Making the decision to study abroad is not an easy one. It is a serious personal and financial commitment and there are a lot of different factors to consider. With that said, studying abroad can be one of the most valuable experiences of your life. Having the ability to travel to a different country, learn about different languages and cultures, while continuing to further progress your career and education, is an opportunity not everyone gets the honor of participating in. During this multi-part Study Abroad Blog Series, we will be focusing on planning and preparing for a semester abroad, learning to balance school and fun while abroad and the main tips and tricks I took away from my first semester abroad. Feel free to reply with comments or questions and I hope this helps guide you to the best semester of your life!
Choosing a Destination
While the destinations of where you can study abroad may be limited by your home university, often times the options are endless. Plan to meet with an advisor or someone who works in the study abroad office at your school to discuss potential destinations. Once you have a better idea of the possibilities, it is time to start doing your own research. There are many things to consider when choosing which destination will be best for you. Here are a few of those things:
Already know a bit of a foreign language? This might be the perfect opportunity to put your skills to the test. Or maybe you would rather study in an English-speaking country. Do a bit of research on locations that interest you and find out more about their culture. If you are looking to immerse yourself in a country much different than the States, maybe consider somewhere like China or Thailand. If you are looking for something a bit more familiar, but still rich with history and culture, Ireland or Australia may be good fits for you. The more research you do, the better of an idea you will get about whether or not that location is what you’re looking for.
Local weather during the time you are there
Are you a hot weather, cold weather or mild weather type of person? Depending on which semester you decide to go abroad, there is, most likely, a climate that suits you somewhere in the world.
If you are hoping to see many different countries during numerous short-term visits, Europe might be the ideal location for you. If you are hoping to stay in one place and thoroughly explore that country, New Zealand has a lot to offer. Also, consider what kind of traveling you like to do – are you more into hiking and camping, or shopping and sightseeing? StudyAbroad.com provides a great tool to help find the best program and location for your needs.
What school to attend
While this greatly depends on the location you choose, you also need to assess course options and whether or not they will transfer back to your home university. Check with your school to see if they have partnered with any foreign schools to assist in streamlining the course transfer process. Size is also another factor to consider. If you currently attend a school with 2,000 students and decide to study abroad at a school with 22,000 students (or vice versa), consider the ways in which they will be different.
I will discuss this a little more in depth later, but be sure to consider all of the costs associated with studying abroad and the differentiation of price between study abroad locations. Some things to consider would be; airfare, cost of living (groceries, eating out, transportation, housing, etc.), passport and visa fees, as well as travel while you’re there.
The world is a huge place and we can’t even begin to grasp that fact until we travel. Studying abroad is a once in a lifetime opportunity that I truly believe every student should take advantage of. Not only does it help you learn about other countries and cultures, it teaches you independence and appreciation. Choosing a destination is just the first leg of your journey, but I can assure you, no matter where in the world you decide to go, it will be the most transformative experience of your life. I hope this guide helped. Until next time… Safe travels!
Guest Blogger - Emily LaPlume. Emily is a senior at Champlain College pursuing a Bachelor of Science degree in Marketing and minoring in Event Management. Emily has been a seasonal intern at GSCU for over three years and has also interned at The Capitol Center for the Arts, Brandthropology and Fuse Marketing. Emily spent a semester studying abroad in Dublin, Ireland and another in Wellington, New Zealand.