First generation students are the first in their family to go to college, which also means they are likely to be the first in their family to study abroad. This can lead to special concerns for the family and friends supporting you. To help alleviate some of this stress, talk to the Study Abroad Advisors and do your own personal research. Be sure to check out the study abroad blogs written by your fellow students to get first hand advice.
Here are some things to consider as you think about studying abroad:
- Since no one in my family has ever studied abroad, who can help me answer their questions as I plan my experience?
- How will I explain why I want to study abroad to my family?
- How you will involve your family in your decision to study abroad?
- How will you keep in touch with family and friends while you are abroad?
- How do you plan to finance your time abroad?
- How will you incorporate your experiences abroad back into your life at Madison upon your return?
- How might other parts of my identity affect my experience?
Here are some things to consider and questions to answer when selecting a program:
- How can I explain to my family that a study abroad experience can contribute to achievement of my academic and career goals?
- How important is the physical distance from your friends and family? Example: Do you feel more comfortable going somewhere closer to the United States, like Mexico or the Caribbean, or somewhere very far away like India or Australia?
- Is it important to retain some cultural similarities or a completely different experience?
- Do you want a program that offers practical experience (internship, research) in addition to regular courses?
UW Working Class Student Union
Meaningful Travel Tips and Tales: First Gen Students Abroad
Diversity Abroad: First Generation Students Traveling Abroad
We ask students to share their experiences on how various parts of their identity impacted them while they were abroad in their program evaluations. Below are tips and advice given by Badgers about their individual experiences and thoughts. These do not represent all experiences in a location. Our staff is happy to talk with you about any questions you may have.
“As a low-income, transfer, first-generation, Midwest-born and -raised college student, I found that I had a very different background than many people studying abroad. I had to hold strong to a budget while others claimed they did, but could easily ask and get money from their parents. I supported myself completely with my savings, scholarship money, and loans. I took my first flight going abroad. I was scared out of my mind. Sometimes you won’t be able to travel where all your friends are going, but honestly try to stay in your host country (and try to talk your friends into it) at least half the weekends of your program. You’ll see people completely miss out on the amazing city they are living in. If you have any interest at all in study abroad, talk to people well in advance. UW-Madison helped make studying abroad a reality for me. I honestly thought there was no way I could do it with not just being a low-income student, but a transfer student too. And guess what, I am still graduating on time. You’ll be surprised about the resources that are out there, because there are people like me that want you to experience this.” – Italy participant
“Being a first-generation and low-income college student, it was difficult getting along with many other richer students who attend private school and have a lot more money in general and who were raised much differently. Using your identity as an excuse not to get to know people or to hold back is not an excuse. Everyone is equal and you need to put yourself out there and find who the good people are and who you get along with, and you may meet an amazing friend if doing so. “– Tanzania participant
“Being a first-generation college student didn’t really impact me more than it already does back on campus, and this really only impacts me in that neither my parents nor I really ever know what we’re doing, which is something I have long ago accepted. It’s scary, and you probably won’t have as much money as everyone else, but don’t let the fact that you’re a first-generation student stop you. Be a pioneer in your family. Be fearless!” – England participant
“I transitioned well and I think that’s because I knew this really was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me. Be flexible and be curious.” – Costa Rica participant
“As a transfer and first-generation college student I have learned valuable skills of adapting to different environments (pushing yourself to make friends and explore even when it is difficult, asking questions and confirming appointment times, and never shutting down your inquisitive self). Go for it! You will not regret taking advantage of every opportunity”. – England participant
“Being a first-generation college student was very noticeable. I noticed that most of my friends were in a much better family financial situation than me, which made planning some trips together rather hard. Being a heritage seeking student was very fun, and I got to share a lot of my personal insights with other students. Feel proud that you are able to take part in this experience. You deserve it!” – Austria participant
“It is hard being a first-generation college student—since I don’t have extra cash compared to a lot of the people who were a part of the program. Definitely find a group of people who have experienced some similar things to you.” – Denmark participant
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