If you’ve stumbled upon my other blog, titled “The Five Staples of Rome,” you would know that this past summer was a whirlwind of highlights I will look back fondly upon for the rest of my life. But you’re probably thinking that this unbelievable experience came at a huge cost that forced me to drain my savings and take out loans. Well, no! Not at all!
1. Fear Not, the Cost is Manageable
Don’t get me wrong, studying abroad is by no means cheap, but there are several ways for students to subsidize the expenses that come along with taking classes and living in a foreign country for almost two months. When I applied to the Viterbi Summer Abroad program in the Fall of 2016, I knew that even if I was accepted, I would not be able to enroll unless I found multiple means of financial aid. I owe a great deal of gratitude to two institutions – the Viterbi School of Engineering and the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship Program for making my summer a reality.
When I received the delightful news that I was accepted, Viterbi considered and granted me need-based aid that covered a substantial chunk of my tuition. I subsequently applied for the Gilman Scholarship, a grant program that enables students of limited financial means to study or intern abroad. The Gilman Scholarship Program is open to U.S. citizen undergraduate students who are receiving Federal Pell Grant funding at a two-year or four-year college or university to participate in study and intern abroad programs worldwide.
The combined aid provided by Gilman and Viterbi made it possible for me to go to Rome without taking out any loans. I was able to cover the costs of tuition, airfare, housing, books, and transportation.
Okay, cost aside, I must have fallen behind on units forcing me to play catch-up for the rest of my years in college.
Nope! I actually got ahead!
2. The Studying Aspect of Studying Abroad
I took two courses abroad – WRIT-340: Advanced Writing Communication, a class all engineers are required to take, and ISE-460: Engineering Economics, an upper-division tech elective for my Biomedical Engineering major. Because I took these two classes during the summer, I was able to free up units to pursue other academic opportunities (i.e. a minor in Computer Programming and the Progressive Degree Program).
Now some of you may wonder, “That’s great, but wouldn’t you rather have interned during the summer and accumulated work experience?”
No, and here’s why:
3. I Wouldn’t Trade the Memories for the World
I have come to realize that I will never have an opportunity quite like this ever again in my life – an adventure across the world with 41 other young, ambitious, curious, and thrill-seeking individuals. The collective experience of discovering and familiarizing ourselves with an entirely new culture is something we will never be able to recreate. I will be in the work force for the rest of my life and while I am excited to travel in the future, there is no way I can coordinate a trip of this nature and magnitude. Viterbi runs one of the best, well-organized, and developed study abroad programs at USC. This was an opportunity I couldn’t overlook.
I’m beyond thankful I had the privilege to take two months out of my busy life to appreciate a different part of the world. I didn’t anticipate that studying abroad would have such a profound impact on my friendships, outlooks, and mindset. I can say with certainty that the memories and feelings I accumulated while abroad in the summer of 2017 will positively shape my future experiences for the rest of my life.