A study abroad experience will boost your resume and your personal development, but getting started can be overwhelming. Many students struggle with selecting a program, finding the funds to pay for it, and navigating the administrative requirements of international education.
Step One : Select a Program
Your first step for studying abroad is finding the best program for your goals. This may seem easy – you know you want to spend your summer on the beach in Costa Rica or your fall semester in London – but even if you know where you want to go, you still have many choices to make. Spending an entire year overseas lets you immerse yourself in the local culture and accelerate your language learning, but do you want to leave your friends and family behind for that long? By contrast, a three-week summer course can be a great option for your first trip abroad, but your experience won’t be as comprehensive.
Another important decision is whether you want to travel through your university or with a third-party service. Your school’s programs will be more convenient: They will be conveniently scheduled, there’s no risk your credits won’t count towards your degree, and you will likely have several pre-travel sessions where you can make friends and get to know the professor leading the trip. However, you will be limited to the choices offered by your school. With a third-party service, you can study in almost any country during any semester, including the summer. You can find unique programs tailored to your career goals and you can choose between living with a host family or having a private room near campus. Unfortunately, third-party services often cost thousands of dollars more than the equivalent university-led programs, and you’ll have to make sure your credits will transfer back to your school.
Step Two: Financing Your Adventure
Once you’ve found the best program for your academic goals, how will you pay for it? Your university might offer partial scholarships for its programs, especially if you choose to study abroad with your academic program. You can also earn grants from your university if you want to do research while traveling. Talk to your financial aid office as soon as possible to learn about school funding and student loans you can use to pay for your trip abroad. Also, keep in mind that some countries, like China, offer free tuition and board for students who commit to study the national language for a year, and the United States government offers free international programs for critical languages like Urdu and Russian.
Step Three: Administrative Requirements
Before you head to the airport, make sure your paperwork is in order. Does your school require travel insurance or do you want to purchase it for peace of mind? Are there any recommended vaccines for your area of travel? Do you have the visas you will need? Completing these steps can take months, so get started early. You can ask your program coordinator for a checklist and a timeline or reach out to your school’s international office.
College provides once-in-a-lifetime opportunities, so seize the moment and start planning your trip. Reach out to your university’s study abroad program for help, and don’t let anything stand in your way.