According to a College Board poll conducted in 2008, fifty-five percent of college-bound students intend to study in another country during their college years. The mounting appeal of this opportunity has led to an increase in university programs and options for students.
Studying abroad can be very enriching both culturally and academically, but it is also a challenging experience that requires a lot of preparation and open-mindedness. My being aware of the challenges and becoming properly prepared, you can help to ensure the best possible study abroad experience.
How Do I Find a Study Abroad Program?
There are several ways to study abroad, the most obvious being through your own university. Many larger schools have their own study abroad programs that are facilitated by the institution in partnership with other universities abroad. For example, Butler University has an Institute for Study Abroad (IFSA) that sends Butler students to universities across the globe every year (and brings in international students in exchange).
If your school does not have its own study abroad program, it will often allow students to study abroad through other institutions. Many smaller liberal arts institutions encourage students to travel through outside educational programs such as IFSA Butler.
There are also non-university organizations such as the Council on International Educational Exchange, which also offers study abroad and exchange programs for college students, but is not affiliated with one school.
It’s especially important to know which fields you can study through a particular program. If a field you are interested in is not on an approved list, it’s possible you will be able to petition for permission; it’s a good idea to inquire about this when visiting, or to email the Study Abroad Office.
What Will Studying Internationally Cost Me?
You have your program chosen, but it’s not quite time to pack your bags yet! The cost of a study abroad program may or may not be an issue for you. Depending on your school’s policy and the cost of the program, you may need to pay more or less tuition for your time abroad.
Some colleges will apply your financial aid package equally to your study abroad experience, while others will expect you to cover more (or all) of the cost of your study abroad program. If financial aid is an important factor for you, it’s essential to know the policies of your prospective colleges before applying.
Also keep in mind the cost of arriving in a different country. There will be an initial cost of settling in a new place, of buying all the essential toiletries, housewares, and conveniences such as a mobile phone (many American phones don’t work internationally).
Choosing The Right Country For a Study Abroad Program
Living in a new place will also be a financial adjustment as you convert to a different currency and economy. Your daily cost of living is one of the factors you might want to consider when choosing a country for studying abroad.
If you are studying in Europe, the cost of living might be a lot higher than what you’re used to, and it will be important to begin the semester with some savings.
If you are studying in Southeast Asia, Africa, South or Central America, your daily costs may be much lower. However, the cost of travel could still burn through some savings, so be sure to be financially prepared.
If you are interested in a particular country, begin researching schools with programs that travel there. Some international institutions will have language requirements or academic prerequisites. You will also need to consider the transferability of the credits you receive abroad, and how they will contribute to your major or graduation requirements.
== Study Abroad: Tips and Tactics ==
- Stay flexible. Studying abroad is not going to be exactly how you picture it. Being able to adapt to different circumstances will help for a smooth transition.
- Talk to the locals. Most likely you'll be traveling with students from your school who speak your language. It's easy to get stuck spending all of your time with your classmates when you're experiencing a new country. Try to step out of your comfort zone and engulf yourself in the new culture.
- Studying abroad has become very popular, but you must be ready for a difficult and eye-opening experience. Culture shock, visa applications and currency conversions can be demanding, but if you are willing to step up to the experience, they can make you a more worldly person. Prepare and research early, so you can focus more on the adventure than the stress.
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