International Studies Abroad Career Planning
Going to school out of the country takes guts—even if it’s just for a semester. Read on to see what it takes to apply to a foreign college.
Pick a language
What language do you want to speak if you college study abroad? Depends on how big of a challenge you’re looking for.
Choosing an English-speaking country has some obvious advantages. “You get the experience of living in another culture on the opposite side of the world without having to learn to speak all over again,” says Education New Zealand (newzealandeducated.com) international communications specialist Michelle Waitzman.
If you do decide to challenge yourself with a foreign-language school, you may be required to take a language test before acceptance—and for your benefit. The test can help you gauge how prepared you are to be immersed into international studies abroad—and a whole new vocabulary.
Prepare for change
A language challenge isn’t the only transition you can expect if you take international studies abroad.
“Many (Americans) are used to being ‘spoon fed’ their courses, and find that they have to adjust to taking more initiative, asking questions and getting things done without anyone watching over their shoulder,” Waitzman says.
Another thing to prepare for is non-stop exploring.
Students studying in London enjoy free festivals and events every day, “from outdoor film screenings to listening to buskers (street performers) in Covent Garden,” says Simon McCaugherty of London Higher (londonhigher.ac.uk). It’s up to you to take advantage of the new things to see and do.
Determine your purpose
Once you’ve settled how much change you’re aiming for, you must consider what it is you’re looking to study. After all, the first part of college “study abroad” is “study.”
“Make sure that what you’re studying will actually be helpful to your overall education and future career,” Waitzman says.
For example, Italy caters well to art students. France is popular for aspiring chefs. New Zealand is particularly good for careers in geology, wildlife or conservation.
No matter how courageous you are, one drawback of leaving home is the inevitable homesickness.
When Samantha Clay gathered up her textbooks and traveled from the U.S. to Italy, her enthusiasm wasn’t enough to fend off the initial homesickness.
“I was initially frustrated with adjustments to certain factors, including the language barrier and extreme differences in my surroundings,” she says. “…However, after meeting plenty of students who were struggling with these same adjustments, I was easily able to make new friends, and together we developed the ability to adapt and enjoy such a foreign and beautiful culture!”
Wherever you travel, you won’t be alone. McCaugherty says that more than 24,000 U.S. students study in London. So regardless of when or where homesickness strikes, it can be comforting to know that there are plenty of fellow Americans just like you outside your doors. “Studying abroad not only challenges you and your culture, it also gives you a broader view of the world and its people,” says McCaugherty.
By applying for international studies abroad, whether for a semester or all four years, you’re not only learning about your major, but also about yourself, your career, and your world.
Marissa MacKenzie Longstreet is a student at Finger Lakes Community College (flcc.edu) and was an intern for The Next Step Magazine.