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How do I choose where to study abroad?

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I want to #study-abroad in many different places. How important is learning the language to go to a certain place? How do I get the most out of studying abroad programs? Is it advisable to go for more than a year? Is a semester abroad worth it financially and academically? How do I manage with costs and aid? #college

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Austin’s Answer

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Naomi, great question. Studying abroad was the best decision that I made in college and it was an incredibly rewarding experience. That withstanding, it took a lot of planning and logistics to execute. I chose to study abroad during the first semester of my junior year, but my planning started during the second semester of my sophomore year . It is likely that your school will give you the choice to study in many different places in many different types of programs. Choosing a destination can be hard given the options, but it can be refined down if you ask yourself a few questions: Do I need need to speak the language, do I like the food in country, am I interested in the culture, can I afford the program etc. You need to ask yourself these questions as they will help you refine your search.


I chose to study abroad in China as I speak the language, but China would likely not be the ideal choice for someone if they do not already speak the language/if they are unwilling to learn the language. There are many countries around the world where English is not commonly spoken and if you only speak English, then perhaps those countries wouldn't be a good fit. Knowing the language of the country you choose to study is pretty critical as it will grant you freedom and you will get more out of your time overseas. The length of time you choose to study abroad depends on the kind of program you want to do; if you are doing a language program then going for a year is the right choice, if you are just going for the academics then a semester is likely a good choice. Talk to a academic adviser as they will be able to guide you and make the choice easier. Be aware that transferring credit internationally can be difficult and you may not get credit for all the classes you take.


Getting the most out of your time overseas largely depends on the kind of person you are; if you are insular and like to stay within your comfort zone studying abroad will be difficult and will push you. If you are outgoing, like to experience new things, and are an extrovert then studying abroad is the right choice. You should be willing to push yourself and do things that you wouldn't normally do as your time overseas is fleeting and you don't want to have regrets when you come back. Try to be as involved as possible and put yourself out there.


I hope this helps and I wish you the best of luck in the study abroad program/country that you choose!!


Best,

Austin

Austin recommends the following next steps:

  • Talk to an academic adviser at your school, they are well equipped to help you and have the most amount of resources for students like you
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Madeleine’s Answer

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Hi Naomi, I work with many students who have the same exact questions as you do. There are no easy answers for your questions because there is no one study abroad experience. The best thing to do is reflect on the type of study experience you want and what fits best for you, your goals, and your comfort level. Below I list some steps that will help you begin thinking about study abroad. Study abroad can be challenging AND rewarding, so I encourage you to think about it. GOOD LUCK!

Madeleine recommends the following next steps:

  • Think of study abroad in terms of your academic interests. What are you studying or interested in pursuing down the road? Looking for programs that align with academic and career goals help you make the most out of your study abroad experience. Sites like Abroad101.com and Gooverseas.com are a good start. If you school has a study abroad office, make sure to go and see them. Talk to your professors as well. They may have suggestions about where to study if they know your academic interests.
  • At the end of your study abroad experience, what do you want to say you accomplished or learned? This is similar to the first step, but this question is a little broader. Use the answer to this question to help you identify the type of experience you want. This will help you decide if you want a program with volunteer or service-learning opportunities, an internship, or research. This might also help you decide whether you want a program that allows you to directly enroll in a university with local students or whether you want a program that helps you delve into a specific issue .
  • Start looking at scholarship databases. You could possibly qualify for national scholarships like the Gilman or the Boren. Many program providers also offer scholarships. A google search for study abroad scholarships should help you identify the databases. Go Overseas also has a scholarship database.
  • Check with your college or university Financial Aid office. They may be able to support your study abroad plans.
  • Consider learning a language while you are abroad even if you haven't started at home. Language learning will help you have a deeper cultural experience when you are abroad because you'll be able to see and understand things that you wouldn't otherwise. Also, the skill of learning a language can be relevant later on when going out on the job market.
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