How to study abroad
Have you always dreamed about studying abroad in college? College is the perfect time to experience the world before you become a full-fledged adult with bills, a job and all that other fun stuff! Read on for how to study abroad.
Why should I study abroad?
The business world is becoming more internationally based, and it can be important for your future to get a broader view of the world. “You will make yourself more valuable to employers, so your chances of future employment are much more positive if you’ve studied abroad,” says Helen Armitage, manager of international programs at Bond University (bond.edu.au) in Australia. “You will become more independent and focused, and learn how to apply yourself.”
Not only will you make yourself more marketable, but you’ll also have unforgettable experiences.
“I met so many interesting people, saw endless amazing places and had the time of my life over in Italy,” says Frannie Coggeshall, a senior at Lynn University (lynn.edu) in Boca Raton, Fla. “I feel so fortunate to have experienced so many amazing times and such a different type of life by going to Europe.”
Noah Darnell, a student at Harding University (harding.edu) in Searcy, Ark., says the biggest benefit of studying abroad is learning humility.
During his semester in Greece, Darnell also spent time backpacking through Europe and traveling to Egypt, Israel and Jordan.
How do I apply to a study abroad program?
Once you get to college, an international program adviser can help you fill out the required documents to study abroad.
Another benefit of studying abroad through your college is that you can get help finding safe housing. At many colleges and universities, students find housing incorporated into their program fees.
“Everything from being in a dorm or residential home stays [are provided],” says Lucy DiLeo, assistant director of international programs at the Warrington College of Business Administration at the University of Florida (ufl.edu).
“It’s important to remember it’s not vacation abroad, it’s study abroad,” says DiLeo. Some of your classes might be taught in a foreign language, others in English. You’ll likely have to uphold a certain GPA in your foreign language class or submit a paper written in a foreign language.
Should I be worried about my safety?
So you just stepped off the plane in London. Or Paris. Or Milwaukee, for that matter. As with any new city, you should be aware of your safety and how to prevent your passport or other items from being stolen.
“It’s very important to be aware of your surroundings,” DiLeo says. “Guard your possessions, and be aware you are a guest in their country.”
You might also want to consider blending in with the locals as much as possible to avoid the label of “tourist” and any unfortunate consequences that might go with that. “If they are dancing in the street, go find a partner to dance with,” Darnell says. “You’ll never go wrong if you blend in.”
One of the best ways to make sure you blend in is to research the laws and customs of the country before you start packing your bags.
“We recommend that students start to experience the culture before they even leave the United States by reading books by local authors, reading magazines from abroad and watching movies from other countries,” says Nicolette Orezzoli, assistant director of study abroad at Lynn University.
Use common sense, and be smart about where you’re going. Aisling White, a travel expert for HostelWorld.com, even suggests bringing a spare wallet with a small amount of money in it in case you get mugged.
Will they treat me differently?
The majority of foreigners welcome American students with respect. “The common experience is many young people and countries throughout the world are embracing students,” DiLeo says. “They’re seen as young, inquisitive ambassadors [from] the United States.”
Armitage agrees: “We love U.S. students here in Australia! They add a great element of character and fun to our culture and to our university campus.”
Remember to keep an open mind and step outside your comfort zone when it comes to meeting new people. “One thing we do find, though, is that they tend to stick together and not diversify into the community,” Armitage says. “We encourage our U.S. students to get out and meet new cultures and make friends with people from Australia and the rest of the world. That way, their experience will be an even better one.”
Can I afford it?
Some colleges charge the same tuition whether you’re on campus or studying abroad. But that doesn’t mean studying abroad can’t be pricey. Consider the potentially higher housing fees, travel costs and the spending money you’ll need to soak up all the culture you can.
If you go on a program sponsored through your college, you’ll likely be able to apply your financial aid package to the experience. Set a weekly budget before you go, and stick to it while abroad.
Which country should I choose?
Do you have family from Italy? Have you always wanted to sip espresso and study outside at a Parisian café? Deciding which country to visit depends on your curiosity and which programs your college offers in certain countries. “I always wanted to go to Europe, and since part of my family is Italian, I decided to go to Italy,” says Coggeshall.
Wherever you want to study abroad, make sure you grab the opportunity if you have it!
“If your school has an overseas program, do whatever it takes to make it happen,” Darnell says. “You’ll never truly know yourself until you do things that push your limits—or what you think are your limits. You may even surprise yourself.”
And remember, you don’t even have to cross an ocean for a study abroad experience. Canadian colleges and universities routinely welcome U.S. students, and you may still be in driving distance of home!
What is a gap year?
Taking time off after you graduate from high school is called a gap year. Gap years are popular in Europe, and more students from the United States are using the time to travel the world. A gap year can help you find yourself and the direction you want to take for your future.
“It’s also a great time to break up your time in college,” says Aisling White, a travel expert for HostelWorld.com. “You can ponder what direction you want to take. … There aren’t many other opportunities to travel in your life.”
Many gap year travelers stay in hostels during their journey. They’re a cheap choice for a place to sleep, shower and meet other travelers.
The downsides of hostels are the shared rooms and bathrooms and less-than-luxurious arrangements. Check out the pictures, reviews and prices of a place before you arrive.