Applying to study abroad is like applying to college again, in some respects. You are, in essence, applying to study at another university, even if it's only for a semester. You need recommendations from your professors, clearance from your academic adviser, transcripts, resumes, and of course, an essay. Although applying to study abroad is usually a formality (as in, they'll take as many as apply in most programs), some applications are more extensive than others. This includes my application to study in Nairobi.
First, there are the forms. There's the application for the U.S. International University (the institution I will be attending), the application for a Pupil's Pass (document you need for a student visa), and an Academic Letter of Recommendation form. They want to make sure that you are not only qualified to complete this program, but that you will not deprive a citizen of Kenya from studying at this institution and that you have a valid reason to remain in the country of Kenya for over 90 days. I did not have to do as much for my Mexico application, simply because A) summer programs aren't as competitive and B) I'll only be there for six weeks so I do not need a visa or any permission other than my passport for that duration of time. Even though I've already completed the application process for one country, it just goes to show that things are different, regardless of whether or not you're new to the process.
Second, there are the essays. For my Mexico program this summer, I only had to write one essay, the generic "Why do you want to study abroad?" essay that's required of every program at my university. For Kenya, however, I have to complete that one as well as three others. The other questions are, "What is your definition of development?", "What do you believe a foreign person's role is on a development project?" and "What is your definition of a leader and how have you acted as one?" The essays are the most difficult, simply because they require deep thought and minimal word count. However, this is the part of the process that I love, because this is the field I am going into and it's helping me discover what I think about it. I also would love to see how my viewpoints change as I undergo this experience. I intend to save copies, so that I can read them over when I return.
Then, finally, there are the little details. There's an application fee (as with everything else), adviser clearance, disciplinary review (to make sure they don't send delinquents), a copy of your passport detail page, and a million and one passport photos. Once it's all in, it takes two weeks.
Wish me luck!