My Student Affairs Study Abroad Experience


One of the goals I had set for myself as I began my journey of higher education was to study abroad. I had (and still have) an eagerness to learn and experience new adventures and the idea of exposing myself to completely different cultures excited me. The tie between education and adventure sounded like the perfect combination and I was ready to make it happen! However, my eagerness to be involved on campus during my undergraduate years had prevented me from doing so… but it led me to Student Affairs, so I’m ok with it. Nevertheless, I was determined to figure out a way to gain this experience during my master’s program.

At the beginning of my first semester, I did a little research to find out what programs I could do, but was not having too much luck. However, I had the wonderful fortunate of having a second year member of our Student Affairs program who had just gotten back from a study abroad program. She had invited us all to come speak with her about her experience… and I did! We met for lunch one day and she told me about the INCREDIBLE time she had with the Student Affairs program with Semester at Sea through the University of Virginia. Her incredible opportunity was study abroad program on a ship that traveled to 8 different countries while exploring International Higher Education. I was floored by the idea. In fact I was almost sold! BUT, I didn’t want that to be the only program I looked into. So, she advised me to speak with our program advisor to find other options that would work with my degree plan. I met with Dr. Cooper and we discussed a number of options that all sounded wonderful (Spain, Argentina, Scotland, Ireland, etc.). I took some time to look into them and in the end, I could not get away from the idea of exploring the multiple cultures in such a unique program as Semester at Sea! I finally chose to apply and was overzealous to be accepted.

Then the hard part came… I had to find the money! This program in particular was pretty expensive, but I had never been in debt before and was not going to let money prevent me from this incredible experience. I had looked all over for funding, but found that graduate programs (as anywhere else) are very difficult to receive funding for. That definitely didn’t stop me from applying for every study abroad scholarship or grant I could find, but the ones I was most successful with were from organizations I was involved in and through my campus department. My biggest success was actually applying for and being offered an internship as a Student Affairs staff member on the ship with Semester at Sea! This paid for my room and board as well as a stipend and a small travel grant. I know everyone in the Student Affairs at Sea program applied for it and I was very humbled and excited to receive one of the four graduate positions. So, not only did I learn about International Higher Education for credit and travel, but I also gained an unimaginably unique experience as the Living Learning Coordinator of Student Leadership. I had an incredible time working with my students, learning as much as I could, and embracing the cultures of the world and I will never forget it!

If studying abroad is something that interests you, make it happen!! Set the goal and make achievable objectives… and think positively! There are a number of programs that you can work into a 2 year program. I would recommend speaking to the program advisor of the student affairs program you are interested in to see what they suggest, but mine was very flexible with making this goal of mine an accomplishment. There are programs in the summer, fall, winter, and spring so go out there and look! If you get a little stuck… tweet or comment me and I’ll send you my list of Student Affairs study abroad programs (it’s a good one… but I like meeting people so I’m going to challenge you to reach out to me)! Best of luck!!

Jenni with an “I”
@JenniwithaniK

- P.S. If you want to read my blog of my study abroad experience you can check it out at: http://jennikraft.blogspot.com/

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