Are you considering studying abroad? Oh, what a wonderful time! Isn’t it fun to picture yourself in a new city? With new friends, a different culture, an exotic cuisine and more? My heart skips a beat just thinking about it.
While it’s easy to get lost in daydreams of the faraway place you’re hoping to call home, it’s also important to plan ahead for the not-so-fun stuff that just happens to be a part of life, wherever you are in the world. This is where it becomes oh-so-crucial to make sure you find the right program, because, for example, if it’s important to you to have 24/7 support for when you’re, say, sick with the flu and don’t know the word for “hospital,” you want to be abroad with a program that offers such support.Here are 5 tips on how to choose the study abroad program that is perfect for you.
1. Research, research, research
Get on the Google machine and start looking up which programs there are to choose from. You can use helpful study abroad websites like StudyAbroad101.com, GoOverseas.com or GoAbroad.com to read reviews from actual study abroad students who write about the positives and negatives of various programs. Check out each program’s website and keep a list of what each program offers. Not all study abroad programs are equal, so you’ll want to compare overall program costs and know what those costs will cover.
2. Connect with an Interesting Program
This is key. The time it takes for a program coordinator or representative to email or call you back is indicative of how easy the program will be to work with if you choose to study abroad with them. If no one emails you back for two weeks, you might want to take that as a sign that they won’t be a great resource to you when you are actually living abroad. The kind of interactions you have with program coordinators is important, too. You want the program you choose to offer as much support and help as possible, before and during your study abroad experience. You want the people who work with the program to be enthusiastic about the journey ahead of you, willing to answer any and all questions in a timely manner, and you want them to be knowledgeable about the program, participants and the city in which you will be studying.
3. Speak with Study Abroad Alum
Many study abroad program websites will list contact information for ambassadors or alumni of the program, so do not hesitate to reach out to them. They are likely to be similar ages to you, and will be honest and open about their study abroad experiences. You’ll probably find that when they were looking at programs, they had the same questions and concerns that you have now, and will be able to offer their advice to help you choose the right program. If alumni contact information isn’t listed on the website, email the program and ask to be connected with a former study abroad student.
4. Ask the Important Questions
Here are some possible questions you may want to ask a study abroad program coordinator or former study abroad student:
How much is included in the overall program cost?
Which excursions, if any, are included in the total cost of the program?
Are there scholarship opportunities to help fund studying abroad through the program?
Are there program employees on the ground in the city I will be studying?
What happens if I get sick abroad? Does the program offer health insurance?
Will my study abroad credits to transfer to my home university?
Will my study abroad classes be within walking distance to where I will be living? If not, what does public transportation entail?
Where will I be living?
I’m allergic to ____________. Will that be a problem?
Will I be able to fill prescriptions in the city I will be living, or do I need to bring a supply of medications with me?
I practice ____________ religion. Will there be somewhere for me to attend services, meetings, etc.?
Will there be a place to exercise?
How crucial is it that I brush up the language?
5. Talk to your Home University
Be familiar with your school’s study abroad policy, especially if you are considering study abroad programs that are not affiliated with or sponsored by your school. Some universities have a study abroad “status,” while others require a temporary withdrawal from the university. It’s also crucial to find out if you need to take steps before you leave to make sure your credits will transfer. Some universities are more willing to work with specific programs than others, so consult with the admissions office or a study abroad adviser to see which programs they think will work best.
Once you’ve done the online research, spoken with program coordinators and participants and cleared everything with your home university, you’ll hopefully be able to choose the perfect program for you. Now get back to daydreaming about your incredible life abroad.