For college students, studying in another country can be a wonderful learning opportunity and a life-changing experience. Not everybody gets the opportunity to live in a different country and learn its culture firsthand.
If you are considering a study abroad program, here are some tips to help you find the perfect one.
The first thing you have to ask yourself is, “What do I want to get out of studying abroad?” You may be enthralled with the romanticism of Paris, but studying there is not going to help your education if your goal is to become a Spanish teacher.
Also, is studying abroad something that fits naturally into your major? While studying abroad is impressive to potential future employers, you have to make sure that you get credits that count towards your degree. Check with your academic advisor to find out if studying abroad is a good fit for your major.
Remember that you are going to be living in another country for a while. Where do you want to be? Do you want to live in some quaint little town in the United Kingdom or right in the heart of London? Will you be living on-campus or in a boarding house?
Ask about living arrangements and be sure to select a country and housing arrangements that you will feel comfortable with during your stay.
You have to be reasonable about what you and/or your parents can afford. While it would be great to study French culture in Paris, it may be beyond your means. However, it could more affordable for you to study in Quebec and the experience will still be equally rewarding.
There also various scholarships and grant programs available for students studying abroad, so you might want to consider a program you can get financial aid for.
Are you comfortable enough with a specific foreign language to attend classes in a country that are taught in the native language? If not, does the school teach classes in in English?
These are all important things to consider. It is a great idea to immerse yourself into foreign culture, but it does not work out so well if you flunk your classes because your grasp of the language is not strong enough.
You should also check into the school’s academic standards. Are they higher or lower than your current school? You could find yourself bored, fascinatingly challenged or completely overwhelmed.
Do not just take your program advisor’s word for granted. Everybody is unique and what appeals to one person about another country may be a big problem for someone else.
Try to find other students who have studied in the program you are considering. Get as much specific information about their experience as possible. If you cannot find students on campus who have been through a particular study program, try searching the Internet.
Many people rave about their opportunity to study abroad in college; others consider it one of the worst mistakes of their life. The key thing to remember is that it is a very personal experience. Be reasonable about your own nature and goals, ask as many questions as you need to in order to feel like you are making the right decision, and once you do select a program, you will be able to make the most of your experience living abroad.
About the Author:
Sherri Stafford is a medical graduate student who spent a year of her undergraduate studies in Spain.