The Abroad Experience Series
Deciding whether to study abroad or not, and where to go, is a puzzling process. There is no one path to studying abroad, and we now bring you the first story of many on how you can tailor your abroad experience to your preferences. This time, Jakob will tell his story of living and working abroad, applying as a transfer student to US universities and taking SATs, and studying abroad as a part of his education at Copenhagen Business School, where he has been admitted to the GLOBE exchange program.
First Story: Jakob Klahsen
Where are you from?
- I’m from Bagsværd, a town located a bit outside of Copenhagen.
Where are you studying now?
- I’m taking my BSc at Copenhagen Business School, where I study International Business on my first year.
When did you first think of studying abroad?
- I first started thinking about studying abroad in my last year of high school where I was curious and thought it might be a cool and interesting thing to do. My thoughts did not materialize into action at this point, however. My interest in studying abroad first soared when I was taking my gap year, and this is where my journey really began.
What did you do during your gap year?
- At first I worked as a substitute teacher at home in Denmark. This was kind of a backup job as I didn’t have much else to do to begin with. Luckily, it was a very flexible job, which gave me the possibility to travel a lot. I went to San Francisco for 2 weeks and visited Stanford University. I attended classes and saw how cool the campus culture was and the opportunities it provided. I was overwhelmed by how inspiring the atmosphere was, and the weather was very nice, too. While staying in the U.S., I ran into a guy from a startup called Be My Eyes, a company that helps blind people. I started working for them part time and then went on to work full time as a programmer. All in all, I got to do a lot of traveling with my work even though at first I thought I would have been staying more at home. I ended up spending 7 months working for Be My Eyes. After my trip to the U.S., I decided to do something about my idea of studying abroad.
How was it applying as a transfer student to Ivy League / Elite universities?
- I knew when I visited Stanford that it was too late for me to apply for admission that year, as deadlines are typically in the start of January. So I could either take another gap year and seek admission abroad the year after as a freshman, or start pursuing a degree in Denmark. I got accepted to CBS, and partly forgot my plans of going abroad. It was only after I had attended the NSAC conference in September 2016 that I realized that I had to give the dream a shot and apply as a transfer student for universities in the U.S. As a transfer student, you apply to permanently change university without starting over your degree (as you cannot apply as a freshman once you have started studying at a university). Though the odds of gaining acceptance as a transfer are significantly lower than regular admission, and I had no idea how to start the process, I knew I had to do it. I started by taking an SAT for fun and then went on to spend 55-65 hours preparing for the decisive tests. I collected recommendations, studied to get the necessary grades, prepared all the material I needed and sent it to Stanford, Harvard, Columbia, Wharton and Dartmouth as a transfer student. Unfortunately, I was not admitted to any of the universities, so I started exploring different ways I could study abroad.
So, you study International Business at CBS now. Why did you choose to go this way?
- The startup-atmosphere I experienced in Silicon Valley really got to me. After my time working at Be My Eyes, it was evident to me that having a business background would be important for me in future, because having a good idea alone is not enough to make something happen. The competition for funding is fierce, and attracting consumers and developing your business are all essential skills that studying at a business school can help you improve. In addition, I am quite fond of the positive atmosphere and general mentality created by my fun and ambitious classmates. Being in such an environment has really helped me stay motivated to achieve while having fun.
Now that you’re taking your bachelor at home in Denmark, can us you tell how you will add the abroad experience to your studies?
- There is an option for everyone studying at CBS to go abroad during their 5th semester: It’s a regular exchange option with many good universities available free-of-charge, or you can go as a free-mover paying full tuition amount at the chosen university. It is also possible to apply for internships and spend a semester working. Studying International Business, however, there is another exchange option: the GLOBE program. I was fortunate enough to make the cut through application and a couple of interview rounds and got a spot on the program.
What is the GLOBE program?
- GLOBE is a tri-continental program consisting of 18 selected IB students from CBS, 18 selected students from the Chinese University of Hong Kong and 18 selected students from the University of North Carolina. The program entails that we will all travel around together and study together in Copenhagen, Hong Kong and USA for a semester in each location. It is a very exciting program where you get to see a lot of the world, and it is a study with bright and adventurous people. Also, there is basically no tuition fee, so my expenses are limited to food, travel tickets and housing. I think it is a great alternative to studying my degree abroad, and I look very much forward to the adventure!
What tips do you have for people who want to go abroad or who are perhaps studying at home but want to get more of the “abroad experience”?
- I know it is a cliché, but start early! Even if you have just started considering going abroad, my advice is that you start making a plan. Check signup deadlines for tests, which recommendations you need and when you need them (and from whom), and any other material you may need from your school. Take a look at the personal statement prompts too, and work on your answers continuously, as they matter a lot to the admissions officers. Figure out whom you need to involve in the process and start reaching out to them. And most importantly: Get a mentor from Project Access, they are really helpful. In general, the entire application process can be quite demanding, and acknowledging that will really help your chances. I wish I had attended NSAC back in 2014 or 2015, because then my chances might have been different. Timing is really the most essential part of the application process and I learned a great deal from beginning my preparation too late.
If you are currently studying and feel like you’re stuck at home, think about other options and always remember: the world doesn’t end because you didn’t get in to X University. Keep being ambitious and pursue one of the many other opportunities to study abroad, e.g. on exchange during your bachelor at home.
Trying to study abroad can really seem as a daunting and scary process, but I promise it is worth the effort. If you don’t take the chance, you will never get there. Give it your best shot and remember that you can always find a way to make your education an amazing experience.