Exploring Study Abroad Opportunities
September 23, 2013
Studying abroad is worth it - just take time to plan it out!
Study abroad can be an enriching and rewarding experience, but only if you plan it correctly.
It’s an emotional, physical, spiritual and cultural change that many students wish to embark upon.
If you’re thinking about study abroad now or in the future, here are some helpful tips and questions to examine how you can maximize your study abroad experience:
1. Find the right fit.
There are a vast number of programs.
-What will best serve your educational and intellectual needs?
If you’re a business major, studying art in Florence is not likely to help you speed up your graduation date.
-Will the credits offered count towards my degree?
Find a program that will help fulfill graduation requirements, allow you to pursue an internship, or accomplish a major personal goal (for example, becoming fluent in German).
2. Get in touch with the right people.
Your school will most likely have a study abroad/international center that works with students who want to study abroad.
You’ll have to work with them to meet deadlines. For example, some schools want you to apply for study abroad a semester in advance, while others want you to apply a year in advance.
There will be forms to fill out and you’ll have to find a program that your school will accept.
Finally, they will help you find school or outside scholarships to fund your program.
Study abroad can be affordable or can be very expensive, depending on what program you choose.
You’ll have to pay tuition, room, and board costs, as well as insurance and personal needs….not to mention spending money for fun events, extra food/drinks and souvenirs. You’ll also have a hefty airline ticket to pay for.
To afford all this, you will likely have to work hard to save money ahead of time, fund-raise and apply for scholarships. This may even mean – gasp – sacrificing your favorite milkshakes each week and other unnecessary expenses.
Sometimes shorter programs are more affordable but still provide an enriching experience.
4. Know yourself.
-Why do you want to study abroad?
-Is it a mere escape or are you looking for a possibly life-changing situation?
-Do you want to learn about another culture or are you mainly looking forward to being able to drink alcohol before turning 21 and flirting with foreign cuties?
Depending on the length of the program, you’ll inevitably undergo some culture shock and challenging moments. I went on a 10-day program abroad and, while I didn’t get homesick, I did experience culture shock.
While study abroad is fun, the sole purpose isn’t just to have fun—you should want a cultural or educational experience. Save the party mentality for vacations.
5. Find a program that matches you.
Aside from meeting career goals and credit requirements, make sure the program is one you’ll enjoy.
-Does it have classes you’ll enjoy?
-Is it in a location you want to visit?
-Is it too long or too short?
-Will it help you achieve self-actualization?
-Do you know the country’s language or are you going to scrape by with a phrasebook?
These are just a few considerations and there are many more to examine as you research potential opportunities.
6. Consider other options.
I wanted study abroad more than anything. I was even able to obtain a scholarship to go.
However, I wasn’t realistic about cost. Also, some schools wouldn’t communicate with me, gave me the runaround, or didn’t want a student from another college to join them.
But, eventually, I was accepted into a cultural exchange program to Japan, The Hakuoh University International Study Tour, available only to Hawaii Community College students.
It was an amazing experience and affordable because meals, lodging and $500 of airfare was provided.
I didn’t get college credit, but I participated in a few Japanese culture classes, sightseeing and activities where we shared the culture of Hawaii with students and also helped them practice their English.
My other group members and I were placed with host families and/or host students. This allowed us to truly live like locals instead of tourists or international students isolated in the same dorm.
The program was enjoyable, I met amazing people, I made friends, I got a taste of authentic daily life in Japan, I ate great food and I learned more about myself, Hawaii and another culture than I ever anticipated. It deepened my understanding of culture, the world and true hospitality.
Overall, this was the best choice for me: not too long, not too short, allowed for a cultural experience and perhaps gave some career experience, if I ever end up working in Japan.
So ‒ take it from me, a student who experienced it firsthand ‒ keep your options open!
I hope these tips will help you in taking the first steps towards finding your own amazing study abroad experience!
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