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Identities Abroad
First Generation

Student Experiences Abroad: First Generation

Participating in an international experience at U-M is a chance to seek new opportunities, broaden your perspective, and build global competence. U-M offers both short and long-term education abroad programs, ranging from one week to as long as one year, which will help you fulfill your degree requirements faster than if you were to stay on campus. Employers are increasingly looking for candidates with the ability to communicate across cultures and effectively work with diverse teams — both skills that can be developed abroad.

"As a low-income first generation college student, I want to encourage others to take advantage of their opportunities and resources. I am thankful for Ross Global Initiatives for allowing me to go abroad to China and learn more about my Chinese-American identity."

"My parents did not have the luxury and access to higher education therefore have always pushed me to pursue a degree. Having a child attend college was a huge accomplishment in their eyes but once I received the opportunity to go abroad for a semester they were ecstatic. Their excitement made my experience living and learning in Milan, Italy so much more meaningful."

"As a first generation Arab American, I grew up between the American and Syrian culture. Studying abroad was an amazing experience because I was able to learn about other cultures and compare people's experiences to mine. I was able to meet and connect with so many different cultures and expand my knowledge of the people and world around me."

"As a first generation college student before freshman year at U of M, I never envisioned having the opportunity to study abroad! It was a truly eye-opening experience traveling to Europe and Latin America. Thanks to generous alumni donors, Global Initiatives made this life-time experience financially feasible."

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Planning your Experience Abroad

Use the information on this page to explore the considerations, opportunities, and challenges of traveling abroad as a first-generation college student.

You are encouraged to discuss these topics in-person with an education abroad advisor in your school or college. The First Generation Student Gateway and The Office of Financial Aid can also provide guidance and resources as you prepare for your experience.

Know your options

  • What U-M options are available for travel abroad?
  • What type of experience might fit best with my goals?
  • If there are no U-M programs available that fit my interest, budget, or schedule, how will I investigate other education abroad opportunities?


Understand the process

  • What is involved in the application process for international experiences?
  • How do I apply for a passport?
  • Will I need to apply for a visa? How do I do so?

Talk with your family and support network

  • What worries might my family or friends have about my international experience? What information might help them feel more comfortable with me traveling abroad?
  • How can I communicate the value of education abroad to my family?

Examine the timing

  • When can I fit an international experience into my academic schedule?
  • How will I balance being abroad with other opportunities I may have on campus, such as a job, scholarship requirements, and my academic career?
  • What are the application deadlines for international experiences?
  • When should I start planning for my international experience?

Consider the impact

  • What impact can going abroad have on my academics and career path?

Available resources

Your decision to travel abroad as a first-generation college student may be unfamiliar terrain for you and your family or friends. Remember that there are lots of resources at U-M that can help you plan and execute a safe and successful journey abroad.

Options for Traveling Abroad

U-M offers a variety of international experiences, such as short-term (1-3 week) programs, independent research, internships, fieldwork, semester/summer exchange, and many more that allow you to earn U-M credit, all while staying on track for graduation. Financial Aid and Scholarships are also available to assist you during your time abroad. Meet with the Office of Financial Aid to learn how you can use your financial aid package to cover costs.

Finding the right international experience to fit your goals and academic schedule

Fitting an international experience during your time at U-M really depends on when you’re wanting to go and what you’re wanting to achieve while you’re there. You can participate in programs abroad as early as your first year and with proper guidance from your academic advisor and an education abroad advisor, you can determine which programs can not only satisfy major/minor requirements but also provide the best experience that will be most beneficial to your future goals.

Information for Family of First-Generation Travelers

If you’re a first-time traveler, health and safety concerns may very well be on your family’s mind. It’s important to communicate with your family during every step of the application process and education-abroad advisors are here to help you address any questions or concerns you or your family may have prior to departure. Here are just a few points you may want to consider talking to your family about:

Vetted programming: All U-M affiliated programs have been carefully vetted by departments/units/colleges. U-M is dedicated to ensuring that students seeking international opportunities receive the same standard of education as they would receive here on campus.

Health insurance: Students from all U-M campuses who travel abroad on University of Michigan Related Travel (UMRT) must have U-M Travel Abroad Health Insurance. The good news is that most U-M programs offer health insurance, and if they don’t, GeoBlue, in partnership with U-M, has made it affordable for students to receive coverage when traveling abroad. This inexpensive health insurance plan can provide peace of mind for travelers from all three U-M campuses.

Third-party providers: If a U-M program is affiliated with a third-party provider, it might help your family to know that there will be professionals on the ground during your program to help you navigate your time abroad.

Faculty-led programs: If a U-M program is faculty-led, it might help to highlight that you will be traveling alongside a U-M professor who may be experienced in your host country. They’ve most likely planned out a detailed agenda that includes excursions, curriculum, and more!