#KelsiAbroad – How Studying Abroad Can Help Prepare You For Life After Graduation

By: Kelsi Brooks 

I’m Kelsi, a junior Art major from Atlanta, Georgia studying abroad in Costa Rica for a second semester. I will be sharing my journey here on GoEnnounce as I explore Costa Rica. Please continue to follow my posts on Twitter with the hashtag #KelsiAbroad.

The road of scholarship in undergrad is coming to a close, have you thought about your next step? If you “feel like a room without a roof” (like in Pharrell’s song “Happiness”), you are not quite ready to leave the college life. For the time being, your friends are here. You like having a town where people know you, and a community to which you belong.

You are comfortable where you are, there is nothing wrong with that. But growing up means being submerged into uncomfortable situations. Studying abroad in Costa Rica for 2 tri-semesters helped me get out of my shell and prepare me for the future ahead.

Some of the lessons that I took away from studying in Costa Rica were that one does not have to be afraid to try something one has never done before; and when you exhibit and utilize that courage, it can propel one to more eye-opening experiences.

Living in Costa Rica helped me take steps to get out of my comfort zone and better enjoy my transition from living the average college life to traveling on a regular basis. Many “real world” lessons lied within our weekend adventures. Some of my experiences included:

1. Learning how to budget. We had to make a budget which included travel expenses (bus tickets), lodging (hostel), food (bought at the store and cooked or eaten at a restaurant), and entertainment (clubs, bars, or the fare to get into the beach or national park).

2. Planning ahead. Planning for food became the norm. Within the city of San Jose, one either paid for a taxi, bus, or walked. Even though we were at a homestead, one had to provide themselves with lunch. Therefore we were given options: one either ate out everyday and didn’t conserve money, or one bought food for lunch all week at the beginning of the week.

3. Taking risks. This helped me enjoy life and gain confidence. Living in Costa Rica for 3 months or more provided me with opportunities to experience activities that I would  not have had the opportunity to do back in the United States. I had to be decisive, gutsy, and open in order to get the most of my time while I was there. During my 6 months in Costa Rica, I helped paint a mural in the city of San Jose, went snorkeling in Panama, saw my first volcano and hiked around it, ate gallo pinto (one of Costa Rica’s national dishes), painted on the beach, went horseback riding to a waterfall in the rainforest, and danced Salsa in a famous dance club. I would not have missed out of these opportunities for the world. Now it is your turn to dream, plan, and conquer your fears.

Don’t wait until you graduate to start your “Real World” life, start gearing up for it now! 

Ways to Get Out of Your Comfort Zone

Step One – Make a bucket list of things that you would like to do before you graduate.

Maybe this list includes traveling to a nearby vacation spot.

Has the college life bound you to a specific city and you are ready to explore? Go for it! Get some of your close friends together and plan your adventures together. You are not promised to spend your whole life with you mates in college. This will be more fun and memorable with people that you love and want to spend more time with. College is a wonderful time of your life, live it to the fullest.

Step Two – Take an initiative, be mature and plan!

Let’s talk about your dreams, endeavors, and aspirations! Are they crazy? Have they been done before? Are they risky? Have you done your research? Do you need financial help?

Here is something that you can do in order to have an advantage:

Prepare yourself and listen to your elders who have already been through it. Bounce ideas off of people who are older or have graduated already, maybe they have tried similar things. They might have some advice or stories about their experience. You do not have to be a loner in your journey into adulthood. Your friends and classmates will have to go through this process too.  Be open to learn from their mistakes.

At orientation, the GC Ambassadors sang a song “Nobody Cares”. I think that it’s important to emphasize that sentiment. In the real world nobody cares. It’s up to the individual to either succeed or fail. Much like Yoda said “Do or do not. There is no try.”

—Bryan Bunn, Rising Senior Public Relations/ Advertising Major at Georgia College and State University

One cannot survive in the world by themselves. One needs a support group and one needs resources. You probably already do this, but network with people (students, professors, professionals related to your field). Find people who will encourage you to pursue your endeavors.

Anyone and everyone who might know something about what you want to do with your life. Or just people/teachers you admire. Talk to the kind of people you want to be like, and figure out how and why they got to where they are.That’s been the biggest asset for me.

— Olivia McNamara, Graduate Psychology Major at University of Georgia

Step Three – Prepare yourself to move out of your parents home.

It may not happen immediately once you get out of college, but it will happen. You do not want to be dependent on your parents forever. It’s nice, but the reality is that you will have to take care of yourself or a family of your own one day. If a senior can effectively manage his or her money and personal schedules in school, he / she will have better success in maintaining a good work/ life balance and managing finances in the real world (corporate world).

— Sarah Mercer, Senior at Texas A&M, Fellow traveling companion in Costa Rica (Study Abroad at Veritas University)

Think about this carefully – What steps do you need to take in order to help your parents out?

Do you work?

How much money do you earn a month? Is that enough money to take care of rent or a mortgage?

Think about where you would like to live after graduation.

What’s practical?

Maybe living with your parents for a year or two is an option, and during that time you work and save up for your first place. Do you like apartments, condos, houses, or are you open to living in a loft?

What dreams do you have?

There are steps to get there, do some research on it and make advances to head in that direction.

Who has a similar mindset?

Ask around your college campus, seek out an accredit organization in your field who you could give you advice on how to get there and what professionals are doing when they get there.

Last and not least, do due diligence for yourself. Do research on what you would like to do after you graduation. It’s work, but you will benefit from your efforts later. You will avoid potholes in the road that many have fallen into simply because you gained wisdom and didn’t drive down the same road at breakneck speed.

And don’t forget, live you life to the fullest. Pura vida mae! 

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