Peace and quiet were two things Priyanka Patel did not expect to find when she came to study abroad in the United States. Even with the unexpected, studying abroad has been a rewarding experience for Patel in many ways. She has gained confidence and has enjoyed communicating with different types of people. Many other students have also experienced the benefits of studying abroad.

Exploring different countries and cultures, learning a new language, and finding new interests are just a few of these benefits, according to the International Student Newsletter. Regardless of placement, each individual who studies abroad gains knowledge and insight while creating unforgettable memories. Patel and Kara Parman are two college students who studied abroad to discover what life looks like in an unfamiliar place.

Patel is a multimedia journalism student from Coventry, England, who is studying abroad at Northwest Missouri State University. In Coventry, Patel attends Birmingham City University. She chose to study abroad to have more opportunities in her field and gain independence.

In preparation for her journey, she budgeted for her trip by taking out 5,000 pounds in student loans, which is equal to $6,539. However, she anticipates going over budget due to shopping and extra travel costs. Patel wishes she would have done more research prior to coming to America because she knew very little about Maryville when she arrived.

In her experience abroad so far, she has discovered that some elements of it are different than she expected.

“I have been to America before, so I knew the culture. But, I thought I would be in a city of dreams,” Patel said.

Patel is used to living in a large city, attending events such as music festivals. In Maryville, she has enjoyed trying local restaurants such as El Maguey, Simply Siam, and El Nepal.

Since Patel is 4,208 miles from home, she has been dealing with feelings of homesickness.

 “I was really homesick the first week,” Patel said. “I cried every single day.”

Patel overcomes these feelings by looking at pictures of her family and friends on her desk. Her parents try to call her every day, and she talks to her little brother on the phone as well.

Even with homesickness, Patel has discovered things about herself from studying abroad that she would not have learned otherwise. She feels more confident here and has become comfortable communicating with various types of people because she is not at home.

In contrast with Patel, Parman is a Northwest student who left America in May 2018 to study abroad in Dublin, Ireland, for eight weeks. She left with a group of 22 other business students and participated in a summer internship program while there. When preparing for her trip, Parman had a strict budget and did not use any student loans. Throughout her experience, she turned down some extra travel opportunities for financial reasons, but the experiences she did have were very humbling.

“I have a different view on the world now. There is no way I could have gotten that by staying here,” Parman said.

The culture in Dublin was surprising to Parman in many ways. First, the city felt like Maryville to her. It was small and filled with kind, welcoming people. Second, she thought the city would be more historic.

“I thought of rolling hills and people wearing kilts, but in reality it was all just up to date,” Parman said.

Parman also dealt with homesickness, but she coped in a different way. She focused on the fact that this trip would not last forever, and she would be home eventually. Keeping busy helped Parman not dwell on the fact that she was not with family. This open mindset allowed her to try new things and enjoy her experiences abroad.

Some other students at Northwest Missouri State University have taken advantage of the study abroad program. According to the International Involvement Center, Northwest offers 248 programs in 58 countries and in 2018, 90 Northwest students and 10 international students chose to take advantage of the study abroad program. However, when a student decides to study abroad, there are multiple steps to complete before leaving the country.

Graduate Assistant Lucy Hillard works to help students throughout the application process. She said that once students find their program, they must complete the application, meet with her to ask questions, and then meet with the financial aid office. Students can use financial aid, student loans, and even scholarships for the study abroad program. It is common for study abroad students to pay tuition and all additional fees to Northwest like normal, or pay tuition to Northwest and everything else to the host university. However, it is an option to pay just the host university, depending on the program.

When asked about housing overseas, Hillard said it varies based on the program. Some students live in dorms on campus, others in apartments, and some choose to do a home stay with a family in the community. With these options, it can be hard to decide which one is the best fit. According to Hillard, it all depends on what each person wants to get out of the experience.

 If a student is interested in studying abroad, Hillard said she is more than happy to help. Even if someone is a senior, she works hard to fit each student with a program.

For both Parman and Patel, they always knew they wanted to study abroad, but that is not the case for everyone.

To anyone considering traveling abroad, Parman said, “Just do it. Don’t second guess yourself. You come back a different person and the experience is absolutely priceless.”

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