First Generation College Students Off-Campus
First generation college students (along with students from diverse socio-economic backgrounds) may be in a unique position to succeed in study abroad given previous experience with forging new paths for themselves in college and navigating unfamiliar environments and systems. They may also have unique challenges and concerns depending on financial circumstances and their support systems at home and on-campus. You might be especially concerned about how much it will cost to study abroad. If your family has not traveled much out of the country—let alone studied abroad for an extended period of time—you may not have many people from home who understand why you would want to leave the country, be able to help guide you through this experience, or help you to make it more affordable. Luckily, you don’t have to go it alone! In preparing for study abroad, here are a few tips and resources to help you successfully navigate the process and costs involved so that you take full advantage of this opportunity to learn and grow:
Define and articulate your reasons and goals for study abroad: Especially if your family and friends are unfamiliar with travel and the study abroad experience, you may need to think about articulating how this experience will benefit you. Consider how your program will be of use to you academically, professionally, personally, or otherwise.
Get informed: Seek out the many campus resources that can help you plan for study abroad in light of existing program and funding opportunities. At a minimum, talk with the Off-Campus Programs office and your academic advisor(s) to be sure your chosen program fits well within your degree plan. You may also want to reach out to others such as faculty, Financial Aid office staff, students who have studied off-campus previously, or Career Services staff. The more perspectives you have about how you can be successful in study abroad, the more prepared you will be for the experience. You will be in a better position to use your experience abroad to help you reach your academic and professional goals when you return.
Learn about your destination: Your family may have questions about what life is like in the country where you will be living and studying, including whether it will be safe. Take some time to read and research your host city and country, especially if you do not know much about its history, geography, language, or culture. If you have other specific questions, contact the Off-Campus Programs office.
Find support: Once abroad, it is important to have support networks in place. Seek out friends from your program who can share this experience with you, and, if possible, make local friends who can help you navigate your temporary home. Your on-site program staff are also there to lend an ear or help you out when you need it.
Seek out opportunities for your budget and schedule: Think about finding friends who share your preferences for spending time and money—if you’re not going to go out every weekend or budget a lot of money for independent travel or entertainment, be realistic and up front about this. Then come up with ideas for things you do want to do on your own schedule and budget. Everyone loves the person who always finds the cool local hangouts or the best student deals for local cultural events!