6. I'm not in humanities or social sciences, so I can't get courses to count for my major. While students majoring in subjects like history, political science, and languages tend to have the widest range of courses and programs available, with careful choice of program and planning, students in any major can study abroad and stay on track for graduation. Consult the university website or catalog to see what’s offered in the sciences, mathematics, or whatever your major might be.
5. It's too late for me to study abroad. Don't worry if it’s late in the fall semester and you haven't done anything about planning to study abroad for the spring or summer. Normally, you apply for study abroad mid-way through the semester in advance of the one you want to be away. And even if you miss the application deadline, check with your study-abroad adviser, because many programs will still have space and can accept late applicants.
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Extra Pointer. It’s not just sophomores and juniors who study abroad – seniors do it, too. Just keep in mind the need to plan if you need specific courses. And be aware that some countries require students to get visas, and the length of time that takes can mean that you won't be able to go to some countries if you are a late applicant.
4. I’d like to study abroad so I can become completely fluent in the language in one semester/year. Alas, no. Learning a language to the point of fluency is a challenging and lengthy process for most people, and even a year of immersion usually isn’t enough to do it. Be realistic about your goals -- if you aren't, you will become frustrated and not make the most of your experience.
3. I'm going to make lots of local friends and travel as much as I can to "see the world." These two expectations are incompatible. If you spend all your free time traveling and away from the place where you’re studying, then you won't have the needed time in your new temporary home to make any new friends. Students from your host country are unlikely to have the money it takes to go away on jaunts every weekend. So if you want to make local friends, you have to stick around and hang out with them. If traveling is what you think is most important, then realize you might end up traveling mostly or exclusively with other Americans.
2. I'm paying the same as at my home university, so I should get exactly the same level of services, extracurricular opportunities, and technology. NOT! You're in a different country; things will be different. There are different standards of living, expectations, and priorities in other countries and cultures. You'll undoubtedly think some things are better than at home and some things are worse. Remember that you have gone abroad to experience differences: Enjoy them!
1. I'm not going abroad to sit in a classroom or a library (the most important thing is the experience outside the classroom). You'll hear plenty of people say this to you including (I am sad to say) some faculty. But hey, this is a study abroad, remember? You'll be getting academic credit towards your degree for it, remember? This means you will certainly be expected to do the work -- reading, writing papers, showing up for tutorials, and participating in classes. Having experiences is great, but collecting experiences without the intellectual/analytical underpinnings is a very superficial thing, and study abroad is meant to be profound.
Want to read more? Check out: www.nytimes.com/2008/12/01/education/01scotland.html?pagewanted=1&_r=1&emc=eta1
Dr. Lynn F. Jacobs and Jeremy S Hyman are authors of the book Professors' Guide to Getting Good Grades in College -- the first instruction manual for college. You can download a free chapter here, or e-mail Lynn and Jeremy a question or comment here. We'd love to hear from you!
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