Anna here! I still can't believe I’m saying this, but I will be spending the next four months studying at an international business school on the French Riviera! As a result, the theme of my blog posts this semester will be my experiences abroad. My hope is for you to live vicariously through me, until you are able to embark on an international adventure of your own.
I am currently typing this post from my cozy seat on a Boeing 777-200 (those huge double-aisle planes). By some amazing stroke of luck, the two seats next to me are empty, so I am perched against the window with my legs comfortably laid across my row. If only my dad could experience this... (he is 6’3’’ and always seems to end up with the middle seat). My nerves are low and I am at peace. But let me tell you, getting to this point was a monster of a rollercoaster.
Why? Procrastination, mostly. The remainder of this post explains why my procrastination was not helpful at all, and my intent is to prevent you from making my same mistakes.
First, I was definitely on the fence about going abroad. Everyone I talked to was telling me to go, but I held back because I feared being in an entirely new place, with nobody I knew, so far from home. I was also in the midst of the hardest semester (academically and personally) I had faced, so the idea of planning a semester abroad seemed overwhelming.
Then I found the SKEMA Business School program through CEA. This program is located in Antibes, France, where it averages 60 degrees and is sunny during bleak New England winters I'd otherwise experience. Being a true summer person, this definitely caught my eye. Plus, I am a BDIC major who needs business management courses, so what better place to get those requirements out of the way than while by the beach? Also, it turned out my best friend also planned to participate in the SKEMA program, so we would go together!
As you can tell, there were a lot of pros and cons that were keeping me on the fence. Here is a rough timeline of my abroad preparation. As a reference: people in the first category had all of their decision making and appointments made before school began in the fall:
August-October: People ask if I’m going abroad. Sometimes the answer is, “Yes of course!” Sometimes the answer is, “Probably not.. idk.”
Early November: Realize I really should go abroad, and so I make appointment at International Programs Office (IPO) and pick a program with the advisor for the French region. I make an account with IPO that has a digital checklist. I also fill out the online application with CEA (one day before the deadline for a $750 dollar flight voucher), and I receive another digital checklist from them.
Mid November: I lazily complete items on various checklists. I have started getting emails from my CEA advisor instructing me on how to apply for SKEMA Business School, a formality that will complete the academic aspect of going abroad. CEA emails also instruct me on how to apply for a visa.
Late November: Panic kicks in when I realize how long it takes to get a visa appointment, and how many checklist items are still not done. However, I make the visa appointment and finish most items on my checklist.
Early December: Visa appointment #1 in Boston. I forget my confirmation email and am told to come back when I have it. I realize said confirmation email requires completion of an online application that I neglected. Oh, and an additional fee is needed to expedite that application. I leave UMass after finals are over, only to realize the university has not registered me as an international student, because I have not finished the checklist items. Therefore, I am charged a full semester of tuition. *Insert gif from The Office of Kevin spilling the Chili.* That’s how my life felt in this moment.
Mid December: I stop by UMass first to finish up IPO items then attend my second visa appointment (with confirmation email). Everything goes smoothly! All that's left to do is wait with fingers crossed.
Late December: As departure nears, I am super excited, despite a slight fear that my visa will not arrive in time, but I receive it four days before I leave. Everything worked out (at the expense of my checkbook and sanity).
The moral of this lengthy post is that in order to decide whether to go abroad, decide if you’re remotely interested. If the answer is yes, then absolutely pursue it. Do not wait for a sign from the universe—because it will never come. Sitting on this plane, I already know that I am about to have the most amazing journey of my young life. This feeling alone is enough to make the past few months of stress completely worth it.