Monday, December 14, 2015

One of the keys of success is persistence. Persistence is definitely one of the things that has gotten me here today.

Studying abroad is something that I have longed to do since hearing about it. Then again, I have always enjoyed traveling. Just thinking about the sheer number of places I have been would make me something of a more than casual traveler. The preparation it took to get here in Australia started with a desire. Even so, Australia was not my first choice. At the time when I first started looking into the study abroad program, I began researching the various programs that offered packages and such, and along with those packages I researched various countries of interest. At the time, I was interested in studying abroad in France, Spain, Germany, Japan, or China perhaps. As time went on, my options narrowed. When I say narrow, I’m referring to my options as a student with Veteran’s Affairs benefits utilizing the GI Bill that is granted to those who have served a full or partial active duty term within the military. For me, it was the navy, and I desired to use those benefits in the best way I could. I thought why not study abroad? What better way to utilize the benefits granted to me than to study else where? The only thing was I could not use the various programs with my benefits. I had to basically go to the host country university as if I was applying directly. The main difference is I would work with my home university under their program to study abroad. That was and is the only way I can use my VA benefits to do so. There are pros and cons to using the various packaged programs or not, but in the long run it is a matter of what one does and what one would like to do while studying abroad in my opinion.

Once the parameters were set, I began to research what countries under my home university I could actually venture to. There was a list and I researched and formed my own list, and basically created a matrix of both countries and universities, their semester schedules and various little notes about either the country or university that was important to me. As I stated before, I desired to go to Germany or somewhere in Europe such as Denmark. After the minor research, I found out Germany was out of the question. For some reason their semesters start off at a significantly odd time during our academic year. This left me with Denmark, England perhaps, Australia and a few others. I also found out one needs up to at least a few semesters of respective languages to study in say Taiwan, China, or Japan. So, those were out of the question.
With all these things in mind, I actually started off fairly early in my journey to study abroad. I was told most wait until the last minute and use up all their electives. So, I held on to some of mine, which came in handy being that I had to change up my classes several times for approval.

Anyway, it wasn’t until two semesters before when I really had to start making this happen. Originally, I had wanted to do it 3 semesters out, and you can do it when you are ready. However, my plans changed, life happened and financially, I just wasn’t ready. So, I waited until I could live two to three months without any employment, which I will need to maintain until my VA benefits kick in later in October (more details on that later). I started setting many of the significant things in motion one year before I needed to travel. That was the most important part. Everything else came in steps, which greatly helped. Those steps, which are apart of my home university’s programs did not begin until my Spring semester (less than half a year prior to flying out). Once I narrowed down to the country, I had to narrow down to which university. For Australia, there were a total of 3. I originally chose Bond, a private university. It was full. That left me with Griffith University. I only knew once acquaintance that went there for her study abroad option. I suppose that also influenced my decision to pick Australia. Next, was picking the classes and getting approval for a letter to eventually get the student visa. That part as well as getting the visa turned out a lot easier than I thought. Not only that, but I had the visa within a week of requesting it. Depending on where you’re from and what channels you take, it may take longer.
After getting my visa, I was set to book the flight. I had already been looking online nearly two months before classes started. I desired to be there at least a week prior. However, looking back on it now, I should have allowed myself two weeks prior to classes. Not only did I have to book a flight, I also had to find accommodation (or a place to stay) during my time there. With the abroad university, there were three options; stay on campus, stay off campus, or participate in a homestay program. I opted to just stay off campus and eventually found a nice place with two other students as well as two others that are working. Normally, I would not pick a place prior to visiting or seeing it, but I didn’t have much time. So, I “bit the bullet” and don’t regret it in the least. My roommates including the “main mate” are all very nice and hospitable people with various background and ethnicities.

I suppose the most difficult or most time-consuming part was renewing my passport. That is something I did during winter break prior to the spring semester. That can take weeks. So, I am glad I got that out the way by the time I needed my passport for everything else. Second, was my classes. To get credit, one needs class approval from both the home university and host university. This is something I took very serious. Literally, the day before flying out, I had to make one final change with both the VA and home university in regards to classes.

Even so, it wasn’t all challenging and it wasn’t all easy. Either way, it was worth all the hard work to get here. That also gives one more incentive to maintain their GPA. I would definitely do some things differently but only the small things for improved efficiency in the process. Everyone including the staff at my home university and host university here in Australia were all extremely helpful in the process.

23 July 2015

Stay tuned for more to come.

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