Thailand, Summer 2018
“The most valuable education is experience.”
Achieving Goals through Studying Abroad
The most valuable education is experience. Reading and hearing about a people, a place, a concept; it’s all valid, but experience is the best learning tool. In my life, no experience has been more captivating, informative, and transformative as studying abroad. I studied abroad twice: once in Germany and again in Thailand the following year; the former a study trip, the latter an internship. Leaving my comfort zone and expanding my horizons via international travel has had a direct impact on me both academically and professionally. I came into my undergraduate studies wanting to be a physician. Now, I am graduating eager to begin my journey in the field of public health. Traveling to Germany as a sophomore gave me the realization that I wanted to work in a field that would allow me to participate in intercultural communication and travel. Traveling to Thailand with the help of the Office of National Scholarships allowed me to realize that, in working in health, being a physician is not the only way to make an impact. Now, I am headed to graduate school to pursue a dual masters’ degree program in Global Health & Bioethics.
The most significant impacts on my academic and professional trajectories throughout these past four years have all occurred while studying abroad. Exposure to new cultures, languages, foods, ways of life, and ways of thinking creates a more holistic way of thinking and examining everything one comes across in life. It creates a more patient, well-rounded individual. It creates a global citizen.
The Gilman Application Process & Working with ONS
If I could give any undergraduate one piece of advice, it would be to ask questions. Even if your questions have no specific subject, ask anyway. Ask if there is anything available to you, if there is anything you may be eligible for, or even competitive for. Ask and ye shall receive.
The Gilman application process lasted a few months, and I am grateful to have had support throughout the entire journey. I met with my advisor 7-8 times in a small 2-3-month period of time, asking constant questions about my essay, my application, and the submission process. Every step of the way Lauren, my advisor, was kind and patient. I had no idea I was even eligible for the Gilman Scholarship until I met with her and asked her what my options were.
I walked into her office like a deer caught in the headlights, and I left feeling determined, with a clearer direction and a weight off of my shoulders. I applied for the Gilman Scholarship for my internship in Thailand and, with the help of the Office of National Scholarships, I won it. They helped me not only with my application, but with the logistics of receiving the scholarship afterward. Cumulatively, the process lasted about 6 months, and I felt supported the entire time.
Working with the Office of National Scholarships means working with attentive advisors, creating personal, developmental relationships that can aid you tremendously in finding and earning opportunity and cultivating a rapport that you are able to use for the rest of your career as part of their lifetime membership.
Travel Tips & Advice
Let’s get down to business: travel is exciting. It is riveting, fascinating, tremendous, priceless, and arguably one of the best things a human being can experience. It is also not always easy. Here are a few tips to make the not-so-easy a bit easier.
Notice I didn’t say pack light. If you will be gone for a few weeks, consolidate where you can, but packing light may not always be an option. Make sure you pack enough so that you are clothed, comfortable, and in the event of an emergency, as prepared as you can be given the circumstances. Here’s how:
- If you are checking a bag, be sure to also carry a full outfit in your carry-on. In
the event that your bag is lost and will take some time to get to you, you’ll find
comfort in still being able to shower and change your clothes after long flights.
- Carry medications in your carry-on. Again, if your checked bag gets lost and you have
prescription medication you need to take, it is helpful and necessary to always have
it on your person.
- Make it as home-like as you can. If you are going to be gone for a month or longer,
that can have an impact on your mental health. In the event of homesickness, having
a little piece of home, be it a small photo or a pillow, can help unfathomably.
- Vacuum sealed bags. The amount of consolidation? Can’t be beat. Especially if you tend to over pack. Know thy self.
Travel is often romanticized as this perfect experience, but what happens when it’s not perfect? Don’t feel guilty for not being okay while you’re supposed to be on “the trip of a lifetime.” Chances are, if you’re feeling a bit off, other people on your trip are too. Your feelings are valid. Homesickness is valid. Don’t be afraid to say you’re not okay—the honesty will make for a better trip in the long run.
Talk to Your Banks
Let your banks and credit card companies know exactly when you’re leaving the country and how long you’ll be gone. They can put a travel notification on your accounts so there are no holds when you are there and need to spend money.
Ultimately, there is a laundry list of tips one can give when it comes to travel, but the most important piece of advice I can give is to be intuitive. Acknowledge yourself in spaces when something is off, feels wrong, or is out of place. You are your greatest advocate and, especially in a foreign country, you need to be self-aware in order to thrive and live up to your greatest potential.
Tags: Value of Study Abroad, Changing Major, Gilman Application Process, Packing Tips