Event update: Spring School of Meteorology Study Abroad Meet n’ Greet

Nothing is more comforting than the knowledge that you have a support system when making a decision as big as going abroad. The School of Meteorology is big on making sure that both current students abroad as well as prospective students know the SoM is there to be their backbone. At the end of April, the SoM sponsored an event with the Office of Education Abroad to let students see first hand the kind of support they can receive. The event involved a wide range of people, from staff to prospective abroad students to students who are currently at OU doing their abroad programs. It was low-key and made all the students comfortable in a setting where they were free to ask questions and get answers from experienced people.

Perhaps the best thing about this event (besides the food from various countries, everyone loves food right?!) was the openness of conversation between everyone present. There were students from all three abroad locations on hand to give personal accounts of what it was like to go abroad. Personally, I talked to now graduated Blake Elmer who studied in Australia in Spring of 2015. I got a lot of questions answered about what it was really like to live in a different country for a whole semester. I was also able to speak with Dr. Fred Carr who is the Australia adviser for the School of Meteorology. He gave me some clarification about what classes I will be taking and how they transfer back to OU.

This event was one of the most helpful things to the study abroad process so far. I think that it holds a certain amount of benefit to the students as well as the staff because it gives them a chance to interact with each other on a more personal basis. I encourage the SoM to hold more events like this in the future and to spread the word to get more students a foot in the door in the abroad process.

Preparations: Passport Please!

One of the biggest must-haves for international travel is a passport. This is a form of identification that documents who you are and where you are traveling. Some people find the task of getting a passport to be somewhat daunting, but now with online forms and procedures the process is as easy as 1, 2, 3, smile for the camera!

The first step in getting a passport is to look at your expected date of travel in order to know how soon you must order your document. Typical processing and delivery times range from 4-6 weeks standard, or 3 weeks expedited service. Arrangements for your passport should be made as soon as possible before your expected travel date that way you are not left without proper documents when the time to leave comes.

The easiest way to apply for a passport comes directly through a government website. Visiting https://travel.state.gov/content/passports/en/passports.html provides all the information about passports and applications. This website also provides a printable PDF application that can be taken to any local passport processing office and submitted.

Passports can be pretty pricey, and as I discovered it is best to have the money for it in the form of a check before going in to submit documentation. I applied at the OU Passport office, which is conveniently located in the student union right next to the Sooner ID card office. This office specifically requires a check for the majority of the payment, as the payment must be sent the US Department of State. The OU passport office only collects the service fee, which is $25 and can be paid by credit or debit card. Costs of a passport are included in the majority of cost estimations for studying abroad listed by OU’s Education Abroad office. Getting one done as soon as possible is the best way to make sure you have the proper funds to do so as well as the time to get it processed and mailed to you.

The passport process is significantly easier than most people think and because of this ease, I encourage anyone going abroad to get it done as soon as they can. Doing this checks off one box on your preparations to-do list, and it also enables you to check off a box in the study abroad application process as passport information is required to complete the application.

The sooner it gets done the better, so take the downtime you have during the summer months and get your passport. Your wallet, your calendar and your stress levels will be thanking you as your travel date approaches!

Spring 2016, it’s a wrap!

Ahhhh dead week, how I have missed you… not really. But in all seriousness, this semester is coming to an end at an alarming rate. With final projects, papers and tests on the horizon, going abroad is in the back of the minds of many (or maybe you are going abroad this summer and that’s all you can think about. If so, I’m jealous!!) BUT the end of the semester marks a crucial milestone in the study abroad process: it gives us an entire three months of summer to prep for next year.

The dog days of summer are hot and keep us inside; its a perfect time to start the application for the study abroad location of your choice. Deadlines for Spring 2017 come up in the beginning of September, so it is best to get applications knocked out before school returns and gets crazy. Summer is also  an opportune time to get acquainted with the necessities of the location you are planning on studying in. This means researching visa needs and charges, looking at possible vaccinations that are needed, and even planning out a mock itinerary of things to do or places to see.

The time off school also provides a great chance to lessen the financial burden of going abroad. A lot of scholarships for travel in the 2016-2017 year have deadlines in the months of June and July. There are tons of scholarships out there for people wanting to travel everywhere, it just takes a bit of digging to get to them! This is the perfect time to buckle down and spend some time and energy applying for support to make your travel dreams a reality. Along with applying for scholarships, there is the other option of working and then starting to save for your trip. My personal saving technique is as simple as sticking loose change in a jar. Eventually that change adds up in a large way and can really make a difference in the amount of extra spending money you end up with.

All in all, summer is the time to take charge and make some major strides towards your goal of spending time abroad. You will thank yourself come fall when you have extra time to plan your trip and extra money to make it happen. Happy savings and have a great summer!