Hello, and welcome to my first ever post on my adventures in Japan!
I’m Mantano, and I am a third year student at SFSU! As I am currently writing this, I have less than 48 hours before my flight to Japan takes off… which, while ridiculously exciting, it is seriously nerve racking.
As of today, I have already completed my packing, and yet I am in a constant fear that I will have forgotten something that will be crucial for my time abroad. This preparation process has been filled with difficult circumstances that would only be tripled without the help from the study abroad team at SFSU – whose timely and efficient efforts were vital to this whole ordeal going smoothly.
In light of the difficult times I faced, I think it is only suiting that I share a few general tips on how to get through this process without much stress:
1)Do not procrastinate!
I know, such an easy tip. But seriously, this is probably the most crucial one. We all have such busy lives, especially since we are in school and probably have jobs, but the sooner you get those documents sent in, the better! Holding them off until the last minute will add on a lot more stress than needed.
The documents needed may look easy to complete within a week or two, but trust me if you really want to get through this easily, GET IT DONE FIRST!
I’ve witnessed other applicants fail to complete documents on time and ended up having to either wait an entire semester to study abroad, or even completely miss out on an amazing opportunity. Make sure to be diligent on all forms concerning your abroad trip.
2) Ask past study abroad alumni about future steps
Oh my goodness! If only I had done this myself.
There are so many steps and possible fees that you won’t find out about until you are committed and/or accepted. These steps are possible to complete without having knowledge of them before hand, but being able to plan for them will make life a piece a cake.
Don’t be that person who gets shaken up for an entire month trying to figure out how they’re going to pay for fees on time.
- Sub-tip – Early disbursement of financial-aid: Use this to your advantage and take it out early! Either for your plane ticket or, in my case, last minute fees.
If your reading this, this tip is already in effect, so go you!
3) Don’t be afraid to ask the Study Abroad Counselors for help!
They are by far the best resources to get through this. Of course you should do your own diligent research first, as they are busy people, but make no mistake, they are there to help you! I cannot count how many visits or calls I made to the international affairs office this last year for instruction or help – they are a blessing!
4) Make friends with international student that are from your host school and other student who plan on going to your school.
You are all in this together, and they could have amazing insight on what you should do! Also, it never hurts to have friends when you get there. A great way to do this: go to the IECC tables in the quad or the language exchanges that are held in the library.
5) TAKE THE GILMAN SERIOUSLY!
I cannot stress this one enough. If you are even thinking about studying abroad, make yourself familiar with the Gilman Scholarship! It is a life saver! It can grant you up to $5000 if you go abroad and $8000 if you go under a language learning course. I was notified weeks ago about my award and I haven’t stopped smiling since. It is honestly the difference between me eating actual food or surviving off convenient store products – which is actually doable in Japan (but not recommended).
Go to the workshops at school and ask you peers for proofreads, just make sure you take do the application with the upmost care. The Study Abroad office team will guide you in presenting a worthy application, take their guide seriously and you should be good to go!
6) Save Money
So this one seems like a no brainer, but since we are living in one of the most expensive cities in the world, it can be quite challenging. Set aside some cash for the fees that you’ll have to pay for later on. It is true you’ll most likely be saving money going abroad, however, that won’t take into effect until you receive your financial aid – which will probably be distributed after you pay your fees. That being said, cover the deficit with the money you prepare. You could always take out an advancement on your financial aid, but that will have you making a trip back to the city during your vacation to pick up your check.
7) Know the place you’re going to
Of course you probably know the location, but I am talking about the facts pertaining to the location. If you are like me, and have had previous experience with the country you are going to, this won’t be a big deal. HOWEVER, if you have had zero contact with your preferred abroad location, this could be the difference between you staying the entire time or packing up soon and coming home.
Do some research on the area you are going to be in. The climate, the culture, the people, etc. You want to be surprised by the sites, not the realization that a freezing cold winter is going to put you on ice for a couple of months. I researched Akita, Japan and still didn’t know bears are known to appear on campus sometimes. That’s something the brochures don’t tell you, so make sure you reach out and RESEARCH!
Take these tips seriously, they’ve been brought to you by my trials and errors during (and after) my application process, so please don’t make the same mistakes!