The Study Abroad Process
While I am waiting for February 27th to roll around, I thought I might as well talk about the process of how I got accepted to Ewha Womans University. I will be as specific as possible, but still withholding some details, just because I'm not sure I should reveal them.
CAUTION: This process is not for the lazy or irresponsible. Be aware of all deadlines, forms, and payments. The responsibility is all yours, not JBIP, ISEP, or your parents'. By the end of this, you will feel like a full-fledged adult. Trust me.
In the Fall of my sophomore year (2011), the John Belk International Program Office (JBIP) told us to gear up for the unveiling of the international trips in February 2012. I already knew beforehand that I wanted to study somewhere in Asia. If I'd be leaving the country, it was going to be for more than two weeks. No where else piqued my interest. So while I waited, I started looking for schools that had graphic design and animation classes. (I had recently found out that I wanted to become a 3D character modeler for video games and/or movies.) South Korea topped the list for the best facilities and curriculum (and most attractive male population).
Finally, we gathered in Ketner Auditorium. The JBIP Office revealed the four international options (study abroad, internship, faculty-led tour, and language immersion) and countries that were open to us. Those who wished to study abroad would be dealing with the International Student Exchange Program (ISEP). I checked the website, ISEP.org, as soon as I got back to my room. There are hundreds of universities available worldwide, though Queens only deals with those with "Exchange" tagged next to them. Now that specific information was available, I zeroed in on China, Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan.
I filled out a Selective Program application well before the March 30th deadline. The purpose of it is to limit the number of students going alone or in small groups, because Queens can't send all of its students away for long periods of time. It is the simplest form you will fill out. It was just basic information about yourself and a paragraph about why you wish to do this program. I was near death during this period. If I wasn't selected, I would have to go on a faculty-led excursion to a country I don't particularly care for or remain in the US. When April came, the JBIP Office announced the placements and I had a chance at studying abroad for the Spring 2013 semester.
Unfortunately, the long paperwork trail just got started. Now, I had to apply to the ISEP Program that would essentially (based on my understanding) ask the universities I listed whether or not they wanted me. The JBIP Office required several documents in order to prepare for ISEP's placement application first. The documents included things like a photocopy of my passport, an official transcript, and a $250 refundable deposit among other things.
Please refer back to my warning again. Your stress level will be next to zero if you stay on top of everything and turn it in early. That's exactly what I did. Before my sophomore year ended (Spring 2012), I had a good chunk of the documents completed and handed into JBIP. I then preceded to spend the summer doing the most tedious part of the process.
The ISEP application is about 12 pages minimum, depending on several factors, but mine was about 20 or so. I wish I had photocopied it. There is the basic information again and a longer version of why you want to study abroad. The "fun" part was writing my academic and extracurricular goals of wanting to study at each of the universities I was interested in. In addition to that, I had to search for courses that I could take to satisfy my major and minor requirements. Finding the courses on Asian websites written primarily in their respective languages was really difficult—even if it does say you are viewing the "English" website. Start early!
Let me inject some advice in: Before checking out the courses, read over the profiles ISEP provides of the university. See what kind of environment you will be studying in, whether you need to be fluent in a foreign language or not, what kind of living arrangements are available, etc. Though pretty detailed, don't just take ISEP's word for it. Dissect the university's website and find every little minute scrap of information. I went so far as to draft a Microsoft Word document outlining information such as school motto, the number of students, housing arrangements, program dates, etc. I attached it for you below. You really want to make sure you will enjoy your four to ten months in whatever foreign country you chose. This is a serious decision. After cutting down my list to universities I would survive at, my choices were:
- Ewha Womans University
- Keimyung University
- Yonsei University
- Korea University
It just so happened that my final choice are all in South Korea. (How ironic!) The deadline for my baby (and you will spend enough love and effort on it to call it so) was August 31st, but I mailed it to JBIP in late July. Being the overachiever I am, mine was the first application received, even though worked on it from May to July. Then there was the wait for the deadline to pass and wait for ISEP to place me into one of my four choices.
I was expecting to wait a couple more months before finding out my placement. I was emailed by the JBIP Office about four weeks or so after the August deadline. I don't condone skipping class, but I sure did miss thirty minutes of it. I sat on the floor with a friend outside the office trading fears and hopes. She went in first, so I was alone. I dreaded the idea of not getting into any of my four universities, not having the chance to leave the US, like, ever.Finally, I was called in. I sat in the black chair and awaited my fate. With congratulations, I was told I had gotten into Ewha Womans University! My first choice! Man, I was so I happy that it took several more hours before the reality of it hit me and I started the whooping and carrying on. I promptly went to class and gave my teacher the news. Luckily, he was my academic advisor, so he understood my tardiness.
Update: October 16, 2012
I received a packet from the JBIP Office that included guidebooks and documents. The books tell of how to prepare for living abroad. Good stuff this is. For the most part, the documents are easy. All I had to do is read them, throughly, and sign. One of them required me to go to Health and Wellness to learn of what vaccinations I'll need in Seoul. Do not put this off. I went last Friday and knocked it out in fifteen minutes. The doctor is only in three times a week and you need to set up an appointment.
The next step required me to be the most proactive person alive. I got five Undergraduate Transfer Credit Approval sheets from the Registrar's Office in Jernigan. With these forms, I wrote in the courses I'd like to take at Ewha and look for Queens' equivalent. Once that was done, I made appointments with the department chairs to prove to the Registrar that I will get credit for these classes. In my case, I had to visit the chairs of the Art, English, and Physical Education.
One way I made the chairs' and my lives easier was to print off Ewha's course descriptions. They had a clearer idea of how similar Ewha's and Queens' course outlines are. For me, it took me about three weeks to complete. If you haven't been picking up on my advice in bold, I shall put this one in bold, italics, and underlined: Don't put this step off! The chairs are also professors and professors have lives and hundreds of needy students, too. If you wait for November or December to roll around, chances are, they will be tied up in grading and finishing up the year. Start early by shooting each department chair an email asking them when they are available and/or what times you aren't in class. This gives them plenty of time to get back to you. For example, I emailed a department chair and she did not get back to me for a week and then she was away to lecture elsewhere in the US for another week. She told me to slip my courses under her door and she signed them when she got back. You don't know what might happen. Just do it early. Lastly, my academic advisor applied his signature, approving my potential courses.
I turned the five Undergraduate Transfer Credit Approval forms into the Registrar's Office. For the moment, I was done. I had yet to figure out how to obtain a student visa, vaccinations, and official acceptance letter from EWU.
Update: October 27, 2012
I received an email from Esther Han, the host coordinator at Ewha, detailing how to apply for Ewha officially. More paperwork! I had from November 1st to the 30th (by Korea's calendar) to get the online application completed. I filled out the basic information and my dorm preferences in five minutes. I uploaded the 3cm x 4cm photo of me for a the student ID, the front page of my passport, a copy of my academic transcript, and a health form proving I don't have tuberculosis. The first three were simple. The health form took some juggling, but the final outcome was getting three of my vaccinations done at the Health and Wellness Center. They were the flu shot (left shoulder), Hepatitis A (right) and the Tuberculosis skin test in the middle of my left forearm. I had to sort recyclables in Information Technical Services right afterwards, which were all heavy, outdated computer equipment. I can't tell you how sore my shoulders were.
Update: November 15, 2012
In order to study abroad and still remain a full-time student at Queens, the Registrar's Office registers students in a "class" worth 12 credits as a placeholder. I returned to the Registrar's Office and asked if she had signed me up for me, because I could not do it myself online. I was the first of two people to have turned my packet of courses in of a total 16 study abroad students. You will earn plenty of brownie points for taking the early bird path. Over Thanksgiving Break, I will complete my final health form, upload it, and be done with Ewha's online application.
Update: December 6, 2012
Ewha sent me an email on Nov. 30 (a day after the application was due) and said I was officially, officially accepted as an exchange student! Talk about a fast response! The only thing left to take care of paperwork-wise States-side is my flight! How could I have forgotten? Well, it is a one page sheet asking me where I'm going and where I would like to fly to it from. Now I wait until JBIP's travel agency sends me some options. I'll be leaving somewhere around February 24 because of the 14-hour time difference between here and South Korea. So in the meantime, I need to find a job!
Update: December 13, 2012
I am to leave the US on February 25, 2013!! I just need to figure out this airport/luggage business....