Students who study abroad nearly always come home telling others about how the experience changed their lives. On a Christian study abroad program, you can change your life and the lives of those you serve. No amount of time is too short to make a positive impact.
Christian study abroad programs allow you to use your skills and interests to help others. It's a common thought that international service is only for nurses, teachers, and builders, but there are organizations that can help you find other ways to serve. Play sports with locals, mentor new Christians, assist with humanitarian work, champion social justice, and work with film and media to start conversations about Jesus around the world.
Because service is such a huge component of these programs, finding funding from churches and family is a common way to help fund your trip. On top of serving people and making connections with other Christians, you'll earn college credit and visit some of the world's most fascinating cities!
The program types for Christian study abroad programs are very similar to traditional options for studying abroad, but they will probably include a service component. They might also have additional regulations and requirements, such as weekly chapel services and meetings with a mentor or accountability partner.
If you are currently attending a Christian-affiliated university, there might be options available to you already. Some Christian colleges have set up faculty-led study abroad or direct exchange programs that make the logistics of study abroad very smooth for students. These programs will align with the mission and values of your current college.
You can also choose to study abroad with a third-party study abroad provider. Some of these providers specifically design Christian international experiences. Go abroad for a summer, semester, or year to study and serve. These trips combine education with mission-work and let you use your skills and interests to gain college credit while helping others. This Christian Study Abroad Program in Ecuador is a prime example of this type of trip.
Traditional Study Abroad (Plus Mission Work)
Maybe you aren't finding the right study abroad program with a Christian third party provider, or you already have another company in mind. This doesn't have to stop you from completing mission work while abroad. You can choose to study abroad through your desired means, then connect with an outside Christian organization who will help supplement the time abroad.
This can be formal or informal. If you want specific guidance on how to engage with local churches, how to meet other Christians, and how to best serve, you can connect with organizations like CRU before you go abroad. You can also join clubs on campus, or meet people at churches after you've arrived to find out how you can help in that community.
Mission Trips and Service-Learning
Though they are not necessarily going to include transferrable credit, mission trips and service-learning trips are rewarding ways to go abroad as a Christian. These short trips are the perfect way to satisfy service requirements and international experiences that may be part of your degree program.
Mission trips can last from one to twelve weeks, can accommodate high school and college students, and sometimes whole families. Choose an organization that allows you to work in an area that fits your skills and interests because that's where you'll be able to do the most good. Make sure the company has good reviews and a clean history. Local people should be involved in planning the service projects because they will be more likely to know what the greatest needs are in that area.
Where to Go
Your options are pretty widespread as there are only a handful of countries who openly prevent the practice of Christianity, but here are some highlighted Christian study abroad locations around the globe. Whichever country you choose, you will likely stay in that country's largest city and take short trips to other areas.
Costa Rica has become a hotspot for tourism and traditional study abroad, but there are plenty of opportunities to serve this country through Christian study abroad programs as well. Work to rehabilitate victims of human trafficking and prevent further abuse of human rights. Share your culture, games, and Jesus with children in orphanages and church groups.
In between serving and learning, you will go on excursions in other areas of Costa Rica. See the incredible biodiversity of both wet and dry rainforest climates, visit volcanos and coffee farms, and spot unique animals at every turn. There are options to go for 10 days for around $3000 (including airfare). Or you can stay for a longer period during the summer for $5000 to $6000. A semester in Costa Rica will cost approximately $10,000 to $11,000.
Christian study abroad programs in South Korea offer top-notch education, excursions to nearby cities like the island of Jeju, and tours of museums and landmarks. Stay overnight in a temple and learn about the history of Korea from ancient to present times.
You will also have a chance to serve where help is highly needed. Seoul is affected by one of the highest suicide rates in the world. During your program in South Korea, you can connect with a local church to support suicide prevention and other humanitarian efforts. The cost to complete this study abroad program can range from $12,000 to $13,000 per semester, and around $6000 for summer programs.
Though you might not automatically consider France as a place for mission-work, there are a number of opportunities to serve this area of the world. Work with local churches to help rehabilitate refugees, teach English, and be a mentor for new Christians.
Most programs will take you to Paris, which is the center of French culture and history. Visit some of Europe's most incredible and famous sites, and easily travel to other parts of Europe during your free time. These benefits come at a price as Paris is not a cheap place to live. Summer programs can cost over $6000 and semesters will be $16,000 to $18,000 each. If you spend an entire year abroad, you'll get the best value at $20,000 to $30,000.
If you'd like to take the road less traveled, consider a Christian study abroad program in Rwanda. There are opportunities for future counselors, nurses, educators, and more. You can partner with international aid organizations to provide support where it is most needed.
Shorter trips are more common in less developed areas, so you will likely have a mixture of learning through excursions and serving each day. The cost of a study abroad trip to Rwanda can cost between $3000 and $4000 for 10 days.
Planning Your Trip
How to Choose a Christian Study Abroad Program
If the program has a volunteer component, make sure there are local people involved in organizing and running the project. Locals will know what help their area needs and how you can best serve those people.
Cost is usually one of the biggest factors in choosing where to study abroad. Costs of Christian study abroad programs will vary but, because these are mission-based programs, some organizations will help you learn how to fundraise. Many students are largely funded by their church, family, and friends. Financial aid and Veteran benefits may also apply to longer-term programs.
Heath & Safety
Because Christian study abroad programs generally include a service component, it is wise to let a third party help you plan your first experience abroad. Service work often takes you off the college campus to areas that might not be visited frequently by students from other countries. Some countries are more receptive to missionaries than others. Show respect for the local religions and opinions so you can continue to serve the people who live there without tension.
Take advantage of any study abroad orientation opportunities offered by your home university, the study abroad provider, or the international institution. These orientations will give you valuable information about staying physically and emotionally healthy while abroad. Many Christian study abroad programs also include weekly meetings with a mentor to help students adapt to the new culture, maintain accountability, and juggle their studies and mission-work.
If it's not already included in the cost of your trip, consider purchasing travel health insurance. Insurance options for international students are not overly expensive and can provide much-needed peace of mind for travelers and their family.
Other Need to Know
If you are not working with a third party provider or getting guidance from your home university, you will need to research visa requirements for the country you will be visiting. You can find up-to-date information on this and other international travel requirements and recommendations at travel.state.gov.
If you are getting credit abroad, work with your study abroad advisor, academic advisor, or registrar to make sure credits will transfer back and that you will be able to graduate on time. Save your syllabi from courses taken abroad to help your home institution decide what you'll receive credit for.
Christian study abroad programs will likely have different requirements than traditional programs. Many organizations ask you to attend chapel services and meet with a mentor weekly. These trips are also often dry programs, meaning students will not be allowed to drink alcohol while abroad.