Posts Tagged ‘Learning Abroad Center’


Eric: Welcome! Benvenuti!

January 18, 2011

My name for all who do not already know is Eric Orton. I am currently a student at the University of Minnesota, studying business and marketing at the college of education and human development.

The reason for this blog is to share my experiences while studying abroad in Rome, Italy this spring semester.  I am participating in a program offered by the Learning Abroad Center (LAC) at the UofM Twin Cities campus. Seeing as this is going to be my first experience in Europe I am quite excited and nervous to embark on my journey.

So far I have been very pleased with the process of applying, consulting, and the preparation steps that the LAC has designed. Emelee Volden the Rome coordinator has been excellent every step of the way, and without her work and kindness the process would have not been as stress-free.  Jessica Hartnett handled all the details and all questions that I had emailed to her were answered promptly, and all issues were handled without confusion.

For anyone contemplating studying abroad I encourage you to do some exploring on the LAC website (  All of the pertinant information is listed clearly on the website and it is very user friendly.  Although the website is fantastic there is no substitute for face to face consultation. The LAC has convenient walk-in hours where they go over the basic need to know information about learning abroad, but if you have program specific questions and concerns it is best to set up an appointment by emailing the LAC.

If you have any desire to gain a new perspective on life while earning college credit look into studying abroad, although I have not yet embarked on my journey the process of applying and the realization that this is actually happening have already added to my character.

Well, I suppose I should continue packing and bolstering my music collection before I head out!

Ciao! Arrivederci!


Deanna: Week 1 Travel(bl)ouge

September 17, 2010


That’s right, folks—I’ve survived a whole week of Jaipur’s sticky, monsoon heat, fickle indoor plumbing, chaotic traffic violations and (gasp!) limited Internet accessibility.

As a fledgling world traveler, just being in Jaipur is exhausting—fending off beggars, paying with rupees, talking to locals, swatting flies, buying oatmeal, and, even—or should I say, especially—navigating the bathrooms here sap the energy right out of me. When 4 p.m. rolls around everyday, I fall hard into a post-veggie-curry coma.

But for every lukewarm bucket bath and near-death crosswalk “experience,” there’s been a henna-drawing mehandi party with my host sisters, a shopping trip to a local kurta tailor and a soothing cup of chai that somehow makes everything better.

So I know you’re all wondering what the heck I’ve been doing here since I arrived. For starters, I’m studying abroad through the University of Minnesota’s Minnesota Studies in International Development program, so if you want all the dirty details (curriculum, syllabi, application information, etc.), check out this out. And definite peruse the photojournaled highlights of my past week. I’ll add more pictures ASAP–swear!


Eric: Thanks & some feelings

August 20, 2010

So, I am pretty much back to my normal life. I am sleeping in pretty much every single day (not the best habit to get into before school starts). I am cooking stuff that I am used to eating, and most of all, I am living with people who can understand what I am speaking. (I’m also thankful for the working shower). I have so many people to thank for supporting me throughout my 10 weeks of studying abroad. Without them, I don’t think I would have made it.

First and foremost, I want to thank my family, particularly my parents. You really have to give them credits: what kind of parents would pay money to let their son go off on his own to Europe and Africa for the summer. I am thankful to have them support me financially and mentally while I was abroad. Most of the financial resources that paid for my program fees, tuition, and other related costs came from the university financial aid (federal, state, and school) and scholarships, in particular the Gilman Scholarship. Thanks to them, my family doesn’t have to go bankrupt sending me abroad. I want to thank the Ben Yassin Family in Fès who welcomed me to the city when I couldn’t even effectively communicate with them. They have done so much for me and I am truly grateful. I also want to thank the U of M Learning Abroad Center for setting up wonderful programs for students to attend. I want to thank Dr. M. E. White for making the Florence program the best class I have ever attended. I want to thank Dr. Ianeva-Lockney (who was my first Norwegian instructor) for writing me that recommendation letter that allowed to me be accepted to the Morocco program. Last but not least, I want to thank whoever has been, was, is, or will be reading my blog.

Now we are done with the touchy feelings, I just have a few comments. Regarding the Cordoba House to be built in New York City… I am usually not a very political person, and I am not a supporter of any political parties. But having just returned from a Muslim country, I have to say that Americans aren’t showing as much tolerance as they should, not to mention that it’s not even a mosque they are building. I walked on the streets of Fès and was never ever harassed because I am not a Muslim. There are Christian churches in the Kingdom of Morocco and you don’t see anyone having a problem with them. Yes, 9/11 happened and yes, those who attacked America were Muslims. That doesn’t mean people should generalize the entire Muslim population as terrorists and hate on them. If we can’t even tolerate a Muslim community center, how can we expect people of other countries to understand that the US is a country proud of its “freedoms” and tolerant of all people regardless of their religions? We always fear what we don’t understand, so why not use this opportunity to show that the US actually opens her arms to all religions and melt the hatred and fear that led to 9/11 in the first place?

With regard to people who are still wondering whether they should studying abroad, I say, stop wondering and go apply for a program already. It really will be a life-changing experience.


Veronica: One Week To Go

January 4, 2010

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year everybody. Since I last wrote, not a whole lot has happened. I’ve exchanged a few emails with my host mom and she seems really cool. I have a very strong feeling that I’m going to love living with my family.

I’m working on packing. I’m probably about half way done with that. I ordered a carry-on bag from Gander Mountain that’s a backpacking/camping bag, but a good size for travel. That should come soon. The hardest part of packing that I encountered was that here it’s winter and brutally cold, so I feel like I should pack for weather like that, when in Montpellier it’s nice and warm. Packing for spring in the dead of winter feels a little wrong. But my packing list I made has helped a lot.

I’m going to try to write one more post before I leave on the 11th (so soon!!), but I’m not sure if I will be able to, so here are some things to remember for when you go abroad:

  • Don’t forget that you’ll need converters for all of your cords and plugs you bring with you. Good place to buy those is Amazon. The Learning Abroad Center also sells converter kits. I’m just going to buy hairdryers and such things when I get there, but I have chargers for my cameras and toothbrush that need converting. For your laptop, you shouldn’t need a converter because there is one built in, but you will need an adapter plug so you can plug into their outlets. I got mine at Best Buy.
  • You probably should check with the airline you’re flying on for their carry-on requirements, as well as requirements for your checked bag. My checked bag can’t weigh more than 50 pounds, for example.
  • Let your bank know that you will be abroad during your certain time you are there so they know the international purchases are you and not someone else. Also be aware of the exchange rate. In France, their credit/debit cards are different; they have a chip inside, no stripe like ours. So our cards don’t work in their stores and restaurants, etc. but they will work in their ATMs (I don’t know how, but I know they do). So be ready to take out a lot of cash at once, and also find out the limit for withdrawal for your bank, and also the money they charge you to use foreign ATMs. For example, my daily limit is $500, so if I take out a full $500 I get charged $15 for that money, so I don’t get the full amount. And again, don’t forget the exchange rate.
  • When you’re going through this entire process of getting ready for studying abroad, you’re going to need lots and lots of passport photos. More than they tell you. I was told I needed four and ended up needing about ten, or maybe more. So be aware of that. You can get those in the Learning Abroad Center.
  • I think that the last thing I want to say is that this process is stressful. It is. And it’s also very scary. Right now I’m absolutely terrified, but more excited than I have ever been in my life. All these crazy emotions about getting ready-and-going are a lot. But I simply can’t wait to get over there! It’s very hard to describe. This is going to be absolutely amazing.

So, we’ll see if I get a chance to write before I leave, but if not, my next post will be all my first impressions and all that excitement!


Veronica: Host Family

December 19, 2009

I got my host family today. They seem like they are going to be really cool. I looked on Google maps to see where it was, and it’s really pretty. I can’t wait to get there and meet them and live on that cute little street with all the palm trees.

It’s kind of scary though. It’s making this feel real. I know it’s real, but it didn’t really feel like it was actually happening until now. I imagine that when I get an email back from them it will be even more surreal.

I’m nervous and excited to meet my new family.


Veronica: Financial Planning

December 15, 2009

Financial aid and paying for studying abroad is a huge thing. Save your money. Work a lot. Remember to keep the exchange rate in mind. $3000 sounds like a lot, but when you get to Europe and it’s less than that… it’s not so great. I was extremely frugal the year leading up to now and it really helped.

Do your FAFSA. That’s the first step and it’s a given anyway so I’m not going to spend time on it.

This may be different if you aren’t from the University of Minnesota, so if you’re from another university keep in mind that the Financial Aid Checklist on the Learning Abroad Center site doesn’t really apply but you can still use it to help you at at your school to plan.

So, for U people: do a FinAid Preveiw Meeting. To be honest, I didn’t really get what went on in the meeting. To me, it didn’t make sense. It probably will if you get all that accounting, money stuff. But all I got from mine was that my aid wouldn’t be all that bad. All I can say, though, is thank god for work study. (I strongly recommend working full time the summer before you go so you get a lot more money.)

Then you have to do the SACE; the cost estimate form. There is a lot of hype about the SACE and it’s really not that exciting. All it does is tell you how much you have to pay, which can be found online anyway in the budget stuff. So it’s not that big of a deal. All you do is sign it basically. But this is the form OneStop uses to calculate your aid, so in that way it’s rather important. But I was expecting some big, detailed form and it wasn’t. Wait for your aid calculation. From here on it’s just like normal financial aid, so it works no differently and I know you know how that goes.

One thing on the Financial Aid Checklist that doesn’t actually have to do with financial aid, but with finances is the Power of Attorney. The Learning Abroad Center and the U pushes for this so you don’t have to worry about taking care of paying and the FAFSA and all that jazz. My appointment with the counselor in the Legal Services office (on West Bank) took an hour. My counselor was really nice and really helpful. She walked me through everything and all the fancy terms used on it. I’m not a numbers/economics kind of girl, so I can’t describe this to you either (like the preview meeting), but it was rather painless. I appointed my mom as my Attorney in Fact. Basically what that is, is someone who acts on your behalf. They can sign things for you, sign a lease for you, manage your money, do your FAFSA, etc etc. Now, I know that sounds scary. They can control your entire life. I chose my mom because I know that she wouldn’t do bad things in my name and also because she knows what I need. The person you appoint can only do these things, however, if you tell them to, and they need to provide you with documentation of everything. I don’t think the documentation thing will be an issue with my mom, but it was still nice to know. They act on your behalf, but also on your orders.


Veronica: Academic Planning

December 14, 2009

One thing that might be hard to remember about study abroad is the study part. We still have to go to school. Basically same old life, just in a new place. So the academic planning portion of getting ready is kind of a big deal. On the Learning Abroad Center website there are lists of all the classes offered and that have been offered recently so you can look through them and see what seems interesting. When you confirm your place you have to indicate a few areas of interest. This is really just what subjects/disciplines you would want to study while abroad.

Later on you have to do the Academic Planning Form. This is when you look through the requirements of the program, and your majors/minors to see what you will have to fulfill with your classes abroad. From that, you look through that big list I just told you about and indicate classes you want to register for. You then have to get the courses approved by your major/minor/college advisors. All of the advisors. Now, here’s the thing. We don’t get to register until we get there. So I, and everyone else, might not get the classes we indicated on the form. If that happens, I suppose we just have to pick our runner-up classes we got approved, or register for other classes and email info to the advisors and ask if they will count. It seems to me to be very up in the air, which scares me a little because I’m crazy about registration and my schedule. But a lot of people I’ve talked to about study abroad never said they had problems with classes counting. So it must be okay.

This part of the process goes pretty quickly, and everyone (at least my advisors) takes it very casually, but since you’re going abroad to go to school, this really is important. Just take it as seriously as you do when planning registration at your regular university.


Veronica: VISA

December 4, 2009

If you only ever read one of my posts, this one should probably be it. Getting the visa to go to France is a really long process, and it’s kind of complicated.

The first step is to complete CampusFrance. And I’m not going to lie, CampusFrance sucks. Lots. The site gives you walk-through instructions, but they only halfway match what it is you have to do. I thought I’d get this done in an hour or so. I was way wrong. Start it early. And I mean early. It took me at least 2-3 months to do it. If you have questions, go ask the Learning Abroad Center. I did and it made it SO much easier and go a lot quicker. You don’t actually have to fill out as much as the website asks for, which is nice. It’s weird though, because I’m a junior in college, and all they wanted to know about was high school. Made no sense. But anyway… So, the first two sections are hard to do because it’s difficult to tell what it is that they want, but once you get past the first two screens, it’s not so bad. Once you get it filled out you have to wait for your “attestation” from them. CampusFrance says it takes at least 3 weeks and I think I got mine in about a week and a half. Just make sure that you follow all the instructions that you get and complete the entire thing. If you get a part wrong, they won’t tell you. They just don’t process you, and that’s that. If you have a question about whether or not they got everything they need, call them…But I’ve heard it’s hard to get a hold of them, so keep trying. I didn’t call, so I don’t know first hand. Also, you can’t go on to the next step without the “attestation,” so keep an eye out, and if it’s getting close to when you’re supposed to have it and don’t, find out about it.

Once you finish CampusFrance, make an appointment at the Consulate (in the district you live in, not study. Ex: study in MN, live in CA–you have to go to CA. New rule they made up two weeks ago), but give yourself at least a month before the appointment. I would recommend making it more than a month in advance, but not too close to your departure because it takes about a month to get your visa once you go to the Consulate. I leave Jan 11 and my appointment was over Thanksgiving break. That’s probably a good amount of time (I hope, at least. I was only there on Monday.) You don’t need the “attestation” to make the appointment, but you can’t go without it.

Once you have your appointment, make sure you get all the documents you need for your appointment. The Learning Abroad Center gives you most of them. There are some forms you have to print off the Consulate website and fill out in French. There were some questions, like where will you live in France, that you don’t have an answer to yet, so ask the Learning Abroad Center what you should write. The list of documents you need to take is on the Consulate site under the ‘visa for long-stay studies’ section, do everything as it says. They like to have copies of stuff provided along with the original.

Also, make sure you apply for the ‘long-stay studies.’ I almost made the mistake of doing the short stay one. Long-stay is 3 months to a year, which is what you need for a semester or academic year program.
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Veronica: Confirmation

December 2, 2009
Once you’ve been accepted to your program, you have to confirm your place by submitting some stuff to the Learning Abroad Center. This is all online too, but I’ll just describe it a little. There are a few parts to this, and the first part needs to be turned in 2 or 3 weeks after the date you were admitted. They’ll tell you when it’s all due.

You have to pay the University $400 as agreement to pay and confirm. It just gets billed to your student account, so you should probably do this before you’ve paid for everything to make it easier.

There is a form to fill out with your health information. Pretty standard. List your allergies so you don’t end up living somewhere where they will be aggravated. Then there is a release waiver. On that just fill in the information listed on the site. I think it’s just your name, program, where you go to school, etc etc.

You need to submit 5 passport photos, which you can get at the LAC. They aren’t too expensive. $2 or $3 for a sheet of two. You also have to submit a copy of your passport. If you don’t have one yet, just submit a little letter stating that you are in the process of getting your passport and will give them a copy when you get it in the mail. That’s what I did.

There is a form to fill out indicating some subjects/fields you are interested in taking in France. There were about seven spots to fill out. I had a problem with this because I wanted to take 15 different subjects. So I had to narrow it down, but it wasn’t too difficult. There are lists of all the different subjects/classes offered abroad you can look at.

The biggest thing you have to do for this part of the confirmation is choosing your housing. For some, it’s easy. For some, it’s not. It was pretty easy for me. The best way to be immersed in the language and culture, and learn tons more is to live with a family. I will admit that I’m a little nervous about this; I have friends who have either had, or heard, bad host family stories. Not all of them are bad though. Most are really good — I’ve heard lots of good stories too. But it’s possible to get a bad family. The nicest thing (besides speaking French the entire time) is that food is provided for you. And you don’t have to pay rent.
You can live in a dorm or apartment too. I’ve heard the dorms are really nice and all have little kitchenettes, but they aren’t like American dorms where there is a lot of socializing.  It’s not much of a social thing, it’s just a place to sleep. It is the cheapest option though. And even though it’s not social, it has good things. Cheap. Kitchen. Fresh bed sheets and stuff are provided every week (or something like that). It’s on campus.

The apartments are basically just apartments. You have to pay rent, buy your own food, cook for yourself, etc. I think you are assigned an apartment so you don’t have to look for one on your own, which is nice. I also think that the biggest difference is that the way the landlord does things is different, like instead of going to your landlord for stuff you have to find a plumber yourself, for example.

Housing is really important for study abroad, so make sure you really think it over and weigh the pros and cons. Know what it is you want in your living situation and what you want to get from it. Don’t just mark something down because you have to. Feel good and confident in what you choose because otherwise you probably won’t like what you get, which will make a big impact on what it’s like for you abroad.

Like I said before, there are a few steps to the confirmation process, but I’ll put the rest into separate posts to make it a little more relevant since it goes along with other stuff.

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