Study Abroad Update

For those of you who don't already know, I received an email a couple weeks ago informing me that my ISEP (International Student Exchange Programs) application was accepted!  This means, that my application will be reviewed for the exchange program, and if I am not able to get in, I will be placed into the direct study program. 

What's the difference?
Basically, the difference between the exchange and the direct program is the cost.  In the exchange program, I would "trade places" with a student at Massey University in Palmerston North (or Palmy North, as the Kiwi call it).  They would attend school here, I would attend school there, and we would each pay our home university. The benefit of this program is that my scholarships can be directly applied to the student's tuition and fees with little hassle. Also, I would only have to come up with money for a plane ticket and spending money for travel, as everything else would be paid for. The direct program, on the other hand, is slightly more expensive. My scholarships will still be applied, but are not quite enough to cover all the costs. Along with the plane ticket, travel expenses, and extra cash, I will also need to come up with a couple thousand dollars to pay the rest of my tuition. Either way, I'll still be attending the same university in New Zealand, and I would have the same wonderful experience. 

Can't I just choose the exchange program?
It's really not as simple as that. I can easily choose to be a part of the direct program, but because of how cheap and easy the exchange program is, the application process is way more competitive.  It is given based on need, GPA, campus involvement, and the application essay. (My advisor believes that I have a good shot at getting in because of my grades and my part in the honors program here.) Still, there is always a chance that I won't get in.  Because I will only be a sophomore at the time of this program, the ISEP might choose to give the exchange slots to a rising junior or senior, simply because they don't have as much time left to study abroad. Hypothetically, I have three more years left, while they only have less than one or two. 

What happens next?
Now, the real waiting begins. In 2-8 weeks, I will find out exactly what program I am going to be placed in. After that happens, I will begin applying for my visa, booking flights, officially choosing classes, and so on. Until then, I will continue to apply for scholarships to help with travel costs. The good thing about most study abroad scholarships is that the organizations usually give you a check, instead of sending the money through your university.  This way, the money can simply be used for travel expenses or visa fees. I've already applied for four or five scholarships, but I'm not going to stop applying for scholarships until I find out what program I'm in. (A little extra cash is always good!)

Five months from now, I will be beginning this adventure in New Zealand, and I can't express how excited I am to have this opportunity! Not everyone is as blessed as I am, and I'm so thankful for the abilities and gifts that God gave me. I struggled for a long time about whether or not I'm doing the right thing, but God clearly showed me that I am. (At one time, I had some extreme inner turmoil about college itself! But, that's another story.) I'm grateful for the peace He has given me about my decisions, and I know that I am right where He wants me to be. 


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