I remember meeting up with a friend, who I lived with at University, for coffee. We were in our second year at the College and were discussing the difficulties of arranging our upcoming study abroad exchanges.
I specifically picked the University of Birmingham because it offered the chance to do a year studying abroad and I knew I wanted to live in a different country. I hadn’t anticipated how complicated it would be to organize...
When the time came to apply for my year-long study abroad exchange I was consumed with fear, doubt and lots of questions. I didn’t even know where I wanted to study, and with so many options to choose from it seemed impossible. On top of that, I needed to figure out visas, insurance, and paying tuition fees. I scheduled a meeting with my study abroad advisor at university and they were useless. They didn’t give me the information I needed to make a decision based on which university would best suit my needs or understand how to apply for visas.
I was left to do it all myself. Online search engines became my best friend, I found a lot of useful information on The Student Room and official government websites. Luckily my parents were also able to help with the research. It was very time-consuming and I often felt like I was doing it all wrong. Eventually, everything was sorted and all that was left was to pack and say goodbye to my family and friends.
My boarding pass and passport for my flight to start to study abroad
I had chosen to spend my year studying psychology at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. As I was doing an exchange year, it was required that at least 50% of the classes I took in California matched the psychology degree I was studying towards in Birmingham. I decided on Cal Poly because their psychology programme looked very interesting and because I’d always wanted to live in a warm country by the beach. Choosing this school gave me the perfect opportunity to study classes that I was interested in as well as explore a part of the world that had always intrigued me.
Sitting on that 10-hour flight from Manchester, UK, to Los Angeles, California,was one of the scariest yet exciting journeys of my life. I distracted myself by watching films and talking to the friendly man beside me, unaware that I was about to have the most transformacional year of my life.
I can confidently say studying abroad changed my life, and I’m not alone, in one study 96% of people said they gained more self-confidence through studying abroad and 95% said it had a positive impact on their world view. I met incredible people, including my boyfriend, I experienced living in a different country and I decided I wanted to spend my life travelling and exploring. I gained an enormous amount of confidence in myself and realized how much I was capable of.
However, it was time-consuming and stressful as I got no real help from my university, so what other options are there when planning to study abroad?
What is a coach?
There are many different types of coaches useful for different situations. The International Coaching Federation (ICF) defines coaching as “partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential.” Basically, coaching allows you to get clear on what it is that you want and then helps you figure out how to get there.
A student success coach can be really useful in times of academic confusion. If you’re dreaming of becoming an international student, studying abroad or doing summer school, here are 5 ways coaching could help you make that process as exciting and empowering as possible.
1. Help you decide where you want to go
Your first decision is choosing where you want to go. As I was doing a study abroad exchange, my university gave me a list of possible universities. This made it slightly easier but there were still over 50 places around the world to choose from. The process was lengthy and stressful. There are many factors to consider when choosing where to study abroad. For example, how complicated the visa process is, how easy it is to get to that country (if you’re going for a few weeks, you won’t want to pick somewhere too far away), and what the student life is like there. You may not even know how long you want to study abroad for - is it a couple of weeks, a summer, a year or for your entire higher education?
By partnering with a coach, you can short-cut the intensive research and really gain an understanding of where you want to go. Coaching can help you talk through any worries you might have and help you come to a clear and informed decision.
2. Help you organize and plan what you need to do
Arranging to study abroad is a stressful process. Whether you are doing summer school, study abroad or becoming an international student you may have to navigate official government documents and visas. It can be overwhelming with the list of things you need to do seemingly growing longer each day. It is possible to do alone, but to make the experience as straight forward and least time consuming as possible, consider hiring a student success coach. Especially when you realize last minute that you want to do a study abroad programme and you may miss the summer application deadline. A Coach will help you organize and quickly create an action plan to get you into your desired program.
3. Manage feelings of stress and self-doubt
While it sounds incredibly exciting, moving abroad for a full time program can also be scary. You’ll likely face doubts about moving away from home or if you’ll make friends. Coaching can help you deal with these negative blockages.
“We are a product of our environment. In each experience and in each culture, the more time you spend immersed the more strongly you develop a local identity and personality specific to that cultural setting.”
The quote above describes a phenomenon called “cultural assimilation.” and is a key aspect of studying abroad. Although technology makes contacting home easy, you go abroad to experience new challenges, meet new people, and explore a new country. This can be both incredibly exciting as well-being a huge challenge to overcome. Through conversations with your coach, you can understand where these feelings are coming from and start to overcome them. This means the run-up to your experience abroad will be filled with excitement and adventure rather than confusion.
4. Get useful information about immigration and educational programmes
Each country has different immigration and school application processes and it can be confusing trying to do everything correctly. Whether you’re going away for summer school, study abroad or as an international student a student success coach can help you prepare for admissions requirements and tests, gather documentation for travel permissions and visas. As well as plan travel and living and help you navigate student life. This will help make the process as stream-lined as possible and will ensure that you are not only more likely to get into the school of your dreams, but that you’ll adapt effortlessly to living in a new country.
Wearing my universities merchandise after settling
into a new culture
5. Get expert travel guidance from someone whose done it before
Whether you’ll be there for a few weeks, months or years, moving to a new country involves adjusting to a new way of living with the constant feeling that we can always go back home to our comfort zone. Each country has its own cultural and social norms and culture shock can take a bit of getting used to. By working with a coach who has done all of this before, you can fast-track the trial and error process and settle into your new country with ease and joy, really focus on what is important which is the reason you are studying abroad.
The most important part of studying abroad is to learn about a new place, meet new people and learn more about yourself. So go out, have fun and explore the world - but make it a bit easier with a coach to help along the way.
Author: Louise Baker is a freelance travel & lifestyle writer. You can find more of her work at www.routetothesoul.com