Planning study abroad, juniors figure it out

By Colleen Good

It’s that time of year again. Departments are holding lunchtime info sessions. Students are painstakingly making choices, and filling out long (or not so long) applications. And then they wait.

It’s the week before study abroad applications are due. I’m a junior, and I haven’t applied yet. Neither have any of my friends, but for me, it is probably more surprising.

I was that silly freshman girl who went to the study abroad office before classes had even started-before I even knew what my classes were-and ran around asking pesky questions, looking excitedly through all of the brochures. I was the same girl who decided with her freshman roommate that we were definitely going to Venice for study abroad junior year. No way was that going to change. And I was going to figure out a way to work the system, because I just had to go abroad for a year.

But, well. it isn’t freshman year anymore. Things change. That first week, I also decided that I wanted to take Chinese instead of continuing French. The next year, I figured out that with all of the cool classes, and my friends here, that I just didn’t want to be gone as long as a year. And finally, I relented. I ditched the Venice idea for the more logical (and cheaper) China.

Those decisions were only the beginning. Because after you choose a country, you have to go through all of the possible programs. And China, the “country-on-the-rise,” is getting more and more programs all the time. So to narrow it down, I needed to figure out what I wanted.

Since I started taking Chinese, I can (reluctantly) say that I have been to every China study abroad session the Asian Studies department has offered. Now, I’m a sucker for free food, but the real reason I went was the sheer impossibility of sifting through the myriad of programs out there. It felt like applying to college all over again, only I knew almost nothing, and my parents even less.

So I went to the meetings, semester after semester, and came to one very clear conclusion: I did not want to go on the Associated Colleges of China program. I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but I knew ACC wasn’t it. Basically, ACC is a language cram school. You take hours upon hours of classes, learn hundreds of characters a week and almost never leave your dorm room. Supposedly, you learn a lot of Chinese in the process. A lot of Macalester students have gone on it. I think it sounds terrible.

It is also on the short list of Macalester’s recommended programs for China. The other two programs on the list, SIT Yunnan and CIEE Nanjing, were both very different from the ACC program, but not at all what I wanted.

Luckily, my Chinese professor was upfront with me: it doesn’t matter if your program is Macalester recommended.

You’ll still probably get to go.

If you look at the numbers, it rings true. Out of the 169 students who applied for spring semester study abroad last year, only one had their proposal rejected by Macalester. The application process really isn’t that hard. It’s obnoxious, but not hard. Basically, you have to write the same B.S. you had to churn out for college applications. Only just once. And while it’s a hell of a lot less than college apps, it’s still annoying to B.S. something you doubt anyone will read closely.

So, I found my programs. And I do mean programs. I am not a decision maker. I am applying to both. I can only apply to one on the Macalester application, but apparently that doesn’t matter either. So I’m going to go through the steps and hopefully after the silly dance is done, I’ll be going somewhere really cool next year.

I guess I’ll just have to wait and find out.

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