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Study Abroad Basics

Roxana Hadad

September 03, 2013

Study Abroad Basics
Every year, more than 150,000 students decide to take their education outside of the classroom — and the country — to study abroad. While it can be a fantastic personal and cultural experience, international exposure is increasingly important to employers; studying abroad rounds out your education and improves your chances on the job market. If you've considered including an overseas experience in your college curriculum, you probably have some questions. What is study abroad?

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The term "study abroad" encompasses a range of overseas educational opportunities from traditional classroom-based learning to internships, independent research and even volunteer work. But remember: It is study abroad. Though travel abroad is fun, it also serves as an integral part of your academic career. Why should I study abroad? Studying abroad is an amazing tool for both your personal growth and your future. Ours is a global community; studying abroad allows you to become more comfortable and engaged within this increasingly cosmopolitan world.

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Studying abroad helps you...
  • understand international issues and problems.
  • strengthen your sense of independence and self-confidence.
  • learn a new language or achieve fluency in one you have already been studying.
  • meet new people in a new environment.
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  • get a new perspective on your own culture.
  • refine your interpersonal communication skills by interacting with people from different cultural backgrounds.
  • become more culturally aware.
  • ...and last, but definitely not least...
  • have a little fun.

Who is eligible to study abroad? Generally, you must be at least a sophomore and have a GPA at or above 2.5. Some programs require that you be at least 18 years old and be enrolled at an accredited American college or university. There may also be a foreign language requirement, depending on the program (e.g. two semesters of French). When can I study abroad? Though most students go abroad during junior year, you'll find a wide range of opportunities for everyone from freshmen to graduate students. Most programs run for a semester or year, but there are also programs that run during the summer or winter interim. If you are planning a shorter study abroad experience, take into consideration the time of year you plan to travel. Some times are better for certain countries and many foreign universities follow a different schedule from American universities (e.g. The University of Sydney's school year runs from early March to late November). Where can I study abroad? From Austria to Zimbabwe, the number of study abroad programs is growing every year. But before you pick a country, do some research. Think about which programs would contribute the most to your future academic and career goals. Think about living conditions as well. Learn about the country's current political situation and health conditions. The country's consulate is a good place to check international conditions. How does study abroad affect my academic program at my home school? Your term overseas can be integral to your academic program, but you have to plan ahead. Speak to study abroad and departmental advisors and ask them:
  • What are the university's policies concerning the transfer of credits from foreign institutions?
  • How can I plan around the sequential courses required for my major?
  • Would a term abroad affect the date of my graduation?

Ask these questions early to help avoid setbacks that could undermine your academic objectives. Whether you're a freshman or nearing your final year, study abroad offers an experience of a lifetime. Plan ahead, and you may find a new world opening up to you!

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