There are many things to consider when choosing a college, including study abroad programs offered by your prospective universities. While not all students intend to study abroad in college, these programs can lead to lifelong friendships, valuable career opportunities, and amazing cultural experiences. On the other hand, studying in another country can be a daunting and less-than-budget-friendly option. If you’re considering studying abroad in college, you’ll want to make sure the cost, location, and duration of the program align with your academic and personal goals.
All about study abroad
Though many colleges suspended their programs for the 2020 school year, study abroad is still becoming increasingly popular among college students. Inside Higher Ed estimated that nearly 11% of undergraduates studied abroad in 2017–2018, compared to 8.2% the previous year—and that number grew an additional 1.6% the following year, according to NAFSA. There are many benefits to spending a semester or more learning in another country and culture outside of your comfort zone. In addition to traveling to new places, creating lifelong memories, and maybe even learning a new language, students have the opportunity to discover new interests and impress future employers. Study abroad programs also broaden a student’s knowledge of different cultures, expand their worldview, and allow them to gain independence. Though many colleges offer unique study abroad options, U.S. News & World Report ranks Elon University as the #1 study abroad program in the country, followed by New York University and Middlebury College. Other colleges with highly ranked study abroad programs include the University of Wisconsin–Madison and the University of Denver.
What to look for in a college study abroad program
Though it might seem far away, you can start researching study abroad programs while you’re searching for colleges in high school. Here’s what you should keep in mind if you plan to study abroad in the future.
Cost of program
When looking for a study abroad program, it’s important to make sure the cost is within your budget and whether grants, stipends, and scholarships are available for participants. According to thebalance.com, the average cost to study abroad was $14,295 per semester in 2019. At the University of Washington, the National University of Singapore Exchange Program Winter/Spring 2018 offered 25 credits. The program costs included tuition ($5,361), books ($400), housing ($4,500), food ($2,000), local transportation ($400), airfare ($1,700), personal expenses ($2,500), a study abroad fee ($675), passport/visa ($500), and health insurance ($400). The total cost of the exchange program was $18,436.
Costs vary depending on the location of the program you choose. For example, at UW, the semester-long exchange program that takes place in Asia (listed above) costs $5,000 more than the exchange program in Europe ($13,800). If these prices are still too high for your budget, you can (and should) apply for scholarships to ensure you have the ability to experience the cultural benefits of living in another country. Sometimes study abroad is built into a college’s tuition, like at Soka University of America, where undergraduates are required to study abroad for a semester during junior year at no extra cost.
In addition to the cost of a study abroad program, ensure the program’s focus matches your long-term goals. Common programs include study of language, medicine, and history. At NYU, students have the option to earn a Master of Arts in Historical and Sustainable Architecture in London. Alternatively, students can travel to Ghana, among other countries, to complete work on Urban/Metropolitan Studies. Along with the program specialty, students should search for a study abroad program with a reasonable trip length. While some participants may prefer studying abroad for an entire year, there are shorter options, with many colleges offering programs lasting anywhere from two weeks to one semester. Also consider the number of credits that will be earned during the duration of the program. A shorter program will likely result in fewer credits, while a longer program will lead to a greater number of credits. No matter the program duration or specialty, your trip will result in new experiences, knowledge, and a more diverse mindset.
Whether you’re studying engineering or learning a new language, there’s a study abroad program for every college student—it just takes some research to find them in your program of interest. Students can learn more about a particular study abroad program by visiting official school websites. Overall, studying abroad helps students gain life experience, enhance their appreciation for other cultures, and discover their true identity. To all the students out there wondering whether they should study abroad, remember this: “Be brave. Take risks. Nothing can substitute experience.” — Paulo Coelho