Studying abroad: Don’t hesitate, just do it

Holly McCoach/ Staff Writer

The thought of leaving Miami–the land of sunshine and beaches and tourist attractions–can sometimes be a difficult decision for students who are thinking about studying abroad.

But according to experienced students, if you want to do it, just do it.

Students can sometimes be hesitant about journeying on such a whimsical adventure, but with positive feedback, learning experiences and scholarships, there is possibly little to no excuses why an interested student should take the leap of faith and study abroad.

The Office of Study Abroad held one of their two annual fairs on Wednesday, Jan. 30. The fair allowed students to gain more information about the program.

“[The fair] gives students the opportunity to talk to FIU professors,” said Laura Marks, the Program Coordinator.

As for the studying abroad experience itself, Marks has nothing to give but positive and uplifting feedback, including the fact that getting a student to return home is like dragging a cat into a bath.

“Usually, the hardest part is coming back,” said Marks, “We’ve had a lot of extension requests.”

Marks points out that studying abroad is different to traveling. Living a lifestyle is different than viewing it from behind a glass door; it is a new experience, and new things are happening every day.

“There are a number of benefits. It makes students more independent, culturally adaptable, and it looks good on a resume,” said Marks.

Students who are sometimes confined to Miami also get a view of another world. Realizing that there are job opportunities outside of South Florida can be something difficult to grasp for some.

Akeem Graham, a junior health service administration major, planned on studying in Australia when he changed his mind at the last minute to Iceland. This was something he almost regretted when he hopped off the plane and realized how extremely different the climate is to that of South Florida. Planning to leave that weekend of the day he arrived, Graham decided to stay, a decision he felt that was one of his best.

“I love the culture, I love the people. You meet a lot of new people,” said Graham.

Graham enjoyed Iceland so much, it seems a year there was not enough.

“I came back in May, and I was looking for a job actually. I was looking for a part-time job [in Iceland].”

Graham’s experience and personal views allowed him to realize the wonderful experience of studying abroad.

“Once you graduate, and go to graduate school, you won’t have time to do it. If you want to do it, just do it,” said Graham.

Saranhais Zerpa, a senior double majoring in Asian studies and art, had been dreaming of traveling to Japan for the longest time. Like many study abroad students may have felt, she too had cold feet after landing in Japan.

“I wanted to go but when I got off the plane, I was like, ‘what am I doing?’” said Zerpa.

Zerpa, like Graham, decided to stay, and also had the experience of a lifetime.

“I experienced a new closeness with people who were studying abroad and the Japanese students who were interested in American culture,” said Zerpa.

At the University, there are three different types of study abroad programs offered. There is the FIU Study Abroad program, which allows students to travel with peers and FIU faculty, as well as take University classes, the International Student Exchange Program, and the FIU approved program, where students can choose to do a study abroad program through another university or institution.

As for financial aid, the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship offers aid for undergraduate study abroad.

There are also opportunities for financial aid for graduate students. The Fulbright Program offers support for graduate and professional study, English teaching in various schools and universities, and advanced research.

Students interested in attending a session on study abroad can attend the Feb. 19 session at the Modesto Maidique Campus, or the March 19 session at the Biscayne Bay campus.

Hesitance should not be an issue or concern when making a decision. Interested students should take a chance, and just do it.