Dear Honors: How to Earn Honors Credit for Being a World Traveler (aka Studying Abroad)

Study abroad sounds so interesting! I could travel the world while learning about something I love and absorb another culture–maybe even learn a language. But… it’s not quite that simple, is it? Let’s see what Marina has in store for you all this morning.

Travel Trip Map Direction Exploration Planning Concept

Demystifying the Study Abroad Experience

If you’re anything like me, you’ve heard about studying abroad in high school and came to college fascinated by this novel idea actually being accomplished in real life. Studying abroad is a foreign concept (I’m so “punny” sometimes!) that can be as elusive as unicorns or free puppies. It’s not that studying abroad is impossible, most of us just don’t quite know how one goes from randomly thinking “I want to study abroad,” to hopping on a plane and venturing across the world. Well, lucky for you, we’re going to help you connect the dots and demystify this complex situation.

So, because I love you all so dearly, I decided to make this into a nice little step-by-step guide to Capture the Study Abroad Unicorn!

  • Step 1: Have aforementioned random thought indicating that somewhere inside you there is a desire to see new places, travel the world, experience new cultures, learn new languages, etc. Alright, have you had that thought? If yes, proceed to step two. If not, well, maybe go check out our #petsofhonors on Twitter so you don’t get too bored with this.
  • Step 3: Now that you’ve wrangled your resources, take an ample amount of time to actually read through said resources. And I don’t mean skim, friends, I’m talking actual, legit reading. I know, hard to fathom. Take the time and actually do it–you’ll thank yourself later. Just take it from Danielle Marvin:

“The application process is as easy or as hard as you make it. If you stay on top of paperwork, deadlines, and payments then the process is a breeze. Being proactive stateside makes the study abroad experience so much more enjoyable. In Rwanda, I have been immersed in a culture that I had very little prior knowledge on and I can easily say that it has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.”

Once you’ve read through all the possibilities and resources, proceed to step four.

  • Step 4: Decide. Decide on if you actually want to commit to this whole crazy adventure. Decide if you’re ready to be out of the country, away from your family and friends, immersed in a new culture. Decide where you want to go, and be able to defend that place with valid reasoning for why it will be beneficial to your aspirations and goals. Decide which Instagram filter is your favorite, because you know that’s going to come in handy. Just take some time to yourself, and decide.
  • Step 5: Commit. Now that you’ve decided, commit to a place and starting wrangling new resources–every student’s favorite kind of resource–the financial ones. Studying abroad can be expensive (don’t get sassy with me, I know that I’m basically Captain Obvious for saying that) and the next step to take is to find financial aid and a realistic method to making sure that your study abroad experience is not only going to enlighten your soul and broaden your horizons, but also not leave you eating ramen for the rest of your college career–because you deserve more than just ramen. Clever idea number one is to consider a program sponsored through the university, like honors student Claire Jacobson did:

“I studied abroad through the International Student Exchange Program (ISEP), at Al Akhawayn University in Ifrane, Morocco, during the fall of my sophomore year. The way ISEP operates meant that I paid Iowa tuition, room, and board, and enrolled as an exchange student at another university abroad. With approval from International Programs, I transferred general education credits back to Iowa, but I had to go to my advisor to get approval for major courses. As for cost, all of my scholarships and financial aid still applied as usual, since I was only paying Iowa tuition and fees. The only extra costs were travel insurance and a plane ticket. I had to make sure I had some savings before going, since most of the time it’s not possible to have a job while abroad. How much depends on where you go and what you plan to do while you’re there.”

Lo and behold, mystical answers from Claire. And don’t forget to remain positive throughout this whole crazy planning experience. Another one of our amazing students, Madeline Beauchene, just wants you to know that “the process of planning and finding funding for your study abroad experience can be stressful, but the amazing experience that you have makes it all worthwhile.” So hang in there, you got this.

  • Step 6: Finalize the details, and hop on that plane to fulfill your elusive dream of studying abroad. Oh, and don’t forget to take lots of pictures with that new favorite Instagram filter and submit your pre and post experience questionnaires and the reflective narrative to the Honors Program when you get back so we can get you some honors credit, too. We like to call this lovely little process the Honors Reflection Process, and by doing it you will not only get honors credit, but you will also engage in the process of *drum roll please* self discovery…woo! It’s like getting two cupcakes for one!
    • You can find all the information you need about the pre and post experience questionnaires and the narrative on the Honors website.
  • Optional Step 7: Celebrate your happiness about finally figuring out studying abroad by petting all the dogs, all of them. Cheers to that.

Your friend and peer advisor,


By: Marina Gibbs

Majors: Human Physiology & Chemistry

Hometown: Chandler, AZ

Edited By: Katie Kiesewetter, Blog Manager

Do you have a question about the honors program that you want answered? We want to hear from you! Email your questions to with “Dear Honors” in the subject line. Questions can remain anonymous if you’d like.

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