Creating An Opportunity





“Are you sure you want to take this risk?”

It’s March 2024, and I’m sitting in a Zoom chat with my program advisor, a day before my study abroad program withdrawal date.  She was concerned that I had limited funding sources for my study abroad program. Since I applied to only a one-course credit program, I could not use my financial aid at my home institution. If I did, it would take away funding from a semester at USC (University of South Carolina). I had applied to multiple study-abroad scholarships but would not know the outcome well after the withdrawal date.   

“Scholarships are not guaranteed and the disbursement amount can vary. If you proceed with this program, you will be held financially responsible for the program cost regardless of whether you attend.”

At that moment, I truly had to ask myself, ‘Why am I doing this?’

I knew that studying abroad was a large financial risk for me and could enter into 5K worth of debt. I had no guarantee that any of my scholarship options would work or any alternative funding sources at the time. My study abroad program was not related to my major and I could have easily taken a Spanish class at my home institution.

So why go through all this trouble for a short time abroad?

I had always yearned to travel the world for as long as I could remember. I wanted to give myself this once-in-a-lifetime experience of studying and living in a different country. Hearing stories from my teachers about the rich Andalusian culture of Seville from the long 14-hour summer days, the adrenaline rush of running with the bulls in Pamplona, the melodic beat of a Flamenco dance, or the beautiful Bascilla de la Sagrada Familia of Barcelona. I wanted to walk around the streets of Spain and experience these sights myself; I wanted to admire their orange trees, watch a Flamenco show, and engage in Spanish culture.

I smiled at the thought, it was the one thing I was certain of.

 I have many distinct interests such as biotechnology, fashion, business, and engineering.  It has been difficult to navigate my many interests to funnel them into a concrete major and career path. 

Studying abroad would provide a third space for me to grow into an adult. I wanted to be in a space where I could see what I’m made of outside of the conventional descriptors of a career. I wanted to be inspired to cultivate new ideas from new surroundings.   

But most importantly, I wanted to give myself a new mindset. 

I wanted to prove that I could follow through on my word; and that if I have an idea, I can be confident that I can make it a reality.  

And that is worth fighting for.

“Yes, I would like to proceed” I logged off the Zoom meeting.

I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. I had 2 months to pay off my study abroad tuition, it was time to make some power moves.

I scheduled multiple meetings with my university’s study abroad and financial aid office. With their help and guidance, they helped me understand the many funding options available for me outside my financial package and were able to appropriately budget for my trip. 

I was able to lower my costs by subleasing my apartment for the summer to save more money.

I knew my chances were slim but I continuously applied for many scholarships. Although  I received many rejections but was ecstatic to be awarded the FEA study abroad scholarship.

With the aid of this organization, I was able to pay off my tuition and enjoy a semester of travel and self-discovery. 

I tell my experience to encourage anyone considering studying abroad. You can do this, as George Herbert says “When there is a will there is a way”. Regardless of circumstances, you can rise above and give yourself opportunities and experiences no one else can, if you only ask yourself “Why not me?”