STUDY ABROAD PART TWO: I've decided to go for it? Now what?!

All aboard the abroad express! It's time for the most nerve-wracking and tedious pieces of your pre-study abroad experience. From my own experience with the CSU study abroad program, you have to apply to get into the program. And by apply I mean REALLY apply. My application consisted of an essay and two letters of recommendation from teachers (and one had to be specific to my reasons for going abroad). The essay is the reason that you really need to know why you are taking such a huge journey in your life. Make it stand out, because guess what? You are not the only one in the United States who hasn't ever left the country. If you really can't think of a good reason why that can fill up a decent essay ask yourself:

What does this trip have to do with your major? Minor?
What are your future career goals?
Have you parents or siblings ever gone abroad?

don't stress! (source)

Now that you have got the angle, start writing! Just let everything sprawl out onto the paper, brainstorm if you need to. This is an essential key to being accepted into your respective programs. What I did what take my brainstorming list and essay excerpts into my study abroad advisers and ask their opinions on what direction I should take. This whole entire process will be a back and forth editorial session with them. It may seem annoying, but you'll be happy with the finished product and form a better bond with your advisers. Although in my program you lose contact with the advisers at your respective CSU school, I found it great to still seek advice from them and keep contact. You never know if you will take another spin in the study abroad chair or actually even want to volunteer and help spread the word for others. You don't get anywhere without networking, my friends.
Alright, so now you've got the tips for the essay down, but woah--TWO RECOMMENDATIONS! Crazy. And now that I bring up this vital part, I'm going to shock you. Come up for a draft of your essay to send to the teachers you want to ask for a recommendation. There is no reward without struggle and if your teachers don't understand your reasons for going abroad why would they be able to ask a study program to accept you? Because they gave you an 'A' in class? You have to make them also feel a connection to the process, so that your recommendation feels genuine. And while admittedly I only sent a copy to one of my teachers, if I went back I would have sent them to both.
A word of caution: rejections are still an option! Just because they taught your lecture doesn't mean they want to take the time or feel like they knew you enough to write you a proper paper. Only send requests to teachers you have spoken with frequently. For example: I sent one to one of my favorite journalism teachers who took the same college path (Journalism major, German minor) as I am.

I hope that these tips serve you well in your journey. Take into account that your ideas of great essays or proper recommendations may not line up with that of your study abroad advisers. Keep going back after revisions and ask them to analyze your essay, because they know what the directors of the abroad program are looking for. Good luck and let me know how it goes!

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