For some students, the most difficult part of mapping out a study abroad experience is narrowing down the list of potential destinations to just a single place. One region may have better opportunities for a particular major while another might inspire more personal growth. That’s why more and more students are opting for multi-country programs.
An ambitious endeavor, studying overseas in two or three nations will challenge participants to quickly adjust to new cultures all while keeping up with their classes. With new foods, unfamiliar streets, and different histories, students will gain a well-rounded perspective on how several countries operate, both internally and across borders.
If studying abroad is about seeing the world and learning from other cultures, then multi-country programs are the ultimate overseas experience.
Pros & Cons
Pros of Multi-Country Study Abroad
- Check more off your bucket list. Why settle for a single country when there’s so many destinations out there? Instead of making one nation your home and taking mini trips to others, settle down in two or three locations. You can even keep doing those side excursions with the added bonus of having access to different regions.
- You’ll enjoy a diverse curriculum. Multi-country study abroad programs yield a unique opportunity to learn from a variety of cultures, both in the classroom and on the streets. You’ll observe how several ways of life differs from your own and from each other.
- Acquire adaptability as a new skill. While living more nomadically than traditional study abroad programs, you’ll learn how to settle into new situations more easily. This kind of flexibility will be invaluable for the rest of your life, both professionally and personally.
Cons of Multi-Country Study Abroad
- There’s limited time to connect with your host countries. Instead of immersing yourself in one culture, you’ve got a few more to adjust to in a short span of time. So long as you make the most of each experience, you shouldn’t leave one country feeling like you missed out by not opting for a longer, single location program.
- You’ll have to do the housekeeping stuff again. For students of programs in multiple regions, you’ll have to look into pesky things like visas, mobile SIM cards, and safety considerations more than once. But when there’s an incredible opportunity on the horizon, try not to sweat the small stuff.
- Homesickness is going to get weird. As you uproot your newfound home to venture to yet another strange place, you might find yourself in a perpetual state of homesickness -- that is, for previous destinations. This isn’t the worst side effect to experience from studying overseas in numerous countries, as it’s a sign that your adventures were well-lived.
Planning Your Trip
Like any study abroad program, multi-country experiences have a few factors you’ll need to consider before departure. Take some time to come up with a budget, make sure you understand any visa requirements, and pack the right stuff.
It should come as no surprise that studying overseas in more than one place will likely be pricier than single country programs. More traveling means more transport expenses and the possibility of additional program fees. You’ll also need to navigate the average living costs and currency conversions for each region.
When you study abroad with certain organizations, the tuition fees will only cover essentials like housing and insurance. As such, you’ll just need extra finances set aside for meals, souvenirs, and fun. Before you leave, it will be helpful to explore the typical cost of groceries in each of your destinations and how strong your country’s dollar will hold up against the local currency.
Whether or not you need a visa will depend on where you’re from, where you’re going, and how long you’ll be staying in each country. For instance, U.S. citizens can stay up to 90 days in EU nations. That means if you’re doing a multi-country program in Europe lasting fewer than 3 months, you should be able to move from one destination to another without a visa.
However, if you’ll be studying long-term in two or three different countries, or if you’ll be traveling between nations that don’t share policies on foreign visitors, your visa situation might vary. Fortunately, the organization you enroll with will likely be familiar with a student visa or permit requirements for their multi-country programs.
For study abroad students traversing several nations, packing can be tricky business. You’ll need attire that’s appropriate for each culture, which can vary dramatically between regions. Additionally, with all of the traveling you’ll be doing, it will ease the moving pains if you take a smaller suitcase and pack light.
Keep in mind, packing light is less about underpacking and more about not being afraid to let go of old possessions. As you depart one destination for another, you can opt to donate old clothing to local shops. Black clothes might be a Parisian staple, but you’ll look drab if your next stop is somewhere like vibrant Greece.
Once you make room in your suitcase, you can fill it right back up again. Purchasing attire in your host countries is one sure way to blend in with the local community, and your new wardrobe additions will double as souvenirs. It will be delightful to see how the contents of your bag transform from start to finish.
Health & Safety
Considerations for your well-being are critical for any study overseas experience, and none more so than multi-country programs. Even for nations from the same continent, health and safety factors can change drastically from country to country.
Living in two or three different places, you’ll need to be prepared to navigate each country’s individual healthcare systems and vaccination requirements. Luckily, some organizations will include health insurance for their participants. Otherwise, enrolling in travel medical insurance that allows you to customize coverage for multiple nations will be the easiest option.
Some destinations might also require visitors have certain vaccines, or you may have to carry special medication like malaria pills with you. This is one of those things that absolutely must be organized prior to departure -- it’s much easier to get the right shots and pills through your doctor at home.
From national and personal security to the threat of natural disasters, each region of the world has its own safety considerations. While Spain is notorious for pickpockets, places like Japan might have you scanning earthquake procedure signs.
The best armor against theft, personal injury, or other factors regarding travel safety is to know what to expect. The potential risks to foreign students are as varied as the numerous cultures you’ll encounter, but with the right preparation you’ll have a well-rounded multi-country experience.
MultiCountry Study Abroad Programs
Can I work in Spain with a student visa?
On a student visa, you can work up to 20 hours in Spain with a work authorization requested by the company you'd like to work for. The company will have to request this authorization from the Oficina de Extranjería (Foreigner's Office). It can take from 3 weeks to 3 months to process your application depending on the province, so it's best to apply as early as possible!
Is it expensive to live in Spain?
While larger cities like Madrid and Barcelona can be on the more expensive side, the cost of living in Spain is lower than in most European countries. A room in a shared apartment in a city center like Madrid can range from about €250-€600 euros ($270 - $650 USD).
Is it safe to live in Spain?
Spain is a very safe country. But, just like the rest of Europe, Spain is notorious for pickpockets. It's important to not carry your passport around and always keep an eye on your phone!
How long does it take to get a Spain student visa?
Processing your visa application takes the consulate about 4 weeks. The most lengthy part of the process is collecting all of the documents and securing an appointment. For some consulates it is very difficult to secure an appointment, so it is best to plan ahead.
The documents needed to apply for a student visa are:
- National visa application form + photocopy
- Original passport + photocopy
- One recent passport sized photo (to be attached to the form)
- Copy of the acceptance letter from the Spanish University (in Spanish or with Spanish translation)
- Evidence of funds (could be a statement from the University describing housing or a notarized letter from your parents assuming financial responsibility)
- Proof of health insurance
- Medical certificate (only need for stays longer than 180 days)
- Express mail envelope with pre-paid stamps addressed to yourself with which the consulate may return your passport with the visa
What’s the best year to study abroad as an undergrad student?
I would say studying abroad during your junior year is best because by then you are more independent compared to your freshman and sophomore years (assuming you are traditional student that began college at the age of 17 or 18). I would not recommend your senior year since you are able to graduate and have many senior projects going on. I made the mistake of studying abroad senior year. Doing senior projects from abroad and having to mail them was very annoying. Also, I think junior is more suitable especially if you are studying in Europe because most of the other European students you meet in your European host country will have students from many European countries studying abroad their "junior" year as well and therefore, you will surrounded by people your age that you can relate too. In my experience, I lived in Spain with a Spanish, British, Polish, French and Malaysian student. We all decided to study in Spain at the same age. Had I been a freshman or sophomore living with international being a bit other it may have been hard due to difference in maturity and independence. Also, by your junior year, I feel that you will appreciate the experience more. I think by this point you have been in college long enough to know that in order to survive college that you need to have an open mind. Most freshman and sophomore are still used to what they were taught at a young age are not as opened minded. For me, junior year is when I open my mind to cultures the most and that is what helped to be prepared to study abroad and enjoy the cultural differences and living a very different way of life.
How much should I save before studying abroad?
The amount of money you need definitely depends on how you're going to be spending your time. If you plan on going out a lot, shopping, and traveling, it would be more than if you aren't. I'd suggest you budget for about $100-$200 a week for the time that you're there. I probably spent about $50 a week on groceries, and then other expenses varied week to week. With that budget, I had plenty to do a lot of traveling. You obviously won't spend $200 every week, so the extra you have budgeted can go towards all the extra stuff.
Can you get a job while studying abroad?
Definitely -- there are a bunch of ways you can do it too. Basically, you could try and set up some remote work before you leave to study abroad (either through a platform like UpWork, or a digital nomad job board, or by asking around your networks) or you could look for jobs on the ground.
Doing remote work for a company from your home country means that you won't have to worry about whether or not your visa allows work, however, it does have its own challenges. You really have to be self-managing, reliable, and communicate well and in a timely fashion. I wouldn't recommend this for students who haven't ever worked or held an internship before.
I also know that some student visas, like in France or the U.K. will allow you to work up to 20 hours per week -- which sets you up well to get a part-time job as a server, tutor, administrative assistant, what-have you.
A lot of students in China and other non-English speaking countries will also make extra cash tutoring other students in English. If you choose to go this route, be sure to at least read up on some good teaching tactics (since -- speaking from experience as a former ESL teacher -- knowing English alone doesn't make you good teacher.)
What is the best city to study abroad in France?
France is great and you really can't go wrong with most cities! However, it depends on what kind of vibe you want in a study abroad locale to determine the best location for you. Are you a beach-goer? Try Cannes or Nice. Looking for a big city? Paris or Bordeaux. Want to be really immersed in French culture? Try looking for programs in smaller cities or towns.