by will definitely notice, whether it’s by crying or dramatic hand gestures.”

Cultural differences beyond broad societal themes took students by surprise as well. Marinna Radloff, senior Biology major, was struck by the Swiss obsession with scooters. “No, I’m not talking the cool Italian vespas, I’m talking Razor scooters circa 2000 in America. Literally everyone had one! I saw like 20 businessmen in full on suit and tie combos riding their scooters to the commuter trains everyday.”

Students studying abroad need to be aware that their experience is far more than simply immersing themselves in a new culture, however. Carefully planning out class credits and a graduation plan is necessary to success. To do this, Depree encourages interested parties to schedule a meeting with an advisor in the study abroad office (Center for Global Education), located on UC 5th floor. Choosing subjects and classes in their specific areas of interest can be crucial in setting the tone for their study abroad experience.

Radloff, who completed the Multi-Level Diplomacy Program at the School for International Training in Geneva, Switzerland, says her experience was challenging. “The first half of the semester is 5 classes and learning research techniques from international agencies like OECD, UN, European Council and International Red Cross,” Radloff said. After students complete this portion of their schooling, they dedicate the second half of the semester to conducting on-the-ground field research through interviews of experts in their field. The students finish their research by writing a 50 page paper, which will dictate their grade for the entire class. “You must have your topic picked out and sent in for review before being admitted to the program,” says Radloff.

However, other programs put more emphasis on cultural experience and hands-on training. “My class/life balance was pretty easy to maintain,” purports Fischer. “I took all afternoon classes for 2 ½ hours, four days a week. I was fortunate to get awesome professors, but even more fortunate in all of the experience I gained wandering around Florence and the rest of Europe.”

Erika Cruz, junior Marketing major, who has just applied to study in Italy next semester, says, “I’m trying not to go into my study abroad experience with expectations– emphasis on trying. I’m actually pretty nervous about spending an entire semester in a whole different country that I know almost nothing about. For example, the only Italian words I know are foods. But then again, what better place to learn Italian than Italy? So I’m trying (again, trying) not to freak out too much. It’s a lot of excitement mixed with a bunch of nervousness, but it’s mostly excitement.”

To contact the Study Abroad Office:

USF Study Abroad Office (Center for Global Education) is located at UC 5th floor
Facebook: USF Center for Global Education
Instagram: @usfcastudyabroad
Twitter: @USF_Abroad
Online: usfca.edu/studyabroad

  1. Submit a study abroad interest form at usfca.edu/studyabroad.
  2. Research and select accredited options at the study abroad office at UC fifth floor, or online.
  3. Apply for or renew your U.S. Passport. Remember, it can take up to 3 months for delivery, and passport photos can be taken at OneStop.
  4. Find out if you need a student visa and apply in advance. This can take up to 2 months to obtain.
  5. Complete a disciplinary clearance form at usfca.edu/studyabroad/eligibility
  6. Review program courses, graduation concerns, and college/school requirements with your major and minor advisors and dean.
  7. Schedule an appointment with a study abroad advisor for your specific questions and application process. Do this by dropping by the study abroad office.
  8. Complete and submit school and program applications and submit them to the study abroad office. They will send the applications to their respective destinations.
  9. Inform the study abroad office of your program acceptance.
  10. Complete and submit host’s confirmation materials before their deadline (i.e. agreement forms, course information, deposits, etc.)
  11. Obtain and submit the following materials to the study abroad office before departure:
    • Copy of Acceptance Letter
    • Copy of Passport
    • Waiver of Liability
    • Participant Information Sheet (Online)
    • Petition to Enroll at Another Institution Form (PEAI)
    • Proof of Overseas Health Insurance Form
  12. Attend mandatory pre-departure meeting.
  13. Prepare to live in a foreign country: make airline reservations, obtain necessary immunizations, and familiarize yourself with your host country’s language, customs, and more.
  14. Prepare for your return to San Francisco: plan USF courses for the following semester with your advisor, and make sure your housing for the following semester is planned accordingly.
  15. Spring study abroad students should complete their FAFSA before departure.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *