Careful planning and research can yield opportunities that you’ll never forget.
By Melissa Santley
If you are interested in taking your college experience to another level, why not consider studying abroad? The benefits of studying abroad are immeasurable, and will allow doors of opportunities to fly open considering your academic, cultural, professional and social itineraries.
Experience overseas makes you more independent, provides personal growth and gives you an appreciation of cultural differences –all while enhancing your resume. Prospective employers, along with graduate schools and scholarship committees, realize how valuable international experience is.
Once you have decided to study abroad, strategic and in-depth research into the wide range of study abroad programs are necessary. Give yourself approximately one year to consider all your options before you want to depart. For the hundreds of existing study abroad programs, there are various ways of researching the ones that suit your tangible academic requirements.
Where To Begin Your Search
The first place your program search should take you is the study abroad office at your university. Get acquainted with an advisor and peruse over all the study abroad program literature. Inquire about reading the student evaluation forms on specific programs that appeal to you.
Talk with returned students about their experiences with an international program. The Internet is a wonderful resource for all your investigative inquiries. If no programs appear reasonable to you, investigate study abroad programs with another school. Your study abroad options are not limited to the programs with their university. Look up what other schools have to offer for their international programs, and send away for as much information you can to give you a full range of options.
Where and What to Study
Where do you want to go and what do you want to do? Sounds like an easy question, but once you realize the numerous opportunities right at your fingertips, this question could feel a little overwhelming. Instead of learning a foreign language at home, why not live where they speak it, and get all your university’s foreign language requirements out of the way with one semester abroad? You can basically study anything and anywhere from business to science and from Russia to Costa Rica.
Ways To Study Abroad
One possibility is to directly enroll in the foreign university, provided that the institution is accredited to offer academic degrees in its country. Your domestic university may require a U.S. or foreign accreditation to allow for the transfer of credits. Many study abroad programs concentrate on specific majors, keeping all the coursework in English. The Peterson’s website, allows you to search for international programs that are created for specific majors. You will acquire a new perspective on your major if you study it in another country. If you are contemplating learning a new language, there are countless overseas foreign language programs offered by schools all over the United States. Be aware that if you study abroad in a non-English speaking country, prior foreign language classes might be necessary in the host country’s native language.
Narrowing Your Options
Now that you have seen what are out there in the field of international study abroad programs, start to assess which programs realistically fit into your academic, language and economic boundaries. Take into consideration how long you want to be overseas, and how it will fit into your graduation date. There are study abroad programs for the winter, summer, semester, and academic full year. Consult your study abroad advisor with your educational goals, and she/he will be able to orient you with the right program that will facilitate your objectives. If your university does not have a study abroad center, speak to your academic dean or the head of your major department with questions.
Can I Earn Credits While Abroad?
Make sure you will be able to receive full overseas course credits counted toward your domestic graduation requirements. When you enroll in a study abroad program offered by your U.S. university, usually the overseas course descriptions are all that are needed for your department advisor or dean to approve of the overseas credits. If you decide to go with a study abroad program that is offered by another U.S. university, you will need to earn transfer credits. The approval process for accepting overseas credits often varies from department to department; some of them have a maximum number of credits that can be transferred from major or minor from any other institution. Very importantly, make sure you read your university’s policy on foreign credits and the accepting of foreign grades. Your study abroad advisor or whoever is overseeing your study abroad questions will request information pertaining to the coursework overseas in order to receive the credit transfer.
Be prepared to give information on the level of the courses overseas, course outline and reading list, course format, number of hours spent in lectures, labs, field work, etc., method of course assessment, grading system, and possibly more. Many departments will like you to keep all of your overseas courses’ syllabi, exams, papers, projects and class notes in order to receive the full domestic credit.
Who’s Paying For This?
Financial Aid is available for some study abroad programs, and fortunately most student loans and grants can be used for studying internationally. Check with your financial aid administrator to inquire about any state based loans, scholarships or tuition waivers that you may use at your home university and if it can be applied to your overseas schooling There are a number of scholarships that one can apply for to study abroad; again the Internet is a wonderful resource for searching scholarships on international study. A very resourceful website that caters to financial aid on studying abroad is: http://www.InternationalScholarships.com. With this website you can investigate student loans, scholarship awards, health andtravel insurance and many links for other traveling abroad services.
Will your study abroad program fees include housing? What about meal plan options?
Factor in how much money you will need each day while abroad and plan to save accordingly. One Last Thing Once you have decided on which study abroad program you want to participate in, and which country you will be living in, it is wise to acquire some background information on the country. Research the country’s culture, form of government, historical information, the type of food you can expect, means of transportation, etc.
Would you want to live with a family or in a dormitory?
Many international programs give you the choice of both options, but you must weigh the advantages and disadvantages for both living arraignments and pick which is best for you. Start looking at airfare paying close attention for special deals. There are still many low fares offered to students with college identification. Try Orbitz, a flight search engine that gathers cheap deals from twenty-one other airfare websites. Give yourself one year to find the perfect international program. You will need this time to go through the paperwork on credit approval, financial issues, meet any foreign language and possible G.P.A requirements, get a passport and book a flight. Patience is key when researching and putting together all the criteria necessary for your experience abroad. For just one year of planning and potential hassle, you will live through a lifetime of gratitude for the opportunity to study abroad. Other useful websites for researching your study abroad options: