Most first-generation college students do not think about studying abroad; In fact, it is one of the opportunities that they often exclude from their college experience. Many worry that if they study abroad, they will not be able to graduate in time and/or that it is something that they cannot afford. With 55 semester and yearlong programs in 30 countries, USC grants you the opportunity of engaging in international study at any point of your undergraduate career.
Though it might be pretty frightening to venture into a country you perhaps know relatively little about, think about studying abroad as one of the most enriching and unique experiences you can ever have. You will be gaining global competence and cross-cultural understanding, all while satisfying your academic requirements. International experience is a skillset that many employers value, making you a competitive job or graduate school applicant.
Additionally, if you are not interested in semester or yearlong study abroad programs, there are many short-term Faculty-led Programs that you can enroll in.
Can I Afford It?
One of the most common misconceptions about studying abroad is that it is too expensive. Although it is certainly true that some programs and/or countries cost more than others, it by no means should discourage you from studying abroad.
All your financial aid, including loans, grants and scholarships, easily carry over to any USC-sponsored overseas studies program. Financial aid packages are reevualated for your specific study abroad period and are adjusted so that your package reflects your program’s cost of attendance. There are several scholarships for first-generation college students who study abroad, especially for those who are in high financial need. Some programs even offer you the possibility of working abroad!
Finding My Match
There are countless USC study abroad programs you can choose to engage in. Although the purpose of studying abroad is to travel to a country you are interested in learning more about, you should do extensive research about a particular location beforehand. You should reflect on the reasons why you want to study in that place and consider all possible factors that could affect your stay, such as geographical location, weather, cost of living, food, and housing. There is nothing worse than going abroad and realizing that your program is the wrong fit for you, and being miles apart from your friends and family can only aggravate the situation. Therefore, it is highly recommended that you explore all study abroad possibilities and keep an open mind. Do not limit yourself to just the programs offered by your major; contemplate the opportunity of visiting countries that will not necessarily give you major credit but a wide range of experiences instead. Also, if you know you are unable to participate in semester- or year-long programs, then highly consider one of the many experiential opportunities offered at USC. More information on additional experiential learning opportunities can be found on the First Gen Plus Success Center page.
Explaining it to My Parents
Do not be surprised if your parents express initial skepticism in your decision to study abroad. As the first in your family to go to college, they may be completely unfamiliar with the idea of studying abroad and may even find it frightful and unrealistic. The best way to educate your parents on the subject is by simply communicating with them. Let them know your reasons for wanting to study abroad and provide them with some of the following information:
- Assure them that you are not alone. Most study abroad programs usually consist of medium to large student cohorts, with many of these students befriending each other well before the start of an overseas program. It is not uncommon to find students traveling together and supporting each other while they are abroad. However, it is important to keep in mind that you may be the only one studying abroad in your program! Whichever the case, you will always have campus resources supporting you throughout your journey, such as the USC Overseas Studies Office, Academic Advising, Financial Aid, and any other resource center at USC. You can also count on the program or study broad office in your host country for support.
- Explain how you can use financial aid and scholarships for study abroad. Inform your parents that you will only have to worry about expenses not covered by your specific program. Establish a sense of security with them by letting them know that you are aware of the expenses you will be incurring and that you are willing to budget effectively.
- Share the benefits of studying abroad. Make sure you explain to your parents how your study abroad experience can open the door to various career opportunities. No matter what career you are interested in, employers look for people who have problem solving and critical thinking skills, and who are mature and flexible—skills that you can apply from your study abroad experience. Participating in study abroad demonstrates your ability to adjust to new environments and to communicate with diverse groups of people. Additionally, studying abroad can impact you on a personal level, as it can increase your confidence, personal responsibility, and independence, and help you establish diverse and life-long relationships.
- Lastly, let your parents know that they can always count on the Abroad Office for guidance and support. Refer them to the Parents Section on the Study Abroad Office website, where they can find information about your program, costs and financing options, and how they can help you throughout your application process. Information is available in Spanish and Mandarin Chinese.