5 Tips for Choosing a Study Abroad Program

Choosing a Study Abroad Program Tips

  • Decide what you want personally.
  • Identify what you want academically.
  • Discover how studying abroad fits into your degree program.
  • Figure out the finances.
  • Pay attention to the details.

5-tips-for-choosing-a-study-abroad-programIf you're intrigued by the idea of studying abroad, you're not alone. According to the Institute of International Education, the number of U.S. students earning academic credit by studying abroad has more than doubled in the last 15 years with more than 289,000 students participating in the 2013-2014 school year. The variety of study abroad programs available is truly amazing. How do you choose the program that's right for you? Here are five tips.

1. Decide what you want personally.

You're a unique individual with your own experiences and your own comfort zone. When planning to study abroad, take that into consideration. Is there a place that you've always want to go? Is it important to be in a country that speaks a certain language? Do you want to travel somewhere completely exotic or find a place that feels both foreign and familiar? Do you want to be completely immersed in a different culture or near other Americans? How long do you want the experience to last? The answers to these questions can help you zero in on programs where you can flourish.

2. Identify what you want academically.

When evaluating programs, consider your academic goals. What do you want to study while you're abroad? Are you interested in taking a single class or an entire semester of classes? Would you prefer a classroom setting or an internship? Do you want an experience that will help you build a network of professional contacts? If your primary concern is challenging yourself with rigorous courses, then you will want to focus on the quality of the professors. If your priority is experiencing a new culture, you may prefer a program that offers lots of opportunities to interact with locals and makes it easy to travel around and really see the country.

3. Discover how studying abroad fits into your degree program.

While some colleges and universities now require students to spend time studying abroad, most educational institutions treat it as an option. Do you need approval to study abroad? How will the timing work? Will study abroad affect your progress toward your degree? Will the credits you earn abroad count toward your degree? Will you still be able to graduate on time? The impact of studying abroad on your regular studies can't be ignored, so make sure that you consider the implications carefully.

4. Figure out the finances.

The opportunity to experience another culture firsthand may be priceless, but studying abroad has a definite price tag. Some programs may require that you pay extra tuition or fees. There are also things like travel costs, passport fees, visas and insurance to think about. Cost of living expenses can vary widely depending on where you choose to study, so picking a location with a favorable exchange rate may make studying abroad easier on your wallet. You may also be able to find grants and scholarships for certain programs. To get the best value for your dollar, take the time to research the cost of the programs that interest you thoroughly.

5. Pay attention to the details.

Not all study abroad programs are the same, so it's crucial that you check carefully to see exactly what is included in each program that you are interested in. Some offer everything that you'll need; others require you to sort out your own travel and living arrangements. Either way is fine as long as you know what you're getting and are comfortable with it. Make sure that you're also comfortable relying on the organization that runs the program. Ask for references and consider how effectively they answer your questions and respond to your concerns. Don't forget to ask about payment and cancellation policies. Taking the time to read the fine print improves the odds that studying abroad will be a positive experience.

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Studying abroad offers fantastic opportunities to learn more about yourself, your area of interest and another culture. Selecting the best program for you involves identifying your own needs and wants and considering your options carefully. If you'd like to explore the possibilities, U.S. News & World Report offers a list of colleges and universities with fantastic study abroad programs. Many schools will also provide information about opportunities.