20 January 2015

an extended break, and how to go abroad

Hello, readers!

I hope you have all had a wonderful winter so far! Those of you in high school are likely back in classes (and maybe have been for a while) by now. Keep working hard- the rest of the school year will go by more quickly than you'd think!

Classes started up again today at LC, but I'm actually still at home in Minnesota. Because I'm going abroad, I'm not going back to Portland at all this semester. And because my program is through a university in the southern hemisphere, it doesn't start until February, when their fall semester starts. So, here I am at home with my family for another month.

My break has been alright- it hasn't felt like I've been home for a month. I remember my first two years at LC thinking that my month long break was almost unbearably long, and here I am talking about how short it's felt. I think it's a combination of going into it with the mindset that I'd be home for two months, and the fact that I'm getting older and that time seems to go by more quickly (cue my parents' generation telling me how young I am- I know, I know...). It's great because most of my mom's side of the family lives in the Twin Cities, so I've gotten to see them fairly often while I've been home. I've hung out with my friends, sister, and dad a lot, which has been nice. I've spent a lot of time home alone with my pets, which sounds kind of sad, but which I enjoy. I've read two whole books for fun, which I think is more than I've done since I started college (to those of you wondering, they were Wild by Cheryl Strayed and Yes Please by Amy Poehler. I'm now working on The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver).

Tess (one of my housemates in Portland) and I visited a frozen Minnehaha Falls in Minneapolis!
But, enough with boring you with the details of my break. Even though I'm not at LC right now, I've been thinking about it a lot. I've also been thinking about going abroad a lot! In case you're curious about how one goes about going abroad, let me explain the process I went through.

1) As a prospective student, I researched schools that had notable overseas programs. I knew I wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to go abroad, so I made it a priority to make sure that the schools I applied to had good programs and supported students who wished to go abroad

2) The summer before my freshman year, I emailed the then-head of the ENVS department with a rough 4-year plan including details on which semester I wanted to go abroad. This was excessive, and you shouldn't feel like you have to do this at all. That said, the then-department head was very friendly and helpful and helped me figure out how I could fit a semester overseas into my plan. You really don't need to do this, but if you do want to email any professor with questions about their program, my experience has shown that they are always happy to answer them and talk with you!

3) I researched specific programs at LC. I knew I wanted to be a Hispanic Studies major, so I looked at programs that fulfilled the major's requirement to go overseas. This narrowed it down to two programs in the Dominican Republic, one in Spain, and two in Chile.

4) I decided on Chile because I went there for a week in high school, and loved it. I also knew I didn't want to go to Europe, because I figured I can fairly easily figure out how to travel there when I'm older, and I decided against the DR because I don't like hot weather (and it is very hot there). That left Chile. I eventually decided on Valparaiso because I liked the idea of a smaller city (as opposed to Santiago) and I wanted to live by the ocean.

5) Once I decided on a program, I had to apply. I did this during the spring semester of my sophomore year (students going abroad in the fall semester apply to do so the fall before). The application consisted of some essay questions and recommendations.

6) I heard back later that spring!

7) This last fall, I had a couple of meetings regarding my trip. Some were with everyone who was going abroad this spring, regardless of their program. They covered general health and safety procedures, as well as details about registering for classes and how credits transfer while we're abroad. I also had some meetings with just my group (combined with those going to the Dominican Republic), to tell us details about our programs. One of them included alumni of the programs coming to talk about their experiences.

8) I also had to apply directly to the organization running the program, CIEE. Most programs don't include this step, but my program is kind of weird for LC in that it is actually run through an outside organization. This means there will be other, non-LC students in my program. I haven't met any of them yet. This application was due last October, and was a bit less selective than the LC application (meaning that if you get into the program through LC, you can generally get into the CIEE program directly).

9) During all of this, I was applying for my student visa. The visa application process is different for everyone. I have a friend who went to Senegal for this semester, and her visa was waiting for her when she got there. She had to fill out something like one form. The process for the Chilean student visa, on the other hand, took months of me sending my fingerprints to the FBI for a background check and going to a doctor for a health checkup and waiting for forms from the Chilean university. Once I got everything together, I sent it all to the consulate in Chicago, along with instructions for them to send it to an honorary consul in Minneapolis for pickup. I just received word today that they sent it, which is great (and a load off of my chest)!

10) And now, I wait. I still have a little bit less than a month before I leave. My plane tickets are all figured out, thanks to an earlier step I forgot to mention (the school continuously asks for some forms from you throughout the semester before you leave. They help you get plane tickets, make sure your mail goes to the right place, and get you registered for classes). I don't know anything about my host family or what classes I am taking until I'm there. I'm eager for it to start!

If you have any questions about going abroad, or anything related to Lewis & Clark, let me know! My email is rekidder@lclark.edu.