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First-Generation Study Abroad: Questions to Consider

by AIFS Abroad
Diverse group of students abroad in London, England

Studying abroad offers exciting new experiences and opportunities for all students. For first-generation college students especially, the decision to study abroad will likely bring about many big changes.

Therefore, it is important that you are prepared for what is ahead, so the process doesn’t overwhelm you. The information below includes some questions designed to help you think about what kind of study abroad experience you want to have, how to prepare for life in a different country and culture, as well as the kinds of resources that you may want/need before and while abroad.

Questions about your personal experiences

When deciding to study abroad, you will want to prepare for a lot of changes. It is a good idea to reflect on your own experiences, motivations, and insecurities to ensure that you are making the best decisions for yourself. Identifying new experiences, aspects of study abroad that may be unfamiliar to you, as well as things that excite you will enable you to get the resources and support that you need to be successful while abroad.

  • What is your inspiration for going abroad?
  • Have you ever flown on a long-haul flight before?
  • How will you introduce the idea of studying abroad to your family and support network? How will you continue the conversation if they are not supportive at first?
  • What sort of support structures will help you be most successful throughout the study abroad experience?
  • What other intersections of your identity may take the foreground if your first-generation status is not recognized in your host country (race, citizenship, first language, gender, sexuality, religion, etc.)?
  • What experiences have you successfully navigated as a first-generation college student that will help to prepare you for your time abroad? For example, applying to college and securing funding via different channels can serve you well in the application and funding of your time abroad.

We know that talking to your family and support network as a first-generation college student can be an important step in your path to study abroad. It may help to have prepared resources in English and Spanish to help you get the conversation started. AIFS staff also collaborated on “A Parent Guide to Study Abroad” which is available as a pdf in English and Spanish.   

Questions about the logistics of studying abroad

Studying abroad requires a lot of planning and coordination. It is important to make sure that you have all the necessary documentation to be able to travel abroad. Additionally, you will want to check in with your study abroad office as well as other staff at your home university to ensure that college units, financial aid, etc. are in order for your time abroad.

  • Do you need to get a passport and/or other forms of documentation (ex: visa) for traveling abroad?
  • Can federal financial aid, state aid, and your campus scholarships be used toward your program of choice?
  • Do you need to secure extra funding?

Our YouTube channel features loads of videos that can provide additional information about navigating the application and pre-departure preparation stages as well as insights to your time abroad.

Questions about the cultural norms of your host country

While this may seem like a no-brainer, it is important to acknowledge that the cultural norms in your host country will likely be different from those in the United States. Therefore, it is important to reflect on how you will interact with your host community and culture while studying abroad.

  • Are there stereotypes in your host country about the different aspects of your identity?
  • If you find something to be offensive, how should you react in your host country versus at home?
  • What preconceived ideas do you have about your host location and culture?

All AIFS Abroad programs have staff on-site to support you during your time abroad. Staff speak the local language as well as English and most of them have spent time in different locations, so they understand what it is like to cross cultures. They will be able to provide information on cultural norms, resources, and be available to answer questions throughout your program.

We know that it can be overwhelming to pick a program and figure out logistics for your time abroad. Remember that we have staff, resources, and program alumni to support you pre-departure, while abroad, and when you return.

Should you have any questions as a first-generation college student who wants to study abroad, you can always email us at studyabroad@aifs.com for assistance.  

Study abroad advice for first-generation college students from AIFS

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