College is a time in your life that will most likely be filled with incredible experiences and memories. It’s a stage in life where EVERYTHING about what you know is changing and this is a good thing, even if it feels challenging or difficult at times.
Embrace the opportunities that arise and let them fill your life with new and unexpected adventures.
Speaking of adventures, one of the best things you can experience during your time as a college student is a study abroad program. You get to travel, feel the liberation of independence and earn college credit.
You will undoubtedly learn a lot during your college years but, there are more important things than studying hard and getting good grades. There are certain things that you will experience while studying abroad that simply cannot be taught in a classroom.
For anyone interested in studying abroad, here are my tips on finding the best study abroad program!
Why Study Abroad?
First, ask yourself what you hope to gain from a study abroad experience. Once you determine what the long-term goals of study abroad are for you personally you will be able to choose a program that’s best suited for your personal interests.
Are you just looking for a good time? Or, is this something you hope to gain professional experience from?
Professional & Educational Goals
You’re going to find that you have a lot of goals that you want to accomplish by the time you’re a college graduate. If you are studying abroad for college credit and professional experience, your study abroad goals deserve the same planning.
Studying abroad in a program and country that compliments your major looks impressive on a resume and makes you a more globally-minded candidate to employers. Especially if you’re adding a second language to your repertoire.
If you have any interest in working for a major corporation, a global brand or maybe even becoming a travel writer *insert wink here* cultural experience is essential.
Your competition includes people from all over the world, not just your community.
Where to Study
Some of us may already have our hearts set on a destination. But, it’s important to realize that not all programs complete course requirements for your major and not all programs are available in every destination.
So, if you have a certain country in mind or a destination that you absolutely have to go to, do some serious research to find out if there is study abroad program there that fits your studies.
Weigh up how important culture, language immersion and the course offerings are for you and make sure you find a program and a destination that will tick all of your boxes.
When you’re going to study abroad there isn’t just a one-size-fits-all. There are SO many programs available that can fit in with just about any schedule.
Are you interested in doing a semester abroad, or a full year? Would you prefer a summer program, or perhaps a short-term internship?
I worked full-time through college to pay for school so I couldn’t take much time off to study abroad for a full semester. Instead, I saved up for a month-long Spanish immersion program in Spain between Spring and Fall semesters.
I lived with a local family, became conversationally fluent in Spanish and earned 9 college units to complete my language requirement for my Business Finance degree.
While I would have loved to do something like Semester at Sea, I did what was best for me within my budget and had the time of my life.
The next step is to determine whether a study abroad program compliments your major or not. At the end of the day, you want to choose something that will benefit your area of study and fulfill your academic requirements. You don’t want to return home and find that your study abroad credits don’t count towards your college degree.
This is an opportunity to make your time abroad fulfilling and worthwhile.
Study abroad programs are a fantastic way to get you out of your comfort zone and reach your full potential. While researching the best program for you, take note of what social networking opportunities and extra-curricular activities are available to you.
I was able to enjoy travel excursions on the weekends during my program which enabled me to see a LOT of Spain in one month’s time.
Things like housing may vary with different programs. You might be living in a dorm with other students or with a local family depending on the program.
Housing can play a big part in your study abroad experience. I was able to live with local families during my time in Spain and it awarded me a culturally enriching experience.
By living with locals, I was fully immersed in the Spanish language and culture.
Some schools work with exchange programs where there is no additional cost to study abroad than for normal tuition. There are even study abroad scholarships within certain majors and at different schools.
Research the options at your university and also at local community colleges to see what is available to you within your budget. Each program comes with different costs, whether it’s tuition, flights, cost of living or accommodation.
Keep in mind that you are essentially funding what could very be one of the most important life experiences you will ever have and that is priceless.