The decision whether or not to study abroad can be a difficult one to make. Leaving friends is difficult, and transferring credits can be confusing. On the other hand, the cultural experience and the independence you’ll have is life-changing. But once you’ve decided that you have your heart set on traveling to a foreign country, there are still many decisions to be made.
Pick a length
Exchange programs for high school students offer the opportunity to study for a few weeks, a semester or a year abroad. There are summer study abroad programs, exchange programs, and a few with a primary focus, such as language immersion or art appreciation.
In college, your options include short periods—a trip during winter break, for example, or a summer study abroad program. Earning college credit from these programs depends on your school and the type of program in which you enroll. Once you get to college, talk to your adviser about credits and recommended programs—before you enroll.
The most common college programs involve studying for a semester or year in another country. Some programs are satellite programs of your home university, while others are courses offered through foreign universities.
Pick a program
The most common study-abroad option is to enroll in a program through your college. Some schools send students and professors abroad for the semester, creating a group atmosphere with people from your home university.
Other schools might be part of a larger program, where you’ll be with students from other schools while abroad. You might even be able to take classes through local universities.
Or you could go abroad through another university’s program. The differences between your school’s programs and another school’s could be the countries visited, the number of students you’ll know right away, the difficulty of the program and the application process. Before signing up with another college, make sure that credits from other universities will transfer to your school.
Another option is to study abroad with a private company. If your school doesn’t have a program in the country you want to study in, requires a particular GPA, or is only offered for a full year, etc., then a private company might be the answer, says Matt Ulmer, a public relations writer at Educational Directories Unlimited, the company behind BlogAbroad.com.
“If a student is going to use a private company, he or she needs to be very involved with the school’s adviser to make sure he or she can get credit for that semester,” says Ulmer.
If you’re up for deep immersion into a different culture and language, you could also apply directly to a foreign university. If you plan to finish school in the States, then you are responsible for credit transfer, organizing your application, and maintaining a relationship between your college abroad and your home school.
Studying abroad is often thought to be the most rewarding, culturally enriching, life-changing experience you can have at college. When is there another time in your life when you get a trial period living in another country? You are a resident of a new culture, experiencing things like a native, but you still get to go home at the end of your term. The only problem? Getting there! The application process for studying abroad can be as formidable as the college application process. Here are a few tips to help you get through.
Research your options
You can go abroad for a semester, a year or for a summer study abroad program. You can go through a study program with your own school, another accredited university or a private program. You can take classes in your own language or in another language. You can travel. You can live in one spot. The possibilities are endless. See what your school recommends. Make an appointment with an adviser to talk over your options, and make sure that your choices are acceptable at your college.
Gather more info
Many schools require students to attend meetings that cover general study abroad info. Some even require meeting with an adviser to discuss the options. Make sure you attend these meetings. Even if they’re not required, they often give helpful advice on going abroad and on the application process at your school.
Pick a program
Make sure that the program you pick fits your needs and your lifestyle. Also check out the classes before applying. Do they offer classes in your major? Are there enough choices to suit your needs? Make sure there is a support system in place before applying, and if possible, ask someone who’s already been abroad—preferably through the program you’re thinking of! Also check on the housing situation and the way the meals are set up. There are plenty of options—make sure you don’t get stuck with one you don’t like.
Check the requirements
Does your program require a certain proficiency of language? When do you need to arrive? Make sure that your academic load is acceptable to the program, and check that the schedule fits into your semesters at school.
Many applications require teacher recommendations, a short essay and a transcript. Don’t wait until the last minute to apply. Parts of the application take more time, and many programs are first come, first served.
Get a student visa
Don’t forget to apply for your student visa early—it takes time to process. Make sure you have all the necessary documents such as your passport, visa, birth certificate, transcripts and other important paperwork just in case. Check on your health or travel insurance and your transportation options should you run into problems while abroad. For more information on student visas, go to: http://travel.state.gov/visa/temp/types/types_1268.html.
Once you’re accepted and all your paperwork is in order, all the hard work is done! Be reasonable about what you pack–check the climate of the region, and leave space to bring things home! Make sure you keep your valuables safe while traveling, and have fun!
So, you wanna go?
• The easiest way to study abroad is to talk to an adviser at your school. With their experience, they will be able to help you decide where to go, what to study and how to apply.
• Your adviser will be able to tell you which programs you can study without a tuition hike or transfer credit concerns.
• Once you’ve decided which program is right for you, apply early and get excited! There is no one right program, just as there is no one right location. Once you’re prepared, you can just enjoy your time abroad.