How to Cope With Where You Are Not

“The grass is always greener on the other side” is a proverb I have always firmly disagreed with. It gives the misguided impression that fulfillment in life is inherently tied to your physical location. If you are not fulfilled, it’s because of where you are (or where you’re not). It suggests that you could be living somewhere else that’s better than where you’re currently living. It leaves you with a feeling of helplessness and scrambling to figure out coping mechanisms.

In the several stages of my life during which I was living somewhere that I didn’t want to be, when I knew the place I would have rather been in, this proverb haunted me and fueled my various episodes of depression. In this article, I will share some of the lessons I learned, mistakes I made, and adjustments I implemented which all aided in coping with the challenges of being where I was whilst knowing I’d rather be elsewhere.

Some Context

I am from Los Angeles, CA, and I first moved away from home at age 18 to study at Berklee College of Music in Boston, MA. At the end of my first year there, I studied for a semester abroad at the Berklee Valencia campus in Spain. By the end of my second week there, I had discovered that Spain was where I belonged. It is simply the perfect place for me to be. 

The knowledge of these truths was also the cause of several depressive episodes in my life, ​​despite all the clarity and gratitude which it gave me. Whether it was because of visa issues or other logistics, the simple fact of not being in Spain was a tough pill for me to swallow. It was like I was a small child who had been given the sweetest candy they had ever tried every day for four months and then told they could not have it anymore.

Expat at Heart

Besides my love for Spain, I have never felt a connection to LA or the US. I’m only the third generation in my family to have been born in the US. I have always carried a strong sense of criticism towards my environment from as young as I can remember. Whether it be towards the underfunded public school system in LA, the frustration of spending what felt like half my childhood sitting in traffic, or the laundry list of large-scale societal issues such as gun violence and income inequality plaguing the country as a whole.

My dad and older brother are both political science majors. There was always an emphasis on what was happening in the world in family conversations as I grew up. These conversations combined with my empathetic nature led me to feel very dissatisfied with “my” country. In the aftermath of my mom’s traumatic brain injury and severe depression when I was 16, you could say that dissatisfaction hit its maximum.

The First Arrival

I had already suffered from depression earlier in my life (before attending Berklee). The first “grass is always greener on the other side” depression hit me the moment I walked onto the street from Arrivals at the Los Angeles International Airport. This was my first return from Spain in 2017. 

The sound of constant cars honking, the smell of trash and smog, and the greyness of the concrete jungle which is LAX, all made me want to turn around and get on the first plane back to Spain. It wasn’t only the literal sensory overload/reverse culture shock that affected me. The weight of personal, emotional baggage which being in LA and the US brought to the surface hit me like a tidal wave. My parents brought me to their house and I sat on their couch crying hysterically for more than two hours until I fell asleep from exhaustion and jet lag.

The First Lessons of Coping

The intensity of the depression was unlike anything I had ever felt. It became my mission to return to Spain by any means possible. Studying abroad a second time at Berklee Valencia was a possibility. However, it meant I had to work twice as hard to complete all the courses for my major. Unfortunately, the school only offered them in Boston in a year less than it typically required. This was the first lesson. If you want something, especially something which is difficult to obtain, it requires some serious hard work and dedication. However, the learning of this lesson was only the first of several hurdles to be cleared. 

My unwavering focus on getting back to Spain, combined with my work ethic, was by no means a cure to my depression nor even a passing coping mechanism. If anything, it only fueled the fire. The “grass is always greener on the other side” has the often overlooked, terrible side effect of “the grass is always worse where you are.” This meant I had to learn how to cope with being where I was not.

While I was completing my major courses, waking up every day at 7 am and working nonstop until 1 am, I did my best to appreciate Boston for what it was. I thought I had understood then how to fully live in the moment, be grateful for what I had, and make the most of every situation. In reality, there was still a huge part of me whose voice kept telling me, “But this isn’t Spain. This isn’t good enough.” 

The Next Lessons of Coping

I nearly worked myself to the point of mental breakdown. Nonetheless, I made it back to Berklee Valencia in Spring 2019 for my final semester of university. I had (thought that I had) made it. I had another wonderful four months, just like I had experienced the first time I studied abroad. My Spanish had improved to a fluent level, so it was even more fulfilling than the first time.

I was also in a relationship with a woman who I deeply loved. We shared a mutual desire to spend the rest of our lives together. However, due to mutually undesirable circumstances, the relationship ended two weeks before my flight to Boston (the city we met) for my graduation from Berklee. 

After graduation, I immediately turned around and ended up in Madrid for a summer internship working with a Spanish composer. I was in an extremely emotionally fragile state. It felt like I was barely clinging to relative stability based upon the pure knowledge that I was in Spain. That fragility shattered when the internship ended, and with it, my visa.

In August 2019, I found myself hysterically crying on the same couch in my parents’ home which I had been hysterically crying on just two years before. Only this time, there was no option of studying abroad again. I had graduated. This depression lasted a solid two months, during which I was practically incapable of doing anything. I wasn’t coping with my reality at all.

The Power of a Present Mind

Sometimes, with depression, especially when it’s severe, there’s not really much to actively be done to reverse it. The healing process can, at times, be extremely slow and gradual, which was my case that summer. Once the initial shock of returning to the US wore off, I finally learned how to live in the moment and feel grateful. 

I started working at a nonprofit for music education. I moved into an apartment with former classmates from Berklee. Finally, I discovered a social life in LA that was enough for me to feel satisfied with my life. The voice in the back of my head saying, “But this isn’t Spain. This isn’t good enough” was drowned out by my actively present mind. The voice was still there and still motivated me to work towards my goal of moving to Spain. However, it no longer had the power to control my mood.

Eli living in Valencia in spring of 2019.

Key Takeaways

The lesson of taming my internal voice has been the most consequential of my life. I realized that ignoring the voice was not an option. I simultaneously loved Spain and disliked the US so strongly that it was simply impossible to ignore. Listening to it actively also was not an option as a true coping mechanism.

In the year which I spent completing my major courses in Boston, the word “Spain” went through my conscious mind at least once a day. It prevented me from enjoying Boston as much as I could have. It was only upon returning to LA in August 2019 and experiencing the worst depression I had ever had that I learned how to balance that voice. 

Finding Balance

Balancing that voice meant many things to me. Above all, it meant using only the required amount of effort needed to get me back to Spain. If there were programs to be researched, people to be contacted, or any other practical tasks that would benefit my potential return to Spain, I would use my energy for those.

As soon as my mind started to wander into “My life isn’t as good in LA as it used to be in Spain” land, I would actively do something to make myself more present. It didn’t matter whether that meant going for a drive, calling a friend, or playing a video game. This coping strategy was so much better than the unending dissatisfaction I felt before.

Anything that it took to change my mind from a state of “the grass is always greener on the other side” to “let’s enjoy the grass that I’m standing on” was sufficient. Even if, deep down, I knew that the grass I was standing on wasn’t the grass I most enjoyed standing on, the most important lesson of my journey (so far) has been that the grass is never greener on the other side. It is simply different. The color of the grass is all based on how I choose to look at it. That’s a coping technique I can live with.

by Eli Slavkin

A Career Pathway to Obtaining a Ph.D.

By Leesa Truesdell

Dalal Boland has been studying at the University of South Florida in Tampa, Florida for three semesters. She is working on Curriculum and Instruction in English Education coursework and has two semesters until she begins her dissertation. Dalal enjoys her program very much. She is thriving at USF and really enjoys the sense of diversity on campus. Compared to Florida State University where she got her master’s, Dalal feels that USF has a thriving international community. “There is just the right balance for me. Cultural immersion is not as difficult at USF because I have Americans in my classes. I hang out with the decently sized Arab population after class and on weekends.”

Dalal is on a sponsored scholarship that lasts up to five years to complete her Ph.D. She plans to finish her degree in about four and a half years. She anticipates getting back to work in Kuwait after she graduates. Right now, she enjoys working at a university teaching English.

Here is what Dalal had to say about her career pathway to obtaining a Ph.D.

kuwait city study abroadWhat was it like growing up in Kuwait City, Kuwait? For example, what was the education system like? Did you go to a primary school and a secondary school?

“I did all of my schoolings in Kuwait at a public school up until I reached university, which was a private school. All public schools in Kuwait are segregated and subject areas are taught in Arabic. In high school, I focused on science in my educational track.  However, I decided to become a liberal-arts major at the university level.”

Did you take a gap year? Or, did you go straight to Gulf University for your undergraduate studies?

“After obtaining my high school degree, I immediately enrolled at the Gulf University for Science and Technology (GUST), Kuwait. I majored in English education and felt thrilled to start my new journey.”

Where did you study for your undergraduate and graduate degrees? How long did it take to get a diploma for these degrees? Did you work in the field before you went back for a Ph.D.?

“I received my undergraduate degree from GUST back in 2012. I then took about a year off working as a teller at the National Bank of Kuwait with the purpose of saving up some money in order to continue my studies. However, I was lucky enough to obtain a scholarship in order to pursue my graduate degree.

Since FSU offered an excellent graduate program in Curriculum and Instruction, it sparked my interest when browsing for universities. I decided to apply and was lucky enough to receive admission. I spent a total of four years on my undergraduate degree and a total of a year and a half doing my master’s at FSU. After obtaining my master’s degree, I went back to Kuwait to teach English as a second language to native Arabic speakers at the college level. I spent a total of three years teaching English until I recently received another scholarship to continue my education in order to obtain a Ph.D.”

Why did you decide to go to the University of South Florida (USF) for your Ph.D.?

“I chose USF to do my Ph.D. because the college of education at USF is known to be one of the best colleges nationwide. They offer excellent degree-seeking programs and have accreditation by my sponsor. Moreover, USF is a research-driven university. I believe this would best help me in executing my research ideas in order to acquire more expertise in the field of English education.”


What is the University of South Florida known for with regard to education?

“The College of Education at the University of South Florida has multiple nationwide-recognized awards for its role in research and education. Also, USF’s College of Education received accreditation by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education. Furthermore, the Florida Department of Education approved the Educator Preparation Programs.”

In your opinion, is USF a good university?

“Without a doubt! USF offers a variety of opportunities. They encourage working with professors who are understanding and passionate about what they do. There is also a variety of students that come from different backgrounds that add a unique flavor to the academic settings.”

career pathway

You attended both Florida State University and the University of South Florida. Is USF a better university? What are some of the similarities and differences?

“Once a Seminole, always a Seminole and there’s no doubt in that! FSU has paved the way in making me the educator who I am today. USF is helping me build on the training that FSU provided. I would never make a comparison between the two universities as both are extremely qualified universities that should attract students to their programs.”

What sparked your dream study abroad?

“I have always wanted to study abroad ever since I was a teenager. However, I only got the opportunity to do so after obtaining my undergraduate degree. I believe that studying abroad makes a person grow on multiple levels. Those that study abroad are immersed in a rich culture. This experience offers different opportunities to explore not only the culture but oneself, too.”

ucf college of education

What were your expectations before you left? How did they change once you arrived to the location and what changed since being in the program?

“My expectation before I left Kuwait was that the program was going to be challenging yet very informative. My expectation was certainly met. I was blessed enough to be part of a university with a department that works with capable teachers who have valuable information in the field of English education.”

What have you done since you began your doctoral program? Are there any tips you want to share with any candidates about to start their own doctoral program?

“From the very beginning (and several times early on in my first semester as a doctoral student), I sat down with my advisor. We came up with a projected course of study in order to have a plan that would create the best path for my adventure as a doctoral student. I advise whoever else who has started this journey to have this plan done from the very start. It is so helpful to refer to it when it comes to classes that you need to take that also align with your research interest.”

What advice would you give to someone who wants to study abroad in the USA for an advanced degree?

“For those who are studying abroad, my ultimate advice to them is that they must constantly remind themselves of why they chose to leave their family and country behind and embark on this new journey. There are times where a person will feel homesick and overwhelmed with the coursework, especially as a doctoral student. However, one should keep in mind that struggle is temporary and a doctoral degree is forever! It doesn’t matter how bumpy the ride is. What matters most is that one reaches his/her designated destination.”

A Career Pathway to Obtaining a Ph.D.

If you are thinking about getting a Ph.D., Dalal talks about five steps to take before leaving for the USA. She went back to Kuwait last summer and plans to return again this summer. I asked her what she misses most about Kuwait while living in the US. She explained that she misses the professional part of her life — the part of being a teacher. She wants to apply the techniques she has learned in attaining her Ph.D. on her students. More specifically, she wants her students back home to learn how to make their voices heard when applying the English language. We will be keeping up with Dalal to see how her final classes go and also discover what her dissertation will be!


International Education Management at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies


emma schultzEmma Schultz has been a Dreams Abroad member since 2017 and has always had an interest in international education. We took the opportunity to catch up with her about how she’s been doing since moving from Madrid, Spain to Monterey, California. She is pursuing a master’s degree in International Education Management at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies.

How did you hear about Dreams Abroad?

“I was a friend of Leesa’s when she founded Dreams Abroad. She had talked about wanting to start her own website for some time, and it was really great to see it come to life. I was excited to start working with her as a writer in February of 2017 and have enjoyed other roles with the team since then. It’s been a joy to watch the project grow, change, and flourish over time. It has become such a great resource for anyone interesting in international education.”

Where were you when you first joined?

“I was teaching English in Madrid, Spain when I started writing for Dreams Abroad.”

apartment madrid spain
The view from my first apartment in Madrid, Spain.


How has your life changed since then?

“My life has changed a lot since then. I started writing for Dreams Abroad when I was in my first year of teaching English as a foreign language, which was also my first year out of college. I continued my time as a teacher in Spain for a second academic year and then transitioned back to part-time study. Furthermore, I was a Spanish student in Madrid during my third year and also worked at an internship. Also, I was a dual nanny/English teacher to a lovely two-year-old boy.

My biggest transition happened this past July, however, when I made the big decision to move back home to the U.S. I decided to pursue a master’s degree in International Education Management at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies.

It was a hard decision to make and an even harder transition. A lot went into my choice to come back to the States — what I felt I had gained in Spain, what I thought I was missing there, and what I thought I might find back at home. Ultimately, I decided it was time for me to pursue a master’s degree. I have long known that I want a career in education abroad management. I knew that I needed to get a higher education to make that possible for myself.

Transitioning into being more than a full-time student has been challenging, but it is absolutely worth it. I know I am gaining hard skills that I will use for a lifetime. I don’t think I could have picked a better program for my interests and goals.”

international education management at middlebury institute
The Middlebury Institute of International Studies campus in Monterey, California.


What did you learn from your experience living abroad?

international education management college“Living abroad did so much for me. It helped me to understand the world better. It helped me to understand myself better. I was able to explore pre-existing interests and engage new ones; I experienced new ways of seeing, interpreting, and understanding things. After three years in Spain, I can say I really feel that I have a connection to the country, its people, and its culture. The degree of love I feel for what has become one of the many places I can call home isn’t something I would trade for the world.

I loved my life in Spain — the balance between my commitments and my personal life, my incredible friendships, the beauty of the country, the warmth of its culture, and so much more. Leaving was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. Coming to the decision to leave took me a long time.

When I moved to Spain, I wasn’t really sure what I wanted my place in the world to be. In my three years in Madrid, I built something there for myself that mattered. I had a home, a life, and a strong love for where I was in the world. I learned, grew, and changed so much.

Why I Had to Leave

In the end, I think I had to leave Spain because of all of those discoveries. I wanted to stay, but for lots of other reasons I needed to go. I wanted to advance in my professional life. Plus, I needed to feel more stable and grounded. I needed to feel secure in a way that temporary visas didn’t provide. I needed to feel like I was working towards a life that I could make well-rounded.

Even though I loved Spain, sometimes I ended up feeling stunted. I felt like I didn’t have enough to engage my mind or fill my time. It was a limitation I had because of the restrictions of the visas I was able to use while there. It was a reality for me nonetheless.

monterey ca rocks on the water
This all led to the very challenging and definitely bittersweet decision to move back to the U.S. and pursue a graduate degree. I felt that by doing so, I could find my way to more professional fulfillment. Ultimately, I wanted to feel more balanced and grounded in my life. I hope to work towards feeling stable here or back abroad someday.”

What have you been doing this year?

“This academic year, I have been focused on my master’s degree and all of the work it entails. Choosing to go for a master’s degree in International Education Management at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies was one of the bigger decisions I’ve made in my life; I gave up a life in Spain surrounded by people I love there to pursue it.

Although I miss Spain and the life I built for myself there, I can’t say for a second that I regret the shift. I know that I am in the right place doing the right thing and that it will propel me towards the future I know I want.”

International Education Management at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies

Emma has been in California for almost two months now and may need some more time to feel like it is home too. But she’s hopeful that the skills she gains and connections she makes will help guide her forward to the next step after this. Hopefully, she can find all the things she’s looking for. Be on the lookout for Emma’s next pieces on how her life has changed and follow her journey!

city on the water
Fisherman’s Wharf Monterey, California.


by Emma Schultz

Getting a Master’s Degree Abroad


kenny obiora Getting a Master's DegreeKenny Obiora was born in Onitsha, Anambra State, Nigeria, Africa. He lived the majority of his formative years living with his uncle, aunt, and grandmother in Nigeria while attending school. He returned to the US during his school breaks before moving permanently to the United States for grades 8-12.

When we asked Kenny about his parents’ decision to send him “home,” he answered, “they wanted me to have a good upbringing.” He later explained that this meant that his parents wanted him to be culturally immersed in his day-to-day activities and life. They wanted him to be part of the Igbo tribe and learn the Igbo tribal language. Kenny speaks three languages: English (which is the dominant language in Nigeria), his tribal language, Igbo, and French, which he studied throughout his academic career. 

Kenny is currently living in Paris, France on an APS visa. This visa class means that Kenny will have to work in a field in which he studied. Kenny recently graduated, getting a master’s degree abroad in health economics and is pursuing a career in the field. 

What was it like growing up in Milwaukee, WI? For example, your education system. Did you go to a primary school and a secondary school? 

“I had a mixed childhood. Before I was fourteen, I lived in Onitsha, Anambra State, Nigeria. I attended a private boarding school. I returned to the United States officially to complete eighth grade and high school. When I arrived, I attended a public middle school in a suburb of Milwaukee, and then a private high school in Milwaukee. 

The education system in Milwaukee is very broken. Most of the public schools are lacking — whether in quality teachers or in funding. Due to this, students are negatively impacted. My parents enrolled me in a program in Milwaukee called “Open Enrollment” which allowed me to be bussed into another school district. This program was only by application and there were selective spots. I was only able to finish middle school through the program. Afterwards, my parents decided to place me in a private high school.”

Boston CollegeDid you take a gap year? Or, did you go straight to the university for your undergraduate studies? 

“No, I went directly to the university. I was fortunate to attend a college-preparatory high school, which pushed us to apply to a wide range of universities. I was most looking forward to the exciting majors and clubs at Boston College.”

Where did you study after high school? How long did it take to get a diploma for your undergraduate studies?

“I attended Boston College (BC) in Chestnut Hill, MA. It’s funny that BC is neither in Boston nor a college! It took me four years to receive my diploma. I received a B.S. in Biology and a minor in French. College changed me in many ways. I learned independence and what it meant to do things for myself. Laundry was no joke!”

Why did you decide on getting a master’s degree abroad at Sciences Po Paris ? 

“I decided to leave the United States and move to France for a few reasons. After I graduated from college, I spent a year working part-time in a lab in the Boston area doing clinical research and working part-time as a Resident Director and Diversity and Inclusion Assistant Director at Emmanuel College. My goal was to apply to medical school during this time. However, after I was accepted officially to Sciences Po Paris, I knew this was an opportunity of a lifetime. I hadn’t studied abroad during my college years, and I knew that getting a master’s degree abroad in Health Economics would be a complement to my bachelor’s studies. The price point of a university in France was also very attractive. With all these decisions I decided to pack up and head to France!”

What sparked your dream study abroad?

Getting a Master's Degree Abroad in france“I’ve always considered myself to be a wanderer. I spent many years of my childhood in Nigeria. When I didn’t have the opportunity to study abroad as a university student, I knew that getting a master’s degree abroad was a priority. Studies in France are very attractive. For example, schools are much cheaper than they are in the United States and there are many opportunities to do dual programs in other countries.”

What were your expectations before you left? How did they change once you arrived to the   location and what changed after having completed the program?

“I was an International Assistant at Boston College, which was a program that paired together international students and BC students to make the transition smoother. I was paired with a few French students. To be honest, they tended to stick with their friends from their country and thus, I thought the French would be exclusive. While this was somewhat true at the beginning, I did learn that the French value friendship a lot. While they can be closed-off at the beginning, once they opened up, they were very kind. 

I also didn’t expect the amount of bureaucracy in France. I was so used to the efficiency of the United States. You applied for something and you could receive that service in a short period. This doesn’t happen in France. Everything takes so much time to happen and is very difficult for foreigners. Getting an apartment, healthcare, a bank account, and visa are all long processes that took weeks to months.”

What did you not expect about living abroad and getting a master’s degree abroad in Paris? 

“I expected that university life would be similar to how it was in the states. You live and learn in the same environment. I was expecting that I would have classes right next to where I lived and wouldn’t have to rely on public transportation. In Paris, the school was just for studying. Clubs and student residences were far and many students lived on their own in the city. In my first year of working on my master’s degree, I lived in a flatshare thirty minutes from school.”

What have you done since you got your graduate degree?

“I am currently looking for a job in my field in Paris. Also, I have been keeping busy giving English lessons to families and companies in the Paris area. I have been applying to pharmaceutical companies in the Paris area in hopes of working in the healthcare field. Since graduation, I’ve been involved in acting classes in Paris. It’s a fun outlet to express myself and meet other expats and students with similar interests in Paris.” 

What advice would you give to someone who wants to study abroad in Paris?

“I would tell them to go beyond a semester study abroad program. A full bachelor’s or master’s degree would not only be enriching, but it would save them a lot of money and really allow them to immerse themselves in the culture! Getting a master’s degree abroad really changed my life.”

kenny obiora paris france

Starting a Professional Career After Getting a Master’s Degree

Kenny is actively looking for a professional career in Paris in the healthcare field. While looking for this position, he has experienced firsthand how competitive it is in his field. He has also realized how being from a different cultural background has its disadvantages. In this field (Kenny can’t speak for other industries), he has noticed that Parisians tend to work amongst themselves and often exclude outsiders. This isn’t just because of the need for a visa. It’s also a cultural familiarity amongst workers. Parisians tend to prefer working with other Parisians in big pharmaceutical companies in the Paris metropolitan area. Kenny just started interviewing and is teaching private English lessons at his college for extra money. His life is thriving at the moment, and he hopes to break through the cultural barrier during an interview soon. 

by Dreams Abroad

Which Study Abroad Program is Right for You?

So, you’ve decided you want to study and live abroad. Congratulations! Studying abroad is a fantastic way to see the world, expand your horizons, and learn something new – in and outside of the classroom. Once you’ve decided to study abroad, your next step will be to decide which type of study abroad program is right for you.

After you’ve made that decision though, what’s next? How do you decide where to go and how long to stay? Once you know which type of program is right for you, here are some resources and ideas to get you started on brainstorming your study abroad experience.

on a school trip

Research the Big Names in Your Program Type

Maybe you’ve decided you want to do a language program abroad to improve your speaking skills. Look into the different companies you could go abroad with. Which seem to have the best reputation/most programs? Where are their centers, and how long do they recommend going for? It’s also a great idea to read student reviews of these programs. Reviews are highly likely to highlight issues you may run into abroad.

You can gather this information relatively easily on the internet. Then, whether you decide to go abroad with a large company or prefer to go with a smaller one, you’ll have lots of perspectives to help you make your decision.

college students

Talk to an Advisor About Study Abroad Programs

If you’re planning a semester abroad as part of your undergraduate degree, talking to a trusted advisor is a great place to start. This is particularly if you will study abroad through your home college/university. An advisor in your study abroad office can tell you what your best options are and which programs are likely to transfer credits towards your degree. They can also weigh in on location, duration of a program, and other considerations like finances, language, and more.

Though this approach might work best for traditional study abroad programs, it can also work for other types as well. Reach out to other types of advisors and mentors. Perhaps a professor of yours might be familiar with language programs. Maybe a family friend knows about a great volunteer program abroad. Having lots of conversations about study abroad will help you find the right fit.

Follow a Passion

study abroad program

If you’re having a hard time knowing where to start when it comes to picking a place, thinking about your passions can help a lot. Perhaps if you’re passionate about history, you could think of what kind or era sparks the most curiosity for you. If you love sports, where could you go to engage in that by joining a local team? Connecting over interests is a great way to become part of a community while living abroad, so it’s not a bad way to help you figure out where to go.

Go Somewhere that Will Help Advance Your Studies and/or Career

It also makes a lot of sense to study abroad in a way that will move your studies/career forward as well. These days, many companies are looking for I. Just going abroad is marketable, but going abroad to attend school or work is a great idea.

Maybe your university has a great business exchange program worth looking into (if that’s the career you’d like to pursue). Or, if it’s advantageous to speak another language, a program that focuses on language skills might be best. Perhaps a volunteer program would give you the necessary management/community outreach experience. Thinking about how your short- and long-term goals will pay off down the road.

Finding the Right Study Abroad Program for You

I knew for a long time that I wanted to study abroad. But finding programs that were a good fit for me involved personal interest, location, academic requirements, and so much more. Doing thorough research, talking to advisors, professors, other faculty and family members, and following my intuition helped me decide what was right for me. With the right tools, you can make an informed decision about where and how to go abroad too – and gain so much from the experience.

study abroad students

by Emma Schultz

University Life Studying Abroad

by Zoe Ezechiels

Mio Matsumoto is a college junior from a school in Tokyo known as Waseda University. She is studying hospitality for a year as an exchange student at Florida State University.

Mio has experienced a very different university life abroad and has grown up in a lot of ways, ranging from learning to juggle school work and a social life, to being completely immersed in a different culture. She has felt the difficulty of getting accustomed to life all by herself but because of the support of her many friends, she was able to have the time of her life and pursue her dream of studying hospitality. The Dedman School of Hospitality at Florida State is one of the best in the nation, and Mio is extremely grateful to be studying there.

University Life Studying Abroad FSU

During her time in the United States, Mio has traveled to New York, California, Alabama, Georgia, and cities within Florida with friends. Because the US is such a large country, there were many opportunities for her to travel and spend time exploring with friends. Even when she felt stressed or worried, Mio is grateful to have a close support group to support her while she is away from her family. Here are her responses to our five questions:

What were your expectations before you left? How have they changed?

“I didn’t have that many expectations; I just wanted to have fun, become independent, and meet new people. Many people have influenced me so far. Even if I have to go back to Japan, the connections I have made in the US will continue, which I think is a great part of having friends in different countries.”

What did you not expect?

“When I lived in New Jersey, there were many Asian people around me. I unintentionally expected the same comfortable environment in Tallahassee.  At FSU, this was not the case. The student body is more diverse than the neighborhood I lived in. Oftentimes, I felt lonely and left out because there weren’t that many other Asian people.

Studying Abroad FSU

However, I met so many amazing people from different cultures and got along with them great, which enabled me to get over my initial hump. Local people taught me cool places to go, eat, and have fun. I decided to study abroad because I wanted to get out of my comfort zone. In the end, it’s turned out great!

Also, the weather: I thought it was never going to get cold or rain, but both happen…! Have your umbrellas ready! In addition, I didn’t expect the campus to be so huge that I have to use the bus to get to my classes. Lastly, even though Tallahassee is a college town, many things were expensive (food, school supplies, etc.), so I had to plan out a budget and stick to it.”

What’s your next step?

mio and friends

“I have a dream of working abroad at an internationally-known hotel or with an international airline. I am able to speak Japanese and English, and at the moment I am also studying Spanish. Although I am a hospitality major, I still need more experience. To achieve my goals, I think getting an internship will serve as a bridge between Japan and somewhere else. This way I can ultimately achieve my dream of working at an international company.”

What advice would you give to a student with the dream to study abroad?

“The culture, how you study, the language, etc. is different from place to place; you can’t expect a study abroad experience to be easy. Being able to speak English is just one of the many, many tips for fitting into university life studying abroad. However, studying abroad is a totally eye-opening experience because you can experience it all — from the good to the bad.

Try new things, travel to new places, and be with the friends you feel comfortable with. Even if you’re alone, take part in activities so you can make friends there! Be courageous during class and raise your hand to state your opinions. Everyone is accepting and they look forward to your ideas from a different, international perspective.”

Talking with Mio was an immense pleasure! Stay tuned for her VLOG on 5 tips on university life studying abroad.

studying abroad Mio Matsumoto


Studying Abroad in Denmark for an Academic Year


castle studying abroad in denmark
Rosenborg Castle in Copenhagen, Denmark

I studied abroad in Copenhagen, Denmark for the academic year in 2014-2015. At the time, I was one of very few students there for the full academic year. It had become much more popular – and a lot easier – to study abroad for a semester or summer term, rather than studying abroad for a year.

I had the benefit of knowing that my mother had studied abroad for a full year in Basel, Switzerland when she was in college. She felt strongly that a year abroad had made a meaningful impact on her life. As she reflects on the time that she went abroad, she doesn’t recall that going for only a semester was even an option.

As students today become stretched in more and more directions, pursue minors and double majors, and feel the need (or are even required) to complete some key coursework on their home campuses, studying abroad for an academic year becomes further and further out of reach.

Semester, summer, and short-term programs are great for a lot of reasons. As students find it harder to get abroad, having options accessible to them that are flexible can help make that possible. I’m all for that. However, I’m here to share with students who can consider studying abroad for a year. I want to share why I feel my time abroad was made all the more life-changing because it spanned from August to May.

abroad in denmark
Studying abroad in Denmark

Have Time There After You Figure it Out

When my mom was convincing me that I should consider a year abroad, one thing she said stuck with me ever since. She said that at the end of her first semester, she had finally figured out how to “do” life in Switzerland. And that was great! But in her second semester of studying abroad for a year, she was then able to live life already understanding the basics and pursuing more. When I finally got abroad, my friends who went just for a semester largely echoed this sentiment – they had finally gotten the hang of things and then it was time to go home.

I had a great fall semester in Copenhagen full of new experiences and adventures. But I have to agree with my mom here. My second semester allowed me to understand Copenhagen better. I’d already gotten the hang of the day-to-day.

In my second semester, I joined a yoga studio, co-directed and produced a student performance, and traveled solo for the first time abroad. I think these experiences were made possible by the fact that I had a solid foundation I built for myself in Copenhagen after a semester there.

denmark trail
Exploring the Danish island of Bornholm

Understand Yourself

Anyone who’s heard me talk about my time in Denmark has heard me say that it was the year I figured out who I wanted to be and when I became that person. There’s something about being completely out of your element that helps you see yourself more clearly.

The year I spent in Copenhagen helped me become more independent, capable, self-sufficient, and worldly. It was the first year in my life that I really spent quality time with myself, alone. I learned that I didn’t need to be afraid of being on my own. My own company was great – and sometimes even the best thing I could give myself. These discoveries and qualities were ones I was able to bring back with me when I returned to the US. Studying abroad for a year was truly one of the best things I could have done for my self-growth.

Engage with New Things

Before I left to study abroad, I took as many anthropology classes (my major) as I could. I did this, obviously, so that I could make meaningful progress towards my degree. However, I also did it because I wanted to enable myself to study whatever I wanted while I was abroad, and that’s exactly what I did.

While I was studying abroad in Denmark, I studied prostitution and the sex trade, conspiracy theories, the history of travel, education, classical music, and Icelandic sagas, just to name a few. Broadening my academic horizons helped me engage my mind in new ways. I learned things about the world that I never would have otherwise.

Travel Without Sacrificing Time in Your New Home

emma schultz student abroad
Embracing the elements during my spring semester in Copenhagen

The year I studied abroad, I traveled to eight other countries. And I was able to do it without sacrificing time spent in the place I’d chosen to study abroad. When you go abroad for the year, you have the time and the flexibility to explore outside your new home. You can do all this without giving up every weekend there to do so. I’m really grateful I was able to see so many new places and also spend so many weekends in Copenhagen. I liked exploring the city and spending time with my host family and new friends.

Learn That You Can Take on a Challenge

Going abroad is such an exciting experience, but it’s tough in a lot of ways too. A new environment, new cultural norms, new ways of doing things – it can be a lot to take in all at once, and there will be speed bumps along the way. But the beauty in that is that you learn how capable you are of facing a challenge and overcoming it. Fortunately, chances are if you can do it abroad, you can definitely do it back home.

It’s becoming more difficult to think about studying abroad for a year. I understand that it might not be possible for many students. However, if my thoughts on the matter have piqued your interest, I think it’s worthwhile to try. Whatever you decide, studying abroad has the capacity to change your life in so many ways. Studying abroad in Denmark certainly changed mine. For however long you go abroad, there is such incredible value in learning in a different culture. I hope you all have that chance.

by Emma Schultz

Five Ways to Study Abroad


books for collegeStudying abroad has become more popular than ever in recent years, but the ways in which students are engaging the world is changing. While a semester/year-long study abroad used to be normal, more and more students are going abroad in other ways. If you’re thinking of studying abroad, there are so many different paths for you to consider. Read on to learn about some of the best-defined ones.

1) A Traditional Study Abroad Semester/Year

During a semester or academic year abroad, students – often in their junior year of college – spend time abroad in a formal program for university credit. Fewer students are choosing to study abroad for a semester or full academic year now than in years past. Regardless, this is still the most traditional (and often most immersive) way to study abroad. Whether you do a program through your home university or a study abroad provider, choosing to go abroad this way is a tried and true method.

2) Short-Term Study Abroad Programs

Some students choose to go abroad on short-term study abroad programs. These are typically also organized through their home universities or partner programs. These may be summer programs or courses that include educational travel during a winter or spring break. These programs offer the opportunity to study abroad while being more flexible in terms of time commitment and money spent.

college students in class

3) Doing a Gap Year

The concept of a gap year is rapidly growing in popularity, and I’m a big supporter of the idea. A gap year is a year that students take off from studying in the traditional sense, most often after high school but sometimes at other junctures as well. During this year, it is popular to travel, complete not-for-credit study, or work. Formalized gap year programs where students complete a combination of studying and working are becoming more and more common. Whether you spend a gap year studying, learning a new language, volunteering, or otherwise, it’s a great opportunity to engage the world and learn something new outside of the classroom.

students studying over coffee

4) Learning a Language

As the world becomes increasingly interconnected, students are seeing the value in learning a foreign language. Companies looking to hire students are also looking for this aspect. Choosing to study anywhere at a language academy is another great way to go abroad. Whether you do so as part of a gap year or at another point in life, learning a language is an invaluable skill, and getting to do so onsite is a great way to get to know another culture.

5) Taking Time to Travel

Although often part of a gap year, traveling abroad deserves recognition in its own right as well. Although far from a traditional study abroad program, traveling extensively teaches you a lot about the world and helps prepare you for later studies in any field.

ways to study broad student

Studying abroad is at an all-time high. People all over the world are looking to have experiences in other countries. Whether you choose to study abroad for the year in a college program, learn a new language for a few months, or something in between, studying abroad will provide you with the opportunity to learn something new about the world and something new about yourself.

by Emma Schultz

Switching Gears from Teacher to Student While Abroad

I’m a couple of months into my third year living abroad in Madrid, Spain, but a lot has changed in my life. When I moved to Madrid in the summer of 2016, I had no idea how much I would love it or how long I would stay. I had planned to teach English here for a year and take it from there. Now, over two years later, I find myself switching gears. I’m still back in the classroom, but now I’m the student instead of the teacher.

student abroad madrid spain
Early days in Madrid, August 2016


My decision to study the Spanish language in an intensive program for one year stemmed from my professional goals, a desire to make a fuller life in Spain possible, and my love for the language. By the end of my next summer living abroad, I hope to be C1 level certified. I’m getting a lot out of my program so far and enjoying my new life here in Madrid. Now that I’ve been back for a while, I’ve reflected on the biggest shifts in my life since I started studying again and stopped teaching.

Where Does the Time Go?

The first is, obviously, how I’m spending my time. I’ve been out of school for a couple of years, so getting back into the rhythm of studying took a bit of effort. I have classes every day of the week, homework many nights, and tests every Monday, so I have to stay focused to do well.

The park by my apartment, which I’ve been visiting more often this year

The next big shift is where I spend my time. I spent the last two years teaching English in a primary school in the mountains north of Madrid. For me, that meant that I could engage the city where I lived when I wasn’t working. That also meant that throughout the week I got to spend some time close to nature as well. Now, I attend a language academic in the heart of Madrid. Much more of my time is spent in the city. One of the most surprising aspects of this transition is how much I have missed time away from the hustle and bustle of Spain’s most populous city. So now, I make an effort to get out of town and back to nature when I have the time.

The third big change I’ve experienced is spending so much less time with children. I have taken a small nannying job where I speak English for a few hours a week. Although I really enjoy that time, it’s very different from spending every day with young students. I miss my kids and the energy they brought into my life.

Breaking Away From Speaking English

A rather obvious transition is that I’m less engaged with English and more engaged with Spanish. I am learning how to express my views better in Spanish and how to communicate thoughts on more complicated themes. This makes a life in Spain, or even just a life full of Spanish, a much more realizable dream.

And, finally, I’ve had to transition away from teaching and towards studying emotionally as well. Teaching here gave me a sense of purpose that was more palpable. I felt I made a difference in the lives of my students each and every day. I know that studying Spanish in this way will have a huge impact on my life in the long run. Unfortunately, seeing and feeling those changes every day is harder. It has also been a challenge to take a big step back from working so that I can focus on reaching my language goals. I know that I want to have a fulfilling career, and improving my Spanish is a key part of getting to that future. But I’m also looking forward to getting back into the workforce in a fuller way as well.

The Catedral de Santa María la Real de la Almudena

After Spending Two Years Living Abroad in Madrid

Choosing to study Spanish this year was easy. After spending two years in Madrid, I wanted to develop a much better level of Spanish. I also wanted to develop the ability to engage in more nuanced conversations. Doing so will help me reach my goals in a big picture sense, and I’ve already improved so much in the short time I’ve been studying. Although going from teaching to studying has shifted my life in many ways, I’m grateful for the opportunity to pursue new goals and dreams this year and see where they will take me next.

by Emma Schultz

Talk To Somebody

Talk To Somebody

Have you ever seen Pulp Fiction? It’s an entertaining movie, and you should absolutely see it. There’s a special scene in that movie that is relevant to this point. There’s this couple at Jack Rabbit Slims, but the thing is…they’re not really a couple. John Travolta who plays Vincent Vega is a charismatic thug and Uma Thurman who plays Mia Wallace is the big boss’s wife. To him, she being the big boss’s wife and all…she’s out of reach, theoretically at least, but he kind of likes her and she likes him. But they don’t know each other, so there’s a lot of gaps in the conversation and more than a few points of awkward silence. Well as much silence as you can get in a 60s-themed dance bar. Then, in the middle of an awkward silence, she says,  “Don’t you hate that?”  “What?” he says. “Uncomfortable silences. Why do we feel it’s necessary to yak about bullshit in order to be comfortable?” She pauses, “That’s when you know you’ve found somebody special. When you can just shut the (…) up for a minute and comfortably enjoy the silence.”

And that says it all for me. She’s right, I remember the first time I saw that scene and still think the same way today. It is not necessary to be talkative. Most of the time it’s just small talk, people just trying to keep the conversation going, because we don’t tolerate silence well. Being alone with your thoughts it’s hard…and fun, joyful, stressful, all kinds of feelings. Most people will talk to just kill the silence, talking about whatever comes to mind.

All of us feel the need to talk to others about what’s important to us, but often times we don’t know how or to whom we should talk. But every now and then we can find someone to open up to. The life lesson that took me too long to figure out is sometimes these deeper conversations can begin with a little small talk. Philosophy, at least the Greek one, starts with dialogue, which is required in order to discover or achieve knowledge. We are not alone- that we are not islands but rather, are part of a larger community- humanity is a big family of human beings. So then why is it so hard to talk to people sometimes?

Unfortunately, the irony of this post for me is that I am writing this at a point in my own life when I am relatively isolated. I would be totally disconnected from the outside world if it weren’t for my girlfriend. I am thankful for her help and I am glad I was more adventurous when I was in Florida.

What did the trick? I knew that I couldn’t go all the way to Florida just to be quiet all the time. I didn’t want to go there and stay in my dorm. Traveling someplace else new is a chance to improve yourself because no one knows you. They don’t know if you’re an introvert or an extrovert. You have a chance to make a lot of first impressions. A lot of great history lies within strangers all around you. A potential good friend could be in the coffee bar next to you, a good laugh, an interesting idea, topic and/or conversation. Who are we to deprive ourselves from the others? We won’t learn anything from closing ourselves off in our rooms.

In my college there’s the possibility of graduating by just taking classes on the internet. This is intended for people who can’t make it to school for whatever reason, but they are missing the incredible experience of engaging with your classmates. And that happens outside school as well. Engaging people goes beyond those in your peer group. It´s not gratuitous folk wisdom that says one should listen to their elders. Potentially, all the people in the world know something you don’t, and vice versa.

We should take our chances and try to improve ourselves through others, get the most of a trip and talk to the locals, smile and listen. The best thing someone said to me in Tallahassee was that I really listened. He said that most of the people in town didn’t do that anymore. Which is sad. Silent people like me enjoy listening to people: the ones who have something to say, who talk with their soul rather than their brains, that really live and breathe, who scream when they scared and shout when they’re happy, that never get you bored and who make you laugh. Most of all, those who aren’t afraid to say what they really think, who are desirous of living and willing to really live.