At Student Traveler and the Study Abroad Blog HQ, we are constantly bombarded with your questions about the details of studying abroad. The questions range from how to choose a host country and study program to what to pack in your suitcase. While we can’t answer every question individually, we do have a lot of the answers, so we decided to put together this helpful section to get you started, and get you one step closer to hitting the road.
It’s really a lot simpler to study abroad than many of you think, so read on, and get ready for the study abroad adventure of a lifetime!
STUDY ABROAD 101
- Why should I study abroad?
Our first answer is the most obvious: why not?
Study abroad is a great way to broaden your cultural horizons, and most programs are built to fit seamlessly into your college schedule, so you won’t miss a beat. You can be sitting at home, grinding out the week with calculus and lit classes, and then hop on a plane at the end of the semester and continue your education while exploring foreign cultures! Study Abroad is an awesome opportunity – everyone should make the most of it.
Not only will you get a break from your standard college routine, and get to travel someplace new and exciting, but study abroad can also give you a workforce advantage for those post-college years. According to Bill Hoffa of Amherst College, students who study abroad have a distinct advantage when it comes to landing a good job after school. International experience is becoming more important in the work force. Other than that, you will experience a new culture and make new friends in foreign lands- the first steps to becoming a global citizen.
- How do I get started planning my study abroad trip?
Planning ahead is an important first step. You should really start planning your study abroad semester (or year) as early as your Freshmen year, but don’t worry, if you’re a junior or senior, you haven’t missed the boat yet. Just keep in mind that many programs have sign-up deadlines 6 months or more before the date of departure and some programs can fill up fast. The best way to start is to go into your local study abroad office and see what they have to offer.
- Who can I talk to for help about Studying Abroad?
Again, your study abroad advisor is an expert on study abroad, so go to the study abroad office and start asking questions. They have all the information you need to pick the study abroad program best suited to your needs.
- When should I Study Abroad?
Whenever you want! Okay, you’ll have to decide when a semester abroad would best fit into your academic and social schedule. Would a summer session fit best, or would you rather head south for the winter semester?
Students often worry about what they will miss at home while they are studying in some awesometastic lands abroad. Just remember, you’re going to be living the life, learning French and drinking real coffee in Parisian cafes, or studying sustainable agriculture and hiking through the Amazon – all while your friends are sitting at home playing World of Warcraft and eating Hot Pockets. So don’t worry about what you’ll be missing.
Your worries may inhibit one of the greatest experiences of your life – so get out there and living.
- Where should I go to Study Abroad?
With study abroad programs in practically every country, where to go can be the most difficult choice you make when deciding to study abroad. Do your research, talk to your study abroad advisor, and ask around campus for advice from those who have already taken courses abroad. Above all, don’t stress too much, chances are, you’ll have a blast no matter where you end up.
It is a good idea to choose a location that you have some sort of connection to. Are your grandparents Italian immigrants? Check out programs in Italy. Do you have an obsessive thirst for Polka? See what programs are available in Poland.
- Where will I be living while Studying Abroad?
Check to see if housing is included in your program fees. If it’s not, see if they provide assistance in securing housing. Some programs offer you housing choices including student housing or apartments with other students. The more exciting option is to do a home-stay with a local family.
Ask about finding a host family. Living with locals is a great way to experience some local culture, learn the language, and make lasting foreign friends. We recommend a home stay for anyone really interested in immersing themselves in foreign culture while studying abroad.
- What about Semester at Sea?
If you can’t pick just one country to study in, you might want to consider studying with Semester At Sea. Semesters start at $9,275 and hit at least nine countries. You miss out on the cultural immersion that long-term study abroad programs offer, but you get to travel all over the world. Students can select from 23 general courses in business, art, communications, and humanities. Credits are transferable to most universities. Go to SemesterAtSea.com or check out Sea of Education Association (SEA.edu) for more option.
Every school has different study abroad programs available to their students and every program is different. Find out what is included in the cost of your specific program. Many programs include tuition, housing, and some meals.
If you have a limited travel study budget, you may want to consider the cost of living in your chosen country. Life in South America is far cheaper than in London, so choose wisely, and if need be, miserly.
After you pick the program and get the details, find out what financial aid options are available to you from your school. If you are already receiving financial aid for your regular tuition, you may be able to use it for your studies abroad too. You’ll definitely want to check with your financial aid office and your study abroad office to get the details.
There is usually one person in the financial aid office who is in charge of overseas financial aid – find that person! You’ll want to be able to talk to them directly.
- Can I get a scholarship to study abroad?
Good question! Many study abroad programs offer scholarship opportunities for eligible students applying through their program. Each program will be different, you you’ll want to check their website or call them to see what they can offer. Outside of school-sponsored and program-sponsored scholarships, there are few general scholarships for undergraduate and graduate students. Check out www.rotary.org and www.us.fulbrightonline.org.
- Should I get insurance when I study abroad?
Insurance is always a good idea, if a pricey one. If you’re going to be traveling for a while, you might want to consider getting travel insurance. Ask your study abroad advisor what insurance options you have (sometimes you are covered through your program) or check out Travel Assistance International (www.travelassistance.com) or Hinchcliff Internatinal Group Services (www.HIGSinc.com).
- Will I get credit for the classes I take abroad?
The obvious answer is yes, but there are sometimes programs that don’t qualify for college credit at all schools. If you sign up for a study abroad program through your school, you won’t have to worry, just make sure the courses you are taking satisfy the requirements you still need to complete.
Most study abroad programs offer academic credit through a university. As long as the program is sponsored by any college or university, and you can prove to your academic advisor that the classes fit your general education or major requirements, you should be fine.
So, make sure your general education requirements are fulfilled (or on track to be fulfilled) and that your graduation date won’t be pushed back by your jaunt abroad (unless you’re putting off graduation on purpose. Who wants to get a job anyway?).
As always, talk to your study abroad advisor to make sure you get credit for the courses you take abroad. Also, just in case you encounter any problems while you are abroad, it’s a good idea to get you’re advisor’s contact information before you go.
If your organized enough to pull it off, you should keep your coursework from your studies abroad. This way you will have proof of the work you did.
- Questions to ask a study abroad advisor:
What are the requirements to apply for your study abroad programs? Do you have schedules for this particular program?
-If not, how can I find information?
-What are the average class sizes and how many citizens from the United States are usually in a class?
-Are there outside activities or classes that can bring me closer to the culture that I am in?
-What can you provide or suggest for insurance?
-If there is an emergency (death in the family, sickness), what is your policy for leaving early?
-What does your organization do to help in the planning stages for those going abroad?
-Can I call/e-mail past participants to ask about their experiences?
well kids, that should answer most of your questions about how to study abroad, and wrap up this edition of Study Abroad 101. If you still have some burning question that we failed to address in this FAQ, please feel free to contact us and let us know.