Exploring U-M’s Opportunities Around the World


First Generation Abroad

Student Experiences Abroad

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 in any case, 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.

    1. "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." 

    2. "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."

    3. "As a first generation college student and a child of Polish refugees, I had the opportunity to look up at the wall that held my parents captive during the Cold War. Even though some of the students on my program had visited Greece and the Aegean Islands before, I could watch a Santorini sunset for the first time after a long day of exploring different ancient Greek archeological sites and learning about Minoan culture."

    4. "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."

    5. "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." 

    Planning your Experience Abroad

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

    How do I start planning my experience abroad as a first-generation student

    As you consider and prepare for an international experience, use the following questions as a guide. Keep in mind that this is not an exhaustive list and you may relate to multiple identities. 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.

    • Understand the 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?

    What resources are available to me as a first-generation student?

    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. The First Generation Student Gateway can also provide guidance and resources as you prepare for your experience. Explore the following resources regarding first-generation considerations in international travel:

    Download the First Generation Abroad flyer for additional questions and considerations for traveling abroad. Bring this resource with you when meeting with an academic advisor, education abroad advisor, or other UM office.

    What U-M options are there 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.
    What worries might my family have about my international experience, and what information might help them feel more comfortable?

    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!

    When can I fit an international experience into my academic schedule? What type of experience might fit best with my goals?

    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.

    What else can I do to plan for an experience abroad as a first-generation student?

    • Reflect on your identities
      • At U-M, approximately 31% of first-generation students have had an international experience. Leveraging this network of student travelers can be a great resource to help you become more aware of new situations you may experience abroad and give you some ideas about how to navigate your specific identities in another culture.
    • Meet with an education abroad advisor
      • Many schools and colleges offer advising and support for students interested in international experiences. The International Center also helps students find international programs outside of U-M.
    • Take ownership of the process
      • Once you have chosen a program, set yourself up for success by planning as much as you can before you depart. Be sure to keep track of application deadlines, funding opportunities, and program requirements.
      • Make a plan
        • Research your host country, connect with on-campus resources, and plan how you will stay in touch with your support system while away from home.
    • No.5

      U-M ranked 5th in the nation in the number of U.S. students studying abroad for the 2019-2020 academic year

    • 60+

      More than 60 languages are offered at U-M