Deciding whether or not you want to study abroad is a pretty easy first step. Next is the real challenge: where to go, what kind of program, and when makes the most sense. It may seem intimidating, but there are ways to narrow down your choices and streamline the process in order to find the best study abroad experience for you.
You can think about which country and type of study abroad program you want concurrently. If you have a specific country you would really like to go to, then you can look into your options there. Or, if you know you want a business internship program in an English-speaking country, that can be your starting point.
Knowing what resources are available to you is key. If your school has a study abroad office, make an appointment with an advisor as soon as you can. The study abroad office might also offer an information session early in the year or semester that can introduce you to all the things you need to consider in studying abroad.
If your school doesn’t have a dedicated study abroad counselor, they still probably have an outside study abroad program they typically recommend to students; the office of student life can help you track such a program down. Finally, there are also several study abroad services and websites with search capabilities that can help you with your research. Keep in mind these can be study abroad companies, and you may or may not be able to use your tuition dollars toward your trip like you might with a program sanctioned by your college or university.
As you look at different program options, it is important to keep in mind your overall academic plan for the rest of your time in college. Will the program give you academic or internship credit that you need to fulfill gen. ed. or major requirements? Does the program have a language requirement? Do you want to live in university housing or with a host family? These and other questions will help you with your choices.
You will also need to decide when you would like to go. It is common for students to study abroad during the spring semester of junior year, but there are also fall-semester, year-long, and summer programs that might work for you.
Another consideration is how you will finance your travels. It works differently for each school or program, but make sure you have a plan for both affording the program as well as any additional expenses that you may incur while you are abroad. If, for example, your major entitles you to funding to study a specific subject or in a specific place, this may heavily influence your decision.
When I started considering studying abroad, I had no idea where I wanted to go or how I wanted to spend my time there. My choices were somewhat limited to English-speaking countries, but as soon as my study abroad advisor mentioned Ireland, I knew that was where I wanted to go. I have always loved Irish culture, especially the music, and once I found a program with both academic and internship components, I was set.
I studied at Dublin City University, which gave me credit for my business major, and interned at Hot Press, a prominent Irish music magazine, which fulfilled my internship requirement for my journalism minor.
If, even after extensive research and consideration, you are still unsure about your study abroad options, I suggest the tried-and-true pros and cons list. List out each program that might work for you and the benefits and drawbacks of each one. Writing things down (or typing them up) might help you organize your thoughts more clearly.
There is no way to know if you have chosen the perfect study abroad program or if the experience will be exactly as you expect. Chances are, though, that if you really put effort into choosing your program, you can feel confident that your time abroad will exceed your expectations.