So I have said that I would write this for the longest time so now here it is. A step by step guide to get to study abroad in the UK.
Step one: Do you really want to study abroad?
First things first you need to think to yourself if you even want to study abroad. If you're you're reading this or took a minute to click on this page I think it is a safe bet that you're at least thinking about taking the trip of your life which is great. So I can think that at this point you're interested in studying abroad so I'm going to dive into how to get to study abroad.
So for me after I decided to study abroad, I wanted to know my options of where I could go. At Plymouth State there are two places that you can go to ask about studying abroad. First is the Globe Education Office in the basement of Mary Lyon, and the second place is Bagley House. I went the the Global Ed office because I had done some research on exchanges, and that is the place to go for exchanges.
Once I was there in the Fall of 2014, I spoke with Thomas Janis who is Plymouth State's International Program Director. So when I went to the Global Ed Office I wanted more info about my options, so I guess this is where step two comes in.
Step two: Decide where you want to Study, and for how long
This is also another huge step in the process of studying abroad. Deciding where you want to study and spend either your semester or year is a huge step. Do you want to stay in a country that speaks your own language? Do you speak a second language and wanna stay in a country that speaks that language? Is there a part of the world you've always wanted to see, or a city you've always wanted to live in? The list of questions that you need to answer, and that's you not anyone else but you need to answer those. Those are some of the questions I found myself trying to answer, but don't forget about your safety. Although you see a certain part of the world, is it safe right now? Just keep that in mind because all of your classmates, professors, but most of all your family wanna hear about your crazy story about that night out on the town in Munich.
For me it was simple. I wanted to go somewhere where there wasn't a language barrier (mainly because I didn't want to worry about another language when leaving the states for the first time), I wanted to see where a lot of my ancestry is from, and lastly I wanted to see proper football (soccer for the Americans reading this) and I knew England was the place to do that. The biggest thing for me was this would be the first time that I would leave the United States, so that alone was a pretty big deal. But it was easy to get over that once I landed in London and it will be the same for you if it's the first time leaving for you.
Now you need to figure out how long you want to study abroad for. You have two options really just a semester, or for the year. I will be an advocate for going for the year since that's what I did. So because of that here are a few reasons you should consider going for a year. First is that you're not missing anything. People who only go for a semester miss the other semester at the University they chose to study at. So if you go in the fall you miss all the cool things in the spring, and vice versa. Second you can make an impact through the clubs you join. I join Enactus here at Plymouth Uni and my project is starting to work refugees that came into the city. I can leave here after a full year of work and feel that I impacted the community that I was apart of. And finally you get a full year in the place that you chose to study at. It gives you time to travel outside the country you're studying in, and it gives you a chance to see the world.
I do understand that being gone for a year you might miss your family and friends back home, because there are days that I do. You will miss holidays, parties, and family get togethers which will make you feel a bit melancholy. However this will give you a chance to start new traditions for yourself, and sharing your culture with those you study with. A great example of that is my Thanksgiving here in the UK so I'll leave the link here. But remember that's your choice and whatever you chose I'm sure it's the right one for you.
Step three: Paperwork
Ok, so I'm not going to lie to you at all this part sucks, and there is no way around this. Well there is by having a company do all the paperwork for you, but wouldn't that take away from the fun of it all? So more than likely you will have an application from your university or college to see if you can get excepted into the study away program at your school. Don't worry about this part because if you have moderately good grades you will more than likely get accepted into the program. After that it's filling-out another application to send to the school you want to study at to see if you meet the exchange requirements. O and if you don't have a passport, you should really apply for one.
This part might be a little bit more stressful like it was for me because it takes awhile to hear back from the school you hope to be attending. It feels like the wait for the first acceptance letter from a University your senior year in high school. But after waiting for what seems like forever you'll feel great once you get the green light from the University you'll be studying at.
Now you've reached a key point in your paperwork struggle. Because of the choice of how long you want to study abroad for will determine how much paperwork you will need to fill out. There will be the standard paperwork for your University that you'll need to fill out. For example this is some of the stuff that I needed to fill out when I decided to study abroad: Medical Eval, Basic Data and Emergency info, Self Health Report and a few other pieces of paperwork. But those were for my University in the states, and you will need to fill out similar paperwork when you go to the University you will be studying at. But there was still more.
Because I chose to study for more than 6 months at Plymouth University, the UK requires me to apply for a Tier Four visa. This was a bit of a pain. The paperwork was long and at points I needed to ask for help here and there, but I managed to figure it out. But that was after getting my CAS back from Plymouth Uni, so I started that 3 months before I left. After your application for that is sent off you need to arrange a few meetings for an ID for when you come to the UK, so fingerprints and all that jazz, but you then need to send your Passport with all the paperwork you need to have with it (including two passport photos), down to the UK consulate in New York City. So there is a visa in your passport to enter the UK.
I had a bit of an issue trying to get it back, because I in my infinite wisdom forgot to send a return shipping label back. So yeah a couple of phone calls to my representative, and emails to his staff I got my passport overnighted to me with 4 days before my flight. So pro tip send a return shipping label.
I think I made that whole process seem a bit simple. Though it is, it will take time and it will seem like forever to hear back. Believe me in time it will get back to you, and it's one less thing to stress about. But just remember a return shipping label, and to pick up your ID right when you get to the UK.
Step four: Getting Ready
This part is key. You will need to pack everything you need about a week before your flight. O and make sure you book a flight! I'll list some booking sites down below. Don't do what I did and pack everything the night before. Make sure you have all your paperwork (including your CAS) and your passport ready in your carry-on so you can just hand it to the customs agent and start your journey.
Talk to your family about how you're going to talk to them and when. If they're anywhere close to my family they will want to hear from you often, but make sure it's not too often so you can enjoy your experience. Also if you have a significant other back home here's a bit of advice. If you two want to make it work you will, I will warn you it will difficult and some days will be hard, but it will be worth it when you see them when your home or when they come to visit. Trust me on this one.
Step five: GO!
This whole thing is about you going on an adventure seeing things, and experiencing things you might never see or experience again in your life. Go after it, and enjoy every minute of it. I'm not going to lie to you there will be days that you miss home, but those days are far out weighted by the amount of experiences you're about to have. Someone told me right before I left that 'I more than deserved this adventure', and they are right I did and so don't you. After all the work you've put in go for it, and enjoy the adventure that you worked so hard for.
So now that you've read this and got an idea of what it's like to get to where I am right now start the process. We'll I'm here I have friends studying in Australia, Wales, Spain, and France. All of us did the same thing, and now it's your turn. Go start your adventure!
Flight Booking Sites: