Meet Briana Cox, our June 2017 Ambassador of the Month! In this interview, Briana offers no-nonsense travel advice, and opens up about financing study abroad and making your host country feel like home.
Briana is a first-generation college student and recent graduate from Swarthmore College, where she studied Cognitive Science and Japanese. She practiced her Japanese while studying abroad on our Nagoya Direct Enrollment - Nanzan University Program in Spring 2016. Briana has returned to her home state of Tennessee, and is deciding between moving back to Japan to teach English or pursuing graduate school for speech pathology.
IES Abroad: What does study abroad mean to you?
Briana Cox: Study abroad is a chance to experience the world from another place and another perspective, a chance to test how good you are at adapting to something that is unfamiliar at first, and a chance to make another piece of the world your home.
IES Abroad: What would you tell someone who’s on the fence about studying abroad?
BC: You're not going to hit your quarter-life crisis and regret spending time in another country. You'll probably regret staying home, though.
IES Abroad: What advice do you have for other students on funding their study abroad experience?
BC: Make sure you talk to your college's study abroad office and your study abroad program about the different funding and financial aid provided. The individual departments at your university could also point you in the direction of different scholarships available, whether it be for study in specific countries or for specific subjects. There are also things like the Gilman and Boren scholarships that are very well-known for helping fund international exchange. The Internet is your friend – researching obscure scholarships and starting a GoFundMe wouldn't hurt.
IES Abroad: How did you meet local students abroad?
BC: I attended international parties at local pubs and restaurants where I met plenty of friends who I hung out with more, going shopping or to the movies or out for drinks and karaoke, etc. I also became an English tutor to make some extra spending money, and I met many wonderful people through the group I worked with.
IES Abroad: What tips would you give a student to help them make their host country feel like home?
BC: After spending a while abroad, it stops seeming like an entirely new foreign country and starts to become just the place you live now. With that in mind, you can make yourself feel at home by garnering a familiarity with the place: Do your homework at one café so regularly the barista saves your seat and knows your drink order. Learn to dread the exact times of day when the subway will be packed like a can of sardines and find out creative alternative ways of getting to where you need to go. Find neighborhoods and parks you could wander around for hours. Learn how to tell the afternoon's weather by the way the air smells in the morning.
IES Abroad: If you could go back in time and tell yourself one thing before studying abroad, what would it be?
BC: You really don't need to pack that much. Just don't.
Thank you, Briana!
Do you have more questions about what it’s like to study abroad? Contact an IES Abroad Ambassador. They’re recent IES Abroad alums with a lot of study abroad expertise, and they volunteer to answer your questions. They’re here to help!