Choosing My Abroad Program

The path to our destination is not always a straight one. We go down the wrong road, we get lost, we turn back. Maybe it doesn’t matter which road we embark on. Maybe what matters is that we embark.

Barbara Hall

You know you are a brave person when you are faced with a decision to leave home or go away from your family, whether it’s going off to a camp of some sort for a week or to another country for half a year or to college for four years. I commend those, including myself, who decide to step out and try something new. Explore the world around you! And there I was, faced with a decision to do so when I first spotted a booth in the corner of my high school cafeteria:

Choosing My Program

It’s a simple story really. One day at lunch my freshman year of high school, I spotted a booth behind my lunch table. I asked my neighbor what it was because I was attracted to the pretty, pretty colors of the plethora of flags dangling about, and she told me it was information on studying abroad. Curious, I stumbled over to the booth, not knowing why I would even do so. I had never even paid any attention to studying abroad, but there I was. The lady behind the table was kind when she explained to me what studying abroad was, and she introduced me to the program she was affiliated with: Youth for Understanding (YFU). She handed me a booklet, and I walked away, still not thinking much of it. About a week later, I began to read through the booklet. There were wonderful stories of foreign exchange students’ experiences. So, a few nights later, a casually walked up to my parents and said, “Hey, so what do you think about me studying abroad? You know, for the summer or something.” After a short silence, my parents just shrugged and said, “I don’t see why not.” Thus, my journey began.

About a month later, I told one of my closest friends that I was thinking about studying abroad. Excitedly, she told me she was considering it too! I told her that I was going through YFU, trying for a summer program. She told me she was going through a different program called American Field Service (AFS). Both my friend and I had great interest in Japan, but sadly, my friend was unable to go because she was out of the age range. Later, I began to look up and compare both programs. Both programs for a summer abroad where very similar and did not require any knowledge of the language for the destination a wanted; however, I ended up switching to AFS because of the longer stay of my time abroad. And before I knew it, I had signed up for the summer abroad program.

During my application process, an in-house interview (which I’ll talk about in a later post) was required. In this interview, the woman interviewing asked me why I wished to study abroad, and I told her, “To learn the language.” After hearing that, she recommended that I stay longer in Japan and try the semester abroad instead of summer abroad because I would definitely learn the language better. Plus, I would be studying abroad my senior year (I was a sophomore when this interview happened); my parents and I wouldn’t have to rush to raise money for my trip. So, I made a program switch and had my application transferred to a fall semester abroad. In my second in-house interview with the same woman, (I had to have another one because of the program switch), she asked if I wanted to stay even longer – for the year – because she didn’t want me to have one more month during my semester stay and then suddenly feel that I should have stayed longer. My mom understood this and prompted me to do so because it was only for a thousand extra dollars (which is not a lot if you consider that being added to an already large bill of $13,500), but I didn’t want to because I wanted to come back and complete my senior year of track. Plus, I probably wouldn’t have met the criteria to graduate when I returned. 😛

Choosing My Study Abroad Destination

I feel most was said for this. I had Japan in mind the first time I even heard of the words “study abroad.” You can read more about my reasons in my previous blog “Why I Am Studying Abroad.” All you really need to add to that title is “in Japan”. But for more general reasons of why I want to study abroad in Japan is because of the advantages. Sure, I want to go to learn the language, but I also chose Japan because it is so heavily populated and busy, and that will be great practice for me because I want to go to college in New York. Also, in Japan, I’d have to commute on my own. This would teach me so much independence. But not only that; it would also teach – more like force – me to get out of my comfort zone. If I get lost, I’ll have to ask someone for directions with the little Japanese I know, at least for a time. Also, when I return from my amazing trip, I’ll have to take a College Level Examination Program (CLEP) or Japanese Placement/Proficiency Test (JPLT) test. If I pass these test, I could possibly earn 8 to 12 college credits. And in all honesty, “studying abroad” would also look great on my resume. 😀

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