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Thinking about studying abroad? Here’s how to get started.

So you want to study abroad? While the University of Maine offers a multitude of opportunities both domestic and international, all of which can be a bit overwhelming, the process first begins with a simple conversation.

The very first step in this journey is to speak to a peer advisor. Peer advisors are UMaine student employees at the Office of International Programs (OIP) who have studied abroad in the past. This semester, there are two peer advisors hosting drop-in advising hours over Zoom on Mondays and Fridays from 2:30 to 5:30 p.m., Tuesdays from 2 to 4 p.m. and Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The Zoom links for these meetings can be found on the front page of the OIP’s website. If you have difficulty finding them there, you can always email asking for a link.

These meetings are simple and informal; just sit tight in a virtual waiting room, then once your meeting begins, you can chat for 10-15 minutes about anything and everything that is on your mind concerning going abroad. 

Speaking with a peer advisor is an incredibly valuable experience when first starting out in the planning process. As students, they hold fresh perspectives on what it is like to jump into studying abroad with no previous experience. They clearly understand the kind of mental gymnastics you are most likely going through at the moment. Whether you have a firm understanding of where you want to go and how to get started, or you have no idea what you are getting yourself into, meeting with a peer advisor is a necessary first step. 

In a meeting, they will assist you in creating an account on the OIP’s website, instruct you on how to navigate the system and give you insight into different resources available to you such as scholarships. Beyond these subjects, peer advisors are open to all kinds of discussion topics. If you are struggling with identifying a country that is right for you, are attempting to narrow down programs based on class requirements or if you simply just want to talk about culture shock, peer advisors are there to help. Once all of the preliminary information is squared away, you should speak with your academic advisor to discuss scheduling feasibility. After this, you can then move on to having a conversation with an official abroad advisor.

An important thing to remember is that it is never too early to begin preparation for your semester abroad. Talk to a peer advisor as soon as possible to get the ball rolling. If you do this, you will save an incredible amount of headache for yourself down the road when application and scholarship deadlines come crashing in from all around. Ideally, you should start the planning and application process a year ahead of the semester you plan to leave, but of course, this is not a requirement. Circumstances for individual students vary widely in terms of application timelines. For me, I began the process a year ahead of time because I was determined from the start and knew exactly where I wanted to go. For some people, however, things fall into place very last minute due to a myriad of logistical factors. So, just know that while it is never too early to start the planning and application process, it is also rarely too late to pursue a spontaneous decision to go abroad. 

Are you feeling the itch to study abroad as soon as possible now? First of all, good for you. Passionately scratch that itch. Second of all, there is some pertinent deadline information you’ll need to know. 

As of right now, fall 2021 programs may or may not happen. If you want to go abroad in the fall, by all means, begin the application process now, but just be aware that there is not a 100% guarantee that COVID-19 pandemic restrictions will let up by then. As for spring 2022, the deadline for all programs is Oct. 15, 2021. 2022 summer and fall deadlines are Feb. 20, 2022 for direct exchange and March 12, 2022 for recommended programs. 

If you want to stay up to date on the latest news from the Abroad Office, follow @umainestudyabroad on Instagram or sign up for email updates on the Abroad Office website. Keep an eye out for virtual events happening at the end of this month and in early March. Since there will not be a study abroad fair this year, the aim of these virtual events is to fill that informational void. Don’t miss out!

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