Spending a semester abroad was the most important experience I had as an undergraduate. In the fall of my sophomore year, I was faced with a choice. Despite having two co-op offers, my mentor and boss, Dr. Le Xie in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, told me going abroad would be a better way to spend the spring of my sophomore year.
In retrospect, I can say with certainty that going on a reciprocal educational exchange program (semester exchange) early in my academic program was the most important experience I have had. I chose to write this blog to share how you can afford to go abroad, and why you need to go now.
1. Semester Exchange is Affordable
Study abroad sounded cost-prohibitive. I come from a lower-income family and depended on scholarships and FAFSA for everything from rent to food. How could I afford to go abroad? But Texas A&M’s reciprocal educational exchange programs enabled me to spend a semester abroad while paying regular tuition and fees – the biggest barrier was the plane ticket! When I studied at Texas A&M at Qatar, housing was provided. This is the crazy thing: because I was able to sublease my apartment in College Station, I actually saved money by spending a semester abroad in Qatar. And I took a full 17 hours, so I didn’t get behind at all!
2. You Are Not “Missing Out” on Anything by Going
True friends support you when you want to experience the world! While I was abroad, I discovered my passion for adventure and meeting new people. With the money I saved by going on my semester exchange program, I traveled to Oman, UAE (Dubai and Abu Dhabi), Thailand, Jordan, and I even stayed after my program to spend the summer backpacking across Eastern Europe. Now, I am too busy and have too many professional responsibilities to spend so much time abroad. I believe if you don’t go now, you miss out on the experience of a lifetime!
3. My Semester Exchange has Continued to Bring Professional Opportunities and Shape my Personal Experiences
I put my study abroad at the top of my resume. My global experience and competency helped me land multiple internship experiences. These internships, combined with my time in Germany, helped me discover exactly what I want to pursue professionally. Senior year, I joined a new lab for undergraduate research. I fell so in love with my work that I decided to pursue a Ph.D. in the topic. I believe my study abroad experience and my ability to relate to my peers and professionals of numerous international backgrounds helped me receive my Graduate Engineering Merit Fellowship.
I still enjoy visiting my friends to learn about their culture and country. I have been inspired by so many other solo travelers, male and female, of all ages. This Thanksgiving, I look forward to taking a few of my friends home to share a few American traditions with them.
The College of Engineering offers a wide variety of opportunities to study abroad. Search programs by department, location and type to find the perfect fit for you.