Walking around the Study Abroad Fair, with students everywhere and countless tables representing different programs filling Conte Forum, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. Maybe you went but you couldn’t find the table you were looking for, or you had questions you didn’t find the answers to. Or maybe you didn’t have time to go at all. If this is the case, you came to the right place. The Gavel is here to answer some frequently asked questions about the study abroad process.
What’s the application process like?
For all your application questions, head to the Office of International Programs’ (OIP) page on the Boston College website (https://www.bc.edu/offices/international/gettingstarted1/howtoapply.html). There, you’ll see that the very first step is completing an advising questionnaire, meant to get you thinking about what you want to experience and accomplish during your time abroad. The questionnaire will also ask about how well studying abroad fits into your academic plan and which course requirements you hope to fulfill abroad. Once the questionnaire is done, you’ll sign up for a Study Abroad 101 presentation, where you’ll learn more about the next steps of the application process for both internal BC programs and approved external programs.
So what’s this whole internal/external thing about?
Basically, the difference between internal and external programs is their connection to BC. For internal programs, the host university has an established relationship with BC’s OIP. Students studying abroad internally pay BC tuition (with room and board usually paid directly to the host university), and their grades abroad count towards their GPA. For external programs, students still receive credit for the courses they take at their host university, but their grades do not affect their GPA (think of this as taking all of your classes pass/fail for a semester). Students in external abroad pay their host universities directly, rather than paying BC tuition. In both cases, though, students must apply through OIP before applying to their specific study abroad program.
How do I know which is best for me?
It’s really all up to what you’re looking to get out of abroad. If you’re set on a certain place and it only has either an internal or external program, your mind may be made for you. But if you just know that you want to study abroad and don’t quite know where, it’s important to figure out whether an internal or external program suits you best. How do you do this? Talk to people who have gone abroad before you (PSA: people who go abroad LOVE to talk about it), research cities and the cultures you’ll find there, and take some time to reflect on your goals for your semester abroad. Anna Feins, MCAS ‘19, knew that she wanted to go far outside of her comfort zone while she was abroad. After spending a semester in Uganda, she says, “[Choosing an external program] was the best decision I could have made for myself. I met new people who had vastly different college experiences than I did, and I took classes that I could never have taken if I had gone internal.”
Will I be homesick?
Truthfully, you may feel homesick, but that’s normal. If you get on that plane on the first day, and you are totally nervous, don’t fret—that’s also normal. Michael Razis, MCAS ‘19, who studied in Barcelona last spring, says, “Any anxiety you may have before leaving is totally valid, but it will totally be dispelled once you arrive.” When you’re an ocean away (or more) from the place you’re used to calling home, it’s natural to miss the people and the places that you’re familiar with. But, then, you travel to a place you’ve never been before with people you didn’t know just a few months ago, and, most likely, you’ll think to yourself, “This is worth it.”
What about everything I’ll miss while I’m gone?
We all love a good BC football game and a steak & cheese, and we can’t imagine missing Marathon Monday, but the truth is that BC will still be here when you get back from abroad. Missing a semester on the Heights can be hard (FOMO, I’m looking at you), so, if you want to stay, absolutely stay and enjoy every second of it. But if you want to go abroad, go and enjoy every second of that. Either way, you’ll never forget BC, and it’ll never forget you.