According to Forbes, fewer than 10% of undergraduate students take advantage of study abroad opportunities. Studying abroad can set you apart from others in the workplace and you gain valuable intercultural communication experience. If you don’t know where to start or feel like studying abroad isn’t possible for you, follow these tips to help get yourself going!
Studying abroad can be a very long process. Planning ahead allows you to settle everything you need before you go. This includes planning out your college plan when you’re a freshman or as soon as possible. It may seem overwhelming at first, but it will be nice every year after when you just go back to your college plan to sign up for classes. Also, this way you’re able to see where studying abroad fits in best with your schedule. It shows you which prerequisites you’ll need to get before you’re able to study abroad. You’ll also need to get a passport or a visa depending on how long you stay. If you don’t have these things yet or they’re not up to date, it could ruin your trip if you wait too long. And finally, things like packing, funding, and required documents all need to be finished in a timely manner to avoid penalties or expulsion from your program.
Talk to your global adviser
One of the most helpful things you can do when studying abroad is talk to your global learning adviser. Almost every university has them and they are one of your most useful resources in this process. They are the people you’ll be turning your important documents into and they guide you along the way. If you’re lost and have no idea where to start, they can give you great advice. They can help you narrow down your choices and in deciding what route is the best for you. Plan ahead with them early as well.
Budget your expenses
A common problem with studying abroad is that people automatically assume they can’t afford it. Another problem with studying abroad is that there are thousands of unclaimed scholarships out there because no one applied. Apply for every scholarship you can. You can also use financial aid to help your funds, but remember that financial aid isn’t dispersed until the actually semester you study abroad, so you’ll have to be able to supply funds until then. Seek out help from friends and family too! These people love you and want to see you succeed. Set up a GoFundMe account and set a smaller amount at first like $2,000-$3,000. If you aim too high with an amount of $5,000 or $10,000 to pay for your entire experience, people will feel like their $5 contribution wouldn’t help anyways. And again, start planning this early!
Figure out what you want out of the program
One of your very first steps if you don’t know what to do, is to decide what you want out of a study abroad program. Do you want to learn or improve a language? Do you want to receive specific credits at your home university? Have you always had a passion for volunteer work abroad or want to do an internship in a foreign country? After you consider these options, then you can narrow down your search to your program type such as, faculty-led through your university, exchange programs, or applying through an outside program provider. Each will have different benefits for instance, faculty-led means that you’ll have even more guidance from faculty who travel with you on your trip and your credits can directly be transferred easily. Exchange programs are usually a lot cheaper and outside providers allow you multiple different options like staying with a host family while you’re overseas or going on excursions. Visit Study Abroad 101 where they rate different things you consider when going abroad like the top budget-friendly countries, top “foodie” cities, and the top providers.
If you plan correctly, studying abroad can easily fit into your schedule and cost nearly the same or even less than your current college expenses. Allow yourself to see a new global perspective on life. Never stop yourself from doing something new and exciting because you assume it’s unattainable. With these few tips, you’ll have a solid foundation and the study abroad process will be a breeze!