After three years of attending Georgia State with a nagging desire to participate in a study abroad program, I finally decided to go for it.
The moment came when I received an email from the English department about a ten-month exchange program to Germany.
An English exchange to Germany seemed strange to me at first; English students usually go to England. Most study abroad programs match up the location and subject of study to increase the relevance of the experience for the students.
Business or finance students usually study abroad in Germany, looking to experience international business in one of the largest economies in the world.
Choosing the study abroad program that is right for you may take more time than it did for me, but the study abroad department at Georgia State provides services to make it easier.
You can search programs by area of study and country on the study abroad website, and the department hosts study abroad fairs to introduce students to the opportunities they offer.
You can also keep an eye out for emails from the department head of your area of study, which is how I found out about the Mainz program. Once you’ve narrowed down your options, get some more information on them and contact the professor sponsoring the program.
I contacted Dr. Reiner Smolinski to set up an informational meeting. Dr. Smolinski grew up in Germany and set up two exchange programs: one to the University of Mainz and one to Heidelberg University, the oldest university in Germany.
The Mainz program focuses on American studies. The classes are in English, focus on American literature and culture and are taught from a German perspective. I could learn German without having to let my grades suffer because I couldn’t understand class lectures.
I figured that such an interesting program would have a competitive application process, but I was wrong. I was one of the only applicants.
Many great study abroad programs have open slots that go unfilled because of lack of applicants, so don’t let the process intimidate you. You have a better chance of getting in than you may realize.
Many students think they don’t have the finances to fund a study abroad trip, but the HOPE scholarship covers tuition for study abroad programs. In my case, the only tuition I’m paying for is Georgia State’s.
Additionally, my program, like many others, comes with a fellowship that pays cash in exchange for light office work. The student dorms I’ll be staying in are cheaper than renting a house or apartment in Atlanta, and far cheaper than a Georgia State dorm.
The money is out there, and there may never be a cheaper way to see the world and experience other cultures. I strongly encourage any interested student to consider studying abroad.