Senior Camryn Daniels spent the second semester of her junior year, Spring 2022, studying abroad. Here, in the first of two blog posts (check out Part 2 here), she explains the process of selecting, applying, and preparing for a program in Rome, Italy.
By Camryn Daniels
Deciding whether or not to study abroad was never the hard part for me. I always knew that I wanted to study abroad. Choosing where to go, however, took months of careful deliberation. I’m not usually a type A person, but when it came to choosing my host country, I was extremely anal about it. The IUPUI Study Abroad website and I developed a very close relationship the three semesters before my departure in the spring of 2022.
I began my research by reading each page in the website’s drop down menu: About, Why Study Abroad, Before You Apply, Apply to a Program, Prepare for Your Departure, After Your Return, Develop & Administer a Program, iAbroad, and For Parents. Then, I narrowed down which areas I was even remotely interested in. I scoured through the “Your Degree and Study Abroad” page. I knew I wanted to do a semester, as opposed to a spring break or summer break session, so I only considered semester-long programs. This really helped me in the decision-making process. Because I was a Global and International Studies (GIS) major when I began searching for programs, I looked through those specifically. I focused on searching through each region’s programs because I felt that I would be looking through a broader scope of programs, rather than searching by thematic concentration or languages. I also watched several study abroad vlogs in various countries on YouTube, especially those made by Black women.
After a summer and a fall of reading and rereading every page of the study abroad website, I had narrowed it down to two countries: Italy and Greece. But, also by this point, I had changed my major to Journalism and Public Relations. I didn’t want to go to England to take journalism courses because of the exchange rate, and I didn’t want to go to Spain to do a journalism internship – mostly because my conversational Spanish was/is very poor, hence why I dropped my Spanish minor.
Luckily, I realized that I didn’t have to figure this out on my own. I set up an appointment with my academic advisor to ask for her help. I learned that it wasn’t a problem if my program didn’t necessarily align with my current major because many of the required credits I had completed in high school and freshman year of college, coincidentally. Another coincidence was that I completed enough requirements for GIS to almost have a minor. My advisor let me know that the courses I took abroad could allow me to complete this minor. Additionally, I am working on my Museum Studies Certificate, and both Greece and Italy have an abundance of history and museums. So, I took it as divine intervention that I should go to one of these countries. Why else would it have worked out so perfectly? It was the spring semester of 2021, and I was in the final stages of deciding where to study. I just needed to pick one of two countries, then a city, then a program. I got in contact with the study abroad advisor at IU to ask some general questions, which helped me immensely. It was a close decision between Athens, Florence, and Rome, but I ultimately chose Rome because I’m a very picky eater and I know for a fact that I could survive off of pasta and pizza for four months (I was right but I said survive, not thrive).
After deciding on Rome, I looked even closer into the program offered through IU: IES Abroad. I read through their website, their classes, the syllabi, the student blogs, the student vlogs, and their housing options. I had another meeting with the study abroad advisor from IU where we spoke more in depth about studying in Rome; he told me when to apply and the steps that would follow. Over summer, I worked a lot to save money for my semester abroad, and then when fall semester came, I started my application. I applied for scholarships, collected letters of recommendation, filled out forms, and wrote a personal statement.
Once I was accepted by both IU and IES Abroad, first I did a little happy dance, then I began my student visa process. This, and I am not exaggerating at all, was the most frustrating and painstaking process of my entire life. If you plan to study abroad, I beg you to start everything as soon as you can. There are several requirements and strict deadlines regarding student visas, and if any are missed, they can and will derail your plans to study abroad. Luckily, the Office of Study Abroad at IU and IUPUI are willing and ready to help you however they can. By the grace of God, I finished my visa on time, submitted it to the consulate via my program, and it was approved. Months later, it came to my house in the mail. I scanned it, then put it in my study abroad documents folder and did not touch it again until I was headed to the airport.
To prepare to study abroad, I had to make sure my passport was valid, file a consortium agreement, get a doctor to sign that I was healthy, prove I would pay the bill for studying abroad (~$16,000), buy my plane tickets and promise the Italian government that I did, indeed, plan to return to the US after my program concluded, and several other tedious things. I made a to-do list which was probably responsible for me not spiraling, and slowly but surely crossed everything off. I made a list of what to pack, what to buy, and what not to buy until I got to Rome. Near the end of the fall ’21 semester, I applied for housing in Rome. I applied to live in an apartment with three to five other roommates instead of just one roommate. My reasoning was that if I hated my roommate or she hated me, I would have two to four other ones to befriend.
Once the fall semester ended, all I had to do was wait and hope I didn’t catch Covid-19 (positive test = no Rome). I worked 30 hours a week until three weeks before the program’s start date, and then quarantined with my fingers, legs, and toes crossed, hoping there were no insane spikes in cases that would cause the program to be canceled. The days passed like molasses, but eventually it was Jan. 30. I woke up early, packed my suitcases into the car, and quadruple checked that I had all my documents, copies of my documents, my passport, my license and my wallet. I got a rapid Covid-19 test and went to the airport. I submitted my negative results, checked my bag, and said goodbye to my parents. I went through security, crying and snotting into my mask, and 20 hours later, I landed at Leonardo da Vinci International Airport in Rome, Italy.
Check out Part 2 of Camryn’s blog — “It Wasn’t Perfect, But It Was Ours” — on our Media Matters blog.