Thinking you might want to study abroad? For some, it’ll prove to be one of the most rewarding, life-enhancing experiences of their college careers. For others -- well, they’ll enjoy the fish and chips, but that’s about all. This week, visiting blogger Sara Dumont, director of the Study Abroad Program at American University, explores the 10 most common misconceptions about study abroad. Avoid these, and you’re guaranteed a bon voyage:
10. With the state of the world today, it's just too dangerous. It’s always wise to keep abreast of world events and not choose to study in a region that is currently in a state of war or has a high level of civil unrest. But not surprisingly, there don't tend to be study-abroad programs in those regions, anyway! Your school's study-abroad adviser will be able to help you assess the relative risks of various regions.
4-Star Tip. Check online resources especially designed for students studying abroad, such as www.globaled.us/safeti.
9. I can't afford to go. For most students, affording a semester, term, or even a year studying abroad is perfectly doable. If you will earn credit toward your degree for your experience abroad and you receive federal financial aid, then that aid can be applied to your study-abroad costs. In addition, many colleges allow their own institutional aid and scholarships to travel with the student. Some special study-abroad scholarships are also available, and you should definitely apply for those. You'd be surprised how many students don't apply for them, which makes the odds for you even better!
Extra Pointer. Be wary of those who try to talk you into studying on a summer or January break, claiming that short programs cost less than semester-length programs. While the program price may be less, financial aid is rarely available for study outside the regular semesters, and there are very few additional scholarships available for short-term study abroad.
8. All programs are alike, so I just need to pick my favorite country. This couldn't be more wrong. There are many types of study-abroad programs, designed to meet the wants and needs of all kinds of students in terms of academics and extra-curriculars. When we do information sessions for students and parents, we find that the first answer to any question is "it depends," because it depends on the program you pick. Will you study with foreign students or other Americans? It depends. Will you have foreign professors or American ones? It depends. Will you live in a dorm, in an apartment, or with a family? It depends. And so on. You need to do your research: let your study-abroad office help you narrow your choices or talk to a student from your college who has already gone on the program.
7. I don't speak a foreign language, so I can't study abroad. Don't forget that English (or a form of it!) is the language of England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, India, and South Africa, and is one of the major languages in a host of other African countries. And in most non-English-speaking countries, you will have a choice of study abroad programs depending on your level of language, so you can learn the language while taking other courses in English. Many European and Middle Eastern universities are now offering a range of courses in English, too -- this is especially true of the Netherlands, Scandinavia, Israel, and Jordan.