Study abroad: What comes before

Lynn Cheikh Moussa
Associate Editor

A surge of anxiety overcomes my mind as the stewardess sends out one last boarding call to the attending passengers at the gate. At the moment, the urge for new adventures and a getaway from AUB does not seem as pleasing as it did when I sent out an exchange program application. Bittersweetness is alive and present, tears are filling, and home seems so distant despite the fact that I have not yet left.

I was drawn to the idea almost instantly, and at many times, pushed away from it as far as possible. The image of how life would look like abroad is incomprehensibly wonderful, but the only incredibly terrible part of it is getting there.

Offering yearly exchange and Study Abroad programs, the Office of International Programs (OIP) at AUB bids students a wonderful opportunity to escape present reality. The idea of it is all too appealing: the difference in culture, people, and education seems to almost physically pull you towards applying.

Preparing to leave, even if only for a short period of time, is almost always easier than it seems. Not only in terms of emotional and psychological detachment for such a temporary period, but also in terms of attempting to reach a point of absolute comfort with regards to paperwork.

Before being able to even fathom the idea of going abroad, come a multitude of tasks to accomplish. Put aside applications concerning the university, visa, housing, and all, let’s talk about the dreaded course equivalency forms.

My choice for exchange was a small media school based in the heart of Copenhagen, Denmark. Naturally, the teaching methods and school systems are extremely different than the American ones I was accustomed to. Teaching took place three days a week for six hours, and the rest was group work and assignments. People pursuing their education in this school ranged from mid-20s onwards. Credit systems vary and courses differ in weight.

I applied for the program of Media Production and Management after much consultation with myself and friends applying to the same school. The program itself carries the weight of 30 ECTS credits with only three courses, which in our regular everyday AUB life, is directly equal to 15 credits.

This should have posed no conflict, but as a direct result of difference in educational systems, it did. The concept of three courses that carry the weight of five is indeed not very popular. At least to me, this concept was strangely foreign, yet seeing as much of my experience was set out to be the same, I had to become accustomed to it.

The problem now was how the course equivalency forms were going to be done. What remained was to consult the chairperson of my department, the Student Services office, and OIP.

The process, although successful in its outcome, was rather tiring and long. Taking three courses and transferring 15 credits was not only a foreign concept to me, but also to AUB’s educational system.

It was attempting to somehow apply Danish educational procedures in an American university. It sounds complicated and truly lived up to this expectation. The process was only a fraction of the remaining paperwork left out for me to pursue. Copenhagen was known to be miles away and felt just so.

Once it all ended, all that was left was to simply get myself to go abroad. Eventually after having done so, there was very little to regret. The endless paperwork was done, and all that is left are a flight and six months abroad.

The experience itself has been spoken about by many, but we often forget to talk about all that it takes of us to reach this point. Exchange is a life-changing experience, but approach it with caution.

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