With a growing desire to travel, early 350,000 students study abroad each year (source: NASFA) Continue reading to hear one student’s story about her travel abroad experience.
Today’s student story is brought to you by Hannah Solomon. She studied abroad for three months in three different countries and even participated in another school’s study abroad program.
Name: Hannah Solomon
School: Utah Valley University
Major/Degree: Associates in University Studies, pursuing Bachelors in Business
Status/Class: Class of 2022
Studying Abroad in Europe
My main advice is to just go for it! It can seem scary and intimidating, but studying abroad is so worth it! You also need to remember that it’s not a vacation. It’s a STUDY abroad. You can’t go expecting to just travel and party. You have to put in work, but it makes it a much more gratifying experience. It helps you grow and learn and push yourself to your limits.
Knowing If Study Abroad Is Right For You
My mom did a study abroad when she was in college, so growing up I always wanted to follow in her footsteps. She studied at Brigham Young University London Centre and when I was little, our family visited London. Since then, I always wanted to go there to study abroad, but I also wanted to see other countries that I had never been to. I kept researching different programs but wasn’t seeing any that fit what I was wanting. I also thought I wouldn’t be able to do a Brigham Young University (BYU) study abroad since I didn’t attend that school – I attended Utah Valley University. One day, while I was avoiding doing my homework, I decided to look into BYU’s programs one more time. I discovered that they had just announced a new study abroad program that split time between London, Paris, and Rome! Better yet, it was also open to applicants from other Utah schools – it was just meant to be.
I studied abroad in the spring semester of my Junior year for 3 months. It sounded like a short of a time before I left, but it ended up being just right. Near the end, I was really missing the comforts of home.
Paying For A Study Abroad Trip
The cost of my study abroad trip was just under $10k. I am extremely thankful to my parents. They really wanted me to have a study abroad experience, so they chose to pay for the trip for me. However, I was responsible for the cost of meals in Paris and Rome, and any other souvenirs and experiences I wanted. To help save for the trip, I bumped my part-time job up to full-time. This helped me to save up as much as possible. I will say, a semester of full-time school and full-time work was extremely difficult but was so worth it!
Preparing To Travel In A Foreign Country
Two of the countries I traveled to were non-English countries: France and Italy. I thought this would be a much bigger deal than it actually was. I tried to study some French and Italian beforehand to prepare, but I actually never needed it. Almost everyone we met and spoke to knew English. Especially in touristy cities like Paris and Rome, people would easily speak English. I didn’t realize how widely English is spoken across the globe!
One thing I was really nervous about was pick-pocketers. I had heard they were really bad in Paris and Rome, so I was worried about that. I decided to buy a Travelon Anti-Theft Backpack and it ended up being a lifesaver! A couple of girls did have their phones stolen off them. But I never had to worry about being pick-pocketed because my backpack had clips on the zippers and wires in the straps so people couldn’t cut it off or open it up. Needless to say, I am so glad I bought that bag.
Another thing I did, was talking to everyone I knew who had visited these places to ask for advice. I wanted to know everything I needed to know about the cultures, safety, recommendations, etc. I was very glad I did this because some of the advice I received was super helpful.
Struggles of Studying Abroad
The biggest struggles I had were with my mental health. I have a history of anxiety and depression, and being an ocean away from my family and friends didn’t help. Midway through my time in London, I felt myself begin to spiral down into a depressive episode. I was really open with my mom about what was happening, so she helped me a ton and I got through it.
Balancing work and travel was also somewhat difficult because BYU is a really intense school. The coursework was really heavy, more intense than I was expecting. We had classes in the mornings, and then in the afternoons, we were free to explore and do our work. They usually assigned us a specific museum or sight to see each day, so we would plan the other stuff we wanted to see or do around those. I stayed up late every night doing homework so that I didn’t miss out on any exploring time. I was extremely exhausted and sleep-deprived for the whole 3 months, but it was so worth it. I ended up getting some of the highest grades out of anyone in the program, which was awesome!
Being Away From Friends & Family
The hardest part of being away was missing my boyfriend! We were getting serious and had begun talking about getting married. Many people were shocked that I decided to leave him behind and do the study abroad, but I knew it would help me grow as a person and prepare me for adulthood and marriage! The time difference was 7 hours between him and I. We decided to FaceTime right before I went to bed, right when he was getting back from work. We also FaceTimed when I was getting up in the morning, right before he went to bed. Sticking to the schedule helped us a lot, but we still missed each other. FaceTime isn’t the same as being in person, but I’m so grateful for modern technology! As for my family, they are all night owls so I could pretty much call them at any given time and they would pick up. I always had someone there to talk to if I needed them.
Making Friends In Another Country
It was actually easier than I thought to make friends abroad because almost all of us were strangers far from home. The first night we were there, the professors made us stay up till midnight to try and get our bodies adjusted to the time change and fight jet lag. This was one of the most fun nights because we were all so loopy. We became friends pretty quickly. One girl from my study abroad has become my best friend – we still talk almost daily!
Hannah Solomon is a blogger at Hannaround the World where she shares Style, Travel, and Healthy Living content. You can also find her on Instagram @HannaroundTheWorld. We’d like to formally thank Hannah for sharing her Student Story here on Bloom + Amplify.