Written by Valerie Rosas – Fall 2023 blogger
Everyone knows when they want something, whether we choose to accept it within ourselves or to others is a different story. I have known for a long time that I wanted to study abroad when I got to college. Approximately six years ago, a close family friend studied abroad in Japan and then in Italy a little while later. Even though the friend is over ten years older than me, she has always treated me like an equal and has been a role model for me my whole life. Her experience abroad sparked my interest the second I received my first postcard from her sent from Venice. Fast forward to the strenuous times of college applications when we had SAT prep, campus visits lined up, and university-hosted events to attend, I remember when I first heard of, what was at the time, the Georgia Tech Lorraine program. That moment was when I knew that program was going to be the one that got me to study abroad.
Once that was decided, then came the hard part. The logistics surrounding the decision were a hassle, to say the least. I needed to decide what the best time for me to go was with respect to my academics and career goals. Also, who was I going to go with? Most importantly, how am I going to fund this semester? These were my main worries. My thought process for picking the fall semester of my sophomore year was the following: the first two years of college would be reserved for the more fun activities like studying abroad, joining non-academic clubs and organizations, cultivating friendships, and exploring what campus has to offer while the last two years will be geared more toward reserving the summers for internships, gaining leadership positions on and off campus, and acquiring useful skills like certifications or languages. I also wanted to see Europe in the summer, fall, and beginning of winter to get a little taste of what every season looks like. Secondly on the list of worries was who my companion on this trip was going to be. I was not, nor do I think I will ever be ready to be a non-French speaking woman alone in Europe. That being said, I applaud and encourage everyone who decides to study abroad without depending on anyone else because I think everyone should pursue their dreams without having anyone or anything holding them back. It is a matter of knowing yourself and what is best for you. There are so many people in the program that you may not have come in knowing anyone, but you will definitely leave knowing plenty of people. Lastly, the financial commitment that is associated with studying abroad is a concern that hangs over all of our heads. Administrators, teachers, and others around me told me not to worry too much about it. Scholarships and financial aid can take care of it they said but that doesn’t take away the responsibilities we as students have on our shoulders. Scholarships have to be earned and what about spending money to sustain ourselves here for the duration of an entire semester? What about bills? Or helping support our families? None of that simply stops because we are not in the country. This may not be everyone’s situation but if you are a low-income or first-generation student then it is likely this will apply to you. It did for me which is why I want others to be understood and feel related to when voicing their concern about the stress that a financial burden like this can cause.
Nevertheless, I am here. I didn’t let the stress consume me or detain me from my dream. “Where there is a will, there is a way,” could never be more true than in this situation. There will always be obstacles or reasons in your life that will make you feel like it isn’t the right time to do something like this for yourself. The problem is that it will never be the right time because nothing is perfect. This is the time to exercise those problem-solving skills and find a way to make it happen. Now having been at Georgia Tech Europe for a little over two weeks, I can tell you that there are still problems, but they are simply different ones. The trick is to not let that overcome the beauty, excitement, and happiness in all the situations you end up in. I encourage you to follow me on my journey throughout my semester at Georgia Tech Europe so you can make the decision for yourself if this is the right fit for you.