The Best Four Months of My Life

December 14, 2020
Samantha Hagan

Featuring Samantha Hagan

As a teenager or young 20-something, making the decision to study abroad likely evokes a number of emotions that span from the immensely positive to the utterly paranoid – and with ample reason. There’s the excitement and wonder of traveling to a foreign country combined with lots and lots of questions. Questions about the financial viability, foreign language proficiency, safety – especially during or even post-pandemic – to say nothing of ensuring you take coursework that allows you to graduate on time.

But without exception, if you ask a study abroad alum, they will tell you that overcoming those concerns – by choosing the right partner – will allow you to have one of the best, most life-changing experiences ever.

Case in point, API Alumnus, Samantha Hagan shared her study abroad story and began by saying, “I had always heard that studying abroad would be one of the best experiences I could ever have, and I knew I needed to take it while I could. I just knew if I waited until after college, I’d be less likely to go for it.”

Samantha, now an account executive at a prestigious human resources software and services company, went on to say, “There really isn’t anything I would recommend more than study abroad. It was the best 4 months of my life.”

Deciding to go for it

Samantha decided to travel abroad her junior year of college and went with her best friend. Together, they initially decided to go to Australia, but changed their destination when they realized the program timing worked better for them if they went to Europe. Selecting a centrally located destination that would allow lots of exploring by train was also important to them. Ultimately, they decided that Barcelona, Spain provided them with a great, central location, lots of access to additional cities, and the classes they needed to take to stay on course to graduate.

From there, API, in partnership with Samantha’s school, the University of Texas, helped prepare her for her program. Samantha noted, “Our advisors were really helpful in guiding us through which courses to select. I was a marketing major and found that, while fundamental courses in the US and Spain are similar, some of the more advanced courses are very different.”

The API Experience

When Samantha arrived in Spain, one of the first things she noticed was how nice and convenient her housing arrangements were. “I didn’t know what to expect, but the dorms API selected were great and incredibly close to everything we wanted to do.”

One important feature of API’s study abroad programs is our regional directors. Regional Directors are based in the cities where our programs are offered, and act as students’ tour guide, advice-giver, emergency handler, and even therapist! They arrange the program excursions and cultural escapes, manage any on-site issues, and are available 24×7 to students in a program.

“I really appreciated my regional director a lot for lots of reasons, and, at one point, she really helped me with a medical issue. I had a medication I needed to take, and I had only thought to bring a one-month supply. When my mom tried to send more to me, it got hung up in customs. My Regional Director got me an appointment with a doctor who was able to prescribe my medication locally – she was a real lifesaver!”

API also works hard to ensure that excursions are well thought-out and provide more than just a field trip to students. Samantha noted, “Unlike other programs I’ve heard about, API put together really well-constructed excursions and activities for the entire group of us. The activities they planned kept everyone together so we were able to form bonds and lasting friendships.”

After API

Having since returned from her program, graduated from college and gone on to a highly successful career, Samantha reflected on a few of the reasons why her trip was so meaningful to her. “In my four months in Spain, I became very proficient at speaking Spanish. When I returned, I went right into an internship where a number of my prospects spoke Spanish, too. It REALLY helped that I could speak to them in their native language and instantly made me better at my job.”

In addition, between API’s planned excursions and Samantha’s own desire to see more of Europe, she visited 17 cities in her 4 months abroad. She noted, “I reference my travel in my work and personal life all the time. It’s such a great way to take a conversation with a new colleague or prospect to a new level when you can reference a shared experience or the love of different places in Europe. If I find out they have been to one of the many places I traveled, it forms an instant bond and immediately deepens the conversation.”

Got FOMO?

Study abroad programs have been on hiatus thanks to COVID, but summer and fall programs, as well as the vaccine, are just around the corner. Now is the time to start planning to get back out there and experience learning in a whole new way. If you have an ounce of FOMO, Samantha would remind you, “There isn’t anything I would recommend more than study abroad.” With API at your back to ensure your safety and security (or a refund if your program is cancelled), what do you have to lose?

Join Samantha and other API Alumni and experience a global education. See your options.

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