By Erica Wong |Staff Writer|
Traveling 5,986 miles to a foreign country and committing to living there for an academic year is the opportunity of a lifetime.
Applying to study abroad wasn’t something I had considered until one day, at the end of fall quarter, I accidentally ended up in the International Programs (IP) office.
“This is one of the best programs you can take advantage of,” said Study Abroad Assistant Coordinator Emilio Rodriguez.
“The programs are designed to be the same as if you were taking classes right here at your home campus.”
I could choose from Australia, France, Israel, Korea, South Africa, Sweden, the United Kingdom, the list went on and on. These were places that I never thought I would be able to see until much later in life.
With a “why not?” mentality, I began the process of applying for the program. I filled out my application, which also required a statement of purpose and two letters of recommendation from former professors.
As I found out four days before the end of the quarter is not the best time to try to visit professors in their office hours and ask for a letter of recommendation.
It was such short notice and I hadn’t made a very good impression on any of my teachers.
I finally ended up getting what I needed, after thanking my sweet English professor a thousand times. I was kicking myself for not taking this into consideration in the past.
After winter break, around mid-January, I had an interview scheduled with the IP Program board. Students that worked in the office had studied abroad in previous years, and they told me I would be sitting down with Emilio, Amy, and maybe a couple of other faculty members to evaluate if I was fit to travel to another country.
As I waited to be called into the conference room, I was nervously tapping my heel on the carpet, surely annoying the girl sitting next to me.
What if I wasn’t good enough? What if they thought that I was too much of a mediocre student to even be considered for a great program like this?
I would be laughed out of the admissions process.
When I sat down, the board only consisted of Emilio, Amy, and a student who had studied in Taiwan last year.
The whole interview ended up being like any other time I would stop by the office and talk about applying to study abroad.
My first choice was Sweden, but they suggested I put down a second choice if I was really serious about traveling.
We finally decided on South Korea, because Yonsei University had one of the best programs, next to Sweden, for my communications major.
They made sure I understood to keep my grades up for the remainder of the academic year, and just like that, it was over. The only thing I could do now was wait.
It still didn’t seem real to me. I focused on school, going to work, and going about my life as if this had never happened.
I got home from school one day in March, and my mother handed me a thin envelope addressed from the Chancellor’s Office in Long Beach. I opened it, not expecting it to tell me, “Congratulations, Erica. I am pleased to inform you that you have been accepted to South Korea for the 2014-2015 academic year.”
For the next month, I flip-flopped between whether or not I should take this opportunity or stay at CSUSB and graduate at my expected graduation date.
Turns out, my indecisiveness was the reason I missed the first deadline to turn in my application to the host university.
I went into the IP office two weeks after the first deadline and two days before most of my forms were due (housing, financial data, health status report, and academic advisement).
In the moment that I was informed my acceptance to the program was threatening to be revoked, I realized just how badly I wanted this to work out.
Miraculously, I was able to schedule an appointment for my physical and meet with my advisor the following day.
My biggest issue was paying the $500 deposit. I had been shaving my legs with shampoo for the past week because I couldn’t afford more body wash. How on earth would I make $500 magically appear?
My pride prevented me from asking my single mother to help me pay for something that I knew wasn’t in her budget.
My best friend Cari Valenta ended up paying the deposit because she supported my decision and felt it would be a great learning experience for me.
Now that I’ve finally made a decision to attend Yonsei University, I’m incredibly grateful for the support from my friends and professors at CSUSB.
Personally, I feel lucky that the CSU system has a program such as this one, enabling students to immerse themselves in a different culture and expand their horizons.