CostDo you have a budget? If so, what is it? Keep in mind that there will be fees outside the study abroad program itself – for instance, you may be expected to pay for airfare to and from your destination, as well as meals and textbooks. You may also wish to set money aside for souvenirs and additional travel within the region.
Time of yearWhether you choose to study abroad in the fall, spring, or summer, you will encounter both advantages and disadvantages. For example, traveling in the fall may mean that you miss a portion of the school year, but it may also mean that you avoid the additional expense of extending your school year into the summer.
Academic goalsYou might also consider what type of program best fits your ultimate goal for the experience. If you are most interested in learning a language, then a program with an immersive component may be a wise first choice. An immersion program might feature a home stay in lieu of dorm lodging, as well as classes and events conducted entirely in the local language.
TravelPerhaps your primary study abroad goal is to travel. In this instance, it might be wise to search for locations that are close to main hubs of transportation – large international cities frequently have much easier access to airports and trains, which is essential if you plan on traveling to nearby countries with any level of frequency. Remember, the further you are from your travel destinations, the longer the trip and the more expensive the travel. Italy’s Amalfi Coast may be gorgeous and ideal for sunbathing, but it is also far south. A train ride to, say, Milan would be several hours in length.
CourseworkYour classes should also be a central concern. Some programs offer courses that are based on the area or host country, including its language, economy, and culture. Other programs allow you to pursue classes in your concentration. There are even programs – generally offered during the summer – where the focus on research and volunteer engagement is the main purpose behind the study abroad experience. This is, admittedly, a significant amount of information to take in. You may even feel overwhelmed. However, identifying the characteristics of your ideal study abroad experience is important when narrowing down the many options that are available at the average college or university. The most fulfilling – and productive – experiences are those that suit a student’s budget, coursework, and goals. These five factors can help you ensure that you select such a program. Happy travels!
Samantha Brody is a professional tutor and contributing writer for Varsity Tutors. She received her Bachelor's degree in Anthropology from Northwestern University in 2014.