It has been an odd time the gap after one semester on campus and the following would be abroad. The in between is remaining at home, trying to make sure everything is complete so that the journey is more enjoyable and the least stressful as possible.

Studying abroad is a great opportunity that if you have the chance to do it, do it, indeed. Some of the most pragmatic and general advices I would give you it would be: one, saving money. Depending on the location you are going and the activities you are doing, you should have an estimate of how much are you going to spend during you time abroad. For example, if you are going to Latin America, it will, for sure, take the advice from someone who is from the region, be cheaper compared to flying to Europe, which is where I am heading.

My plan is to travel to other regions of Europe, while also afford groceries and other miscellaneous expenses—bring at least five thousand dollars for the trip. You can start saving as soon as you can. I started saving during the summer and then my entire fifth semester, so I would say give yourself a semester prior to going abroad to save enough. Of course, it totally depends on your monthly expenses, the type of job(s) you have, if you have a job(s), and or if you are obtaining the money some other way, such as scholarships, parents and/or family, etc. then start scouting for those too and making sure you can count with that sum.

I started planning abroad since my second semester in college, so freshman year. However, you can start around sophomore year. First, think about where you want to go, what you want to study, and have in mind that that location may change, which happened to me. I was conflicted between Argentina, Chile, and Spain and in the end I chose none of those three locations, opting to go study in The Netherlands instead.

A warning, be prepared to deal with a chunk of bureaucratic paperwork. It has been very vexing. I must assure you, but you can be assiduous in this if you take it slightly and do everything as soon as possible and ahead of time. For me to go to The Netherlands, normally if I were just a tourist, I would not need to get a visa or anything, not to be flaunt with the people who do need visa to go to Europe (one of my closest friends hates me for this—she is from India and is required to get a visa to go literally anywhere). For Colombian citizens, we only need a visa for the UK region, so I will not be stopping over that region of Europe any time soon (although it is just an electronic visa). Because I am staying longer than 90 days in The Netherlands, then I was required to get another kind of visa, something they called “MVV visa.” I had to do the housing agreement, when I get to The Netherlands I am required to go to the Town Hall to register or something, I had to get an Apostille of my birth certificate to bring to my Town Hall meeting, make sure my cards are activated once I am on European soil… just a bunch of little details that you may need—all contingent on your destination. Anyway, I will not bore you with everything that I needed to get done, but I will suggest you plan, plan, plan for this trip. If you really feel it in your skin, grasp the gumption to get the job done, meaning do your applications, be smart about saving money, reaching out the right people, research your programs and tentative activities that you’d like to do once there, among other issues.

There are plenty of details to it, but if you inform yourself well and work on it pretty diligently, you shall get your compensation: an unconventional semester in a new culture, learning more about yourself in a different form, exploring the world, gaining more independence, or so I have been told. I shall let you know when I start this journey this upcoming Sunday.

I wish you a good start to another semester. If you are a high school student, make sure you have study abroad in your bucket list and hopefully some of these tips will serve you when your train stops by this station.

Best,

Santiago Montoya

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