At some point during your college, you might have dreamt about attending a ‘study abroad’ program. Perhaps because of the multitude of options available, you may have become overwhelmed and given up on the idea.
Selecting the best study abroad program to fit your needs can seem like a daunting task at first. It doesn’t have to be. The following steps would definitely help you decide how to prepare for a study abroad program.
The first step is to contact the ‘study abroad’ office at your college/university. Find out what programs other students at your institution have been involved with. You should always check whether the study abroad program offers you any type of orientation and support for your stay abroad or not. The best programs usually do.
The second step is related to the subject of study. Most probably students choose a subject or course which enhances their future academic prospects by allowing them to receive credit towards their Bachelors or Masters Degree, help in campus placements etc.
This will bring you to another decision making step – when should you study abroad? It is generally advisable to spend your sophomore year studying abroad. Freshman year is full of challenges. Final year is for job hunting. Sophomore year is generally when you get the most flexibility. But, that said, you can study abroad any time during your college education.
Next, you need to decide on a country. Sometimes by the time you have decided on your subject area you have an idea where to study. For example if you have decided to study a particular language you know which country to target.
But basically selecting a country or a location should depend on many factors- such as (again) your future academic prospects (studying in some countries/Universities can give an added boost to your career), personal factors such as your personality, budget (part-time earning potentialities) etc. Developed countries offer you more established education Ssystems which are globally recognized and, stable socio-political environments. Developing countries, on the other hand, generally can offer a lower cost of living.
Once you have decided on a country, you need to make the decision between small town verses big city. From a cost perspective, small towns are generally better than big cities. But in small towns, you can face plenty of hardships – for example transportation problems (not all towns/locations will be well connected). If your budget allows, bigger cities are generally preferable for study abroad opportunities.
Before selecting the city where you will live, always try to get a clear picture about the culture, crime rates, food availability, etc. Arrange for a host family if you can, that gives you the twin benefit of safety and been able to learn the new culture without much effort. If you need more freedom then it is better to select a dormitory or a shared apartment.
The next step in finalizing which study abroad program is best for you is to decide about how long you would like to study abroad. You can choose a program that runs for a few weeks, one semester, the summer, or an entire school year. To decide how long you need to study abroad evaluate your goal in the first place.
Are you going for a short adventure? Do you want to learn a new language? Are you interested in cultural immersion? Of course, money will play a role in this decision as well. The cost of studying and living abroad is generally proportional to the length of the program you choose. But if you plan to study abroad in a reputed institution then the shortest program also can get very costly.
Next you need to consider the language that is spoken in your country of choice. Finally before embarking on your dream journey, make sure you have spoken to past students of the course and even those currently doing the course. This will help you know what to expect, and make new friends even before you step into a new country.