MSU students share advice on applying to study abroad programs
MSU Hospitality Business senior Lamont Davis knows nothing about rainforest bugs and tree species, but that didn't stop him from studying abroad in Costa Rica.
When Davis went into his interview for his winter break program, the faculty member he met with told him she had received over 300 applications and there were only 15-19 spots available in the program.
Davis’ interviewer began to ask him questions about the rainforest, but he didn’t panic. He was honest.
“I’m going on this trip because I’m looking for something to get me out of my comfort zone, with exposing me to a different environment.” Davis said.
After his trip to Costa Rica last year, Davis became a peer advisor for the Office of Study Abroad at MSU. Emily Skupin, a linguistics junior, also became a peer advisor after two study abroad trips. Davis and Skupin notice many students seek advice increasingly around deadlines for application.
Near the beginning of the second semester, many study abroad programs hold more informational sessions because deadlines for applications are coming up. Peer advisors such as Davis and Skupin provide students assistance during deadline season for upcoming summer programs.
“I think that deadlines are definitely when students come in the most, because, they’re freaking out, they’re last-minute, they’re getting everything done, obviously,” Skupin added.
Questions vary from student to student, but Davis and Skupin always advise students to come receive peer counseling services as soon as they possibly can.
“If there was one thing I hope students would do is to come in earlier. Like, even if you have no idea what you’re doing, especially if you have no idea what you’re doing,” Skupin said.
Additionally, as many students near departure dates for winter break trips, they often come to peer advisors with questions about visas, Skupin and Davis said.
“You have to get on them early. Sometimes you have to go to a consulate and actually have an appointment and turn things in in-person,” said Skupin. “I know the Italian consulate is open six hours a week, probably less than that.”
Some students are particularly concerned when they see the cost of their desired programs, Davis said.
“A lot of students, I feel as if, they look at the costs and they say ‘woah’, and we just step back, and I’m like, no, you don’t have to worry about the costs, let me worry about the costs. That’s my job, that’s why I’m here Monday through Friday with my seven or eight other peer advisors,” Davis said.
Skupin and Davis often encounter students who aren’t sure of which programs they should apply to.
“I always write down three things for them," Davis said. "First, what credits do you want out of it? Are you looking for something within your major or something within university credits, or elective-wise?Second, what is your time length you’re looking at? What is your comfortability with being away from home? So, if you’ve had difficulty at MSU being away from home for the first time, for the first three months, maybe we need to look at a month long, faculty-led program, or a spring break or winter break trip that’s for nine to ten days. And third and finally, what experience are you looking for?”
It’s best when a student comes in with an open mind, Skupin said. If a student isn’t determined to go to a specific country, peer advisors are more likely to find them an experience to fit all of their wants and needs.
“It’s not like you need to go to Italy to have fun,” Skupin said. “Having that open mindset is really helpful for us, and I think, the student.”
Whoever the student is, whether they’re worried about price or visas, peer advisors at the Education Abroad office know how to guide students in the right direction. Skupin and Davis both believe study abroad programs can help students find who they are, mostly because they’ve experienced it first-hand.