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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Thinking About Studying Abroad? Think It Through

Studying abroad is one of the best opportunities to experience a different culture and gain independence.? But if you’re seriously considering it, be prepared for a huge hassle. ? ?

Before leaving, you must set your goals.? I spent a whole year planning for my trip to Paris.? I researched programs affiliated with UMass that were affordable and promising in terms of my goal to obtain a French minor.? After I found the right program, I had to complete a huge amount of paperwork.? Be prepared to do a lot of waiting: to admit and receive paperwork, to complete health insurance forms, for your visa to go through, and to hear back about courses and housing assignments.? The study-abroad department couldn’t do anything for me in terms of these things.? I just had to check in when I had my ducks in a row.? Unfortunately, my ducks were still in their eggs rolling around on the floor the entire year before leaving. ?

Getting the student visa was the hardest part.? The French consulate people only spoke to me in French.? Papers were shuffled around, given back to me, and some of them not complete, because of an error on the program’s part, to inform me of certain requirements.? I had to do a lot of unnecessary running around, in the mean time, misplacing my passport.? After waiting 5 hours at the passport bureau and about $200 later, I got my new passport and returned to the consulate to complete my visa.? Turns out, they had my original passport the whole time!? ?

Getting courses approved was the most complicating part, mainly because I couldn’t get them approved.? The Study Abroad program didn’t post my courses until two weeks before I left.? (Don’t let this happen to you!) I was informed that it was crucial to have them reviewed by modern languages, but of course it was Winter session and the department chair wasn’t on campus.? I was assured by the study abroad department that my courses would transfer without problems, so I decided not to sweat it and deal with it when I got home.????? ?

I flew to Paris and fell in love with the city.? I went to school 30 hours a week, traveled to different countries, became (almost) fluent in French, and had a blast despite the petty rich kids.? Little did I know that when I got home, I would be confronted with endless credit transfer issues.? ?

Turns out, the study abroad department had no records of me whatsoever.? The last minute approvals didn’t go through prior to my trip because they were incomplete.? I was a “drop out”.? After getting back into the system, only one class transferred to my minor out of three and my grades didn’t transfer to my GPA.? Explaining my situation to admissions, the registrar, and study-abroad department, and modern languages was no use.? All I know is that it was my fault for not getting the course approval submitted to UMass before leaving, even though it was an exceptional matter of availability and deadlines.? I’ve been home from my trip since June 2008 and my situation is still unresolved.? I wish the Study Abroad program had been more efficient in getting my information finalized and that the Modern Language Department was more accommodating in getting my courses pre-approved.?? ?

So if you’re planning on taking your education abroad, be persistent in getting your information ahead of time, don’t let them keep you waiting, get your courses approved (no matter what). Make sure you get your questions answered.? Otherwise you could end up like me: tens of thousands of dollars in debt, with no grades to show for it, and no French minor.?