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Study Abroad, Take II: Part 2

March 19, 2017

If you look back just to the previous post, you can find “Study Abroad, Take II: Part 1 detailing how I arrived at my decision to apply to spend the next academic year at Sciences Po University in Paris (if you look back to August, you can find “Study Abroad, Take 1” which shares my experience on the the summer study abroad program in LaRochelle this past July). However, if you have a good sense of the program you might like to go on and less interest in how to choose where to go, this is the article for you. Just to summarize Part I, I realized that I wanted to directly enroll a prestigious school in a large city in a francophone country from which I could transfer political science credits and, as they say, voilà!

Anyways, once I selected my first choice program, I was able to more or less start the application process, which opens up in early- to mid-December. The application essentially consists of three parts. First, there are a few basic forms about general information and some that try to get a feel for your preparations or past experience abroad (although it is totally not necessary to have any!) as well as that encourage you to look into potential courses you might take during your exchange. Second, you have to request letters of recommendation from two different faculty members. Finally, you must write an essay of interest that explicates why you want to attend said program, how it helps you with short and long term goals, and how you will prepare to adapt to a new culture and environment, and invites you to study a certain current event in the country where the school is located. For many of the programs, you do actually have to meet with a study abroad advisor in the Office of International Education (OIE) to clear you to submit your application, even if you know exactly where you want to go.

After that, you wait. You wait and wait and wait. But in the grand scheme of things, you really don’t wait that long. As students applying to colleges you’re accustomed to four months of tedious agony awaiting acceptance letters, however we really only waited about four weeks from mid-January to mid-February when the decisions were released. It’s important to note here that, even though I was accepted to my first choice program, there are people who get into their backup university or who are invited to attend another program that didn’t fill up as fast this year--I’ve talked to a few people who experienced this but nevertheless had an absolutely stellar time where they ended up. After you figure out where you’re headed, you see the true magic that happens when your university has a top 15 ranked study abroad office.

Within a few days of hearing back, the study abroad portal through which you submitted your application is suddenly full of new information and checklists and info sheets detailing how to go about getting your visa, or passport if you need it (they offer reimbursements for both). They tell you what to look out for and how to move forward with your host institution. In my case and many others that involve direct enroll, I had to submit another application with a cover letter and resume. You take a short test on the handbook that goes over all of the rules and regulations. They upload articles you might find interesting and relevant--I even got a list of places to check out and things to do and cafes to eat in from a French professor who has spent a few years living in Paris. I’ve attended a highly comprehensive general information session and in the future will be going to one specific to France. I’ve received precise, personal e-mails in response to all of my questions and gotten heads ups about starting the visa process, etc. In short, I could not be more impressed with how fantastically the OIE operates. I feel so supported and well guided through this process, and am heartened to know that if I have any issues when I’m an ocean away, I’ll have committed, responsive people to rely on back home.

Greetings future Spiders! My name is Ellie, I'm 20 years old and born and bred in Richmond, Virginia. I'm a serious student and die-hard member of the Richmond Red Hots, the womens club ultimate frisbee team here. In my precious free time I enjoy jogging, reading anything, and afternoon naps. Other hobbies are traveling, hiking, and pretending to be a foodie. Some of my preferences include black coffee, Saturday morning farmers markets, and music in foreign languages that I do not know. My academic interests are broad and constantly changing, however, as of now, my majors are Political Science and French. My two most ambiguous and most descriptive qualities are wanderlust and indecision.

Over the course of the year, some of my goals as a Spider Diarist include exposing little-known or underappreciated things on campus and around Richmond, giving a thorough review/copious list of suggestions for food and coffee in campus and around Richmond, and portraying a genuine first year experience here at UR in terms of campus culture, everyday life, and landmark events. Tag along as I rediscover Richmond from the point of view as a college student in my hometown. I'm so proud of the RVA and always excited to show off the wealth of things it has to offer to out-of-town friends as well as this blog's prospective student readership!

Why UR?

I am utterly, absolutely, and almost vehemently undecided about what exactly (or for that matter, vaguely) I want to do with my life. But hey, that's why I chose a liberal arts college. Even within that vein, though, there are a lot of liberal arts colleges out there, so back to "Why UR?" The University of Richmond is small enough to allow for intimate class sizes, in-depth peer-to-peer interactions, and strong relationships with professors.  At the same time, it is large enough to attract a student body with diverse ideas and backgrounds who all contribute different perspectives and ideas within the classroom environment and campus community. Richmond provides an indisputably spectacular academic experience, but the opportunities that the University offers to all of it's students are what really sold me. From volunteer positions and internships to research jobs and study abroad trips, the level of quality and personal attention that Richmond provides is unmatched. My crazy love with Richmond, the city, aside, UR is unique in (atleast) one more way: out of all of the colleges that I toured, I never went to one place more cheerful, comfortable, or welcoming. Come see for yourself! (WARNING: This blurb is abbreviated, see first post for details.)