If you’re reading this, there’s a good chance that you’re already thinking about studying abroad – congratulations! Making this decision is a huge step, and choosing to study abroad will undoubtedly be one of the most rewarding experiences of your academic career. The process may be at times confusing or frustrating, but don’t worry just yet! Luckily for you, study abroad advisors are available to guide you through the application process and answer any questions you may have.
Though the requirements, expectations, and opportunities will vary from university to university, here are the top 10 questions to ask your study abroad advisor.
1. Why should I study abroad?
A better question to ask is, “Why not?” There are SO many great reasons to go abroad. You know the old saying, “Travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer”? That’s exactly why you should do it. When you study abroad, you have the opportunity to learn about another culture firsthand, form global friendships, and practice a foreign language. The unique challenges you face will help you grow personally, gain a better understanding of the world, and improve your job prospects after graduation. You’ll return home as a global citizen who is more independent, mature, and tolerant of cultural differences.
2. Am I eligible to study abroad?
Eligibility requirements vary by university and program. Typically students must be at least sophomore or junior standing at time of departure. The minimum cumulative GPA usually varies between 2.50 to 3.0 on a 4.0 scale, while more competitive programs have a higher GPA requirement. Other qualifications may include a personal statement or letter of recommendation. Consult your home university and/or program provider for specifics, and plan accordingly so you can meet all of the requirements by the time you want to study abroad.
3. When should I start planning?
The sooner, the better! When you start early, you’ll have more time to research in depth and find a program that suits your personal and academic needs. You’ll also have more time to decide what type of experience you’re looking for in terms of location, immersion, duration, and cost. It is best to start planning at least one year and no later than one semester before you actually want to depart. Pay attention to application deadlines and apply once you’ve decided on your program (they can fill up quickly!).
If you feel overwhelmed by your options and need help deciding where to go, take a look at the study abroad section of Go Overseas. Here you’ll find a quick overview of what it’s like to study abroad in a particular region, as well as reviews of programs from past participants. Once you have chosen a country, you can even read tips on narrowing down your program and read reviews.
4. I don’t know another language. Will this be a problem?
Not at all. You can study abroad if you only know English, and you won’t be limited to English-speaking countries like England or Australia, either. While some programs have a language prerequisite or only offer courses in the host country’s language, there are study abroad programs available in English all over the world. If you do end up in a non-English speaking county, you will most likely pick up parts of the language.
If you're exceptionally worried about the pending language challenges, you can also actively pursue a study abroad program that is taught only in English. Minimize that "lost in translation" feeling!
5. Is studying abroad expensive?
Studying abroad can be quite affordable and comparable to your regular university tuition. The overall cost will ultimately depend on a variety of factors including: your destination of choice (cost of living), program duration, currency exchange rates, personal expenses, type of exchange, and the fees charged by your program/university.
6. What funding is available?
Federal financial aid can usually be applied towards the study abroad costs. (Note: Always confirm this with your Financial Aid Office.) Don’t forget to apply for scholarships. Ask your university’s international/study abroad office about open scholarships. If you are studying through an independent program, scholarships are usually available for eligible students. You can even look for outside sources; you’ll just have to do some digging!
7. Can I still graduate on time if I study abroad?
Absolutely! Most students who study abroad will graduate on time. It is crucial that you plan your courses carefully before departing, as well as the courses you will take abroad, so that you will not interrupt course sequences or miss out on required classes offered during specific semesters if you will be away. You should also confirm with your study abroad office that the credits you take abroad will transfer back to your home university.
Many students will opt to participate in short term programs during semester breaks in order to offset the potential of graduating a semester behind their friends. Students who have rigid academic schedules or other commitments that tie them to campus should consider summer study abroad.
8. How long can I study abroad?
There are many choices that can fit your time frame and budget. Programs are typically for the summer, semester, or academic year. If you aren’t able to spend many months away, short term travel study is also available, lasting only a few weeks.
Another option that is often overlooked is the ability to study abroad multiple times. Students who choose to pursue more than one program abroad will often do a combination of semester and summer programs. Some students, however, will choose to spend back to back semesters abroad. Fall in Namibia and springtime in Germany? Sounds cool to me!
9. What type of housing is available to me?
Options vary and usually include student apartments, residential halls (dorms), and homestays with local families. Each presents its own level of cultural immersion and degree of independence. Depending on how your program arranges housing, you may be living with other international students or locals.
Remember to reflect on all of your housing options to determine what will be the most comfortable for you (while still being challenging and a learning experience!). If you are going to a country very different then your home country, you may consider living with a more familiar individual to help balance the outside stressors. Others may dive headfirst into an extremely cultural experience, including living with a family, etc.
Also remember to consider the location of the city you are aiming to study abroad in. Larger cities will have more familiarities than a more immersive experience in the countryside.
10. What challenges should I expect to face?
Many students who leave their comfort zone may encounter culture shock, homesickness or loneliness, financial issues, and language barriers. Remember to see these challenges as an opportunity for self-improvement, and the benefits of studying abroad will greatly outweigh the difficulties.
Studying abroad is an incredible life-changing experience, but before you jump in, you need to do your research and plan accordingly. Your advisors will be there to support you along the way. Good luck!
...Choosing to study abroad will undoubtedly be one of the most rewarding experiences of your academic career. The process may be at times confusing or frustrating, but don't worry just yet!