It’s Never Too Early to Start Looking into Studying Abroad
With the world becoming increasingly connected, it’s becoming more important to consider studying abroad for at least some portion of your college years. Whether you choose to spend your entire college career, a semester or a summer at a foreign university, you are sure to benefit from the experience when you eventually enter the workforce.
“From a professional viewpoint, employers greatly value students with international experience,” says Joanna Scaplehorn, international recruitment officer for the University of South Wales.
Even though studying abroad may seem like it’s in the distant future, there’s a lot you can do to prepare yourself for the experience while you’re still in high school.
Ponder What You Want To Study
Do you love ancient history? Are you someone who spends after-school hours in the art studio? Then there’s a lot you could learn from studying in places like China or Italy, which are so rich in cultural heritage that you can only truly understand by traveling there.
You can prepare for the experience by focusing your language studies in high school. Research what sort of languages are offered for study—and if there is a teacher who speaks a language, like Mandarin, who is willing to tutor you.
And, like most aspects of college preparation, doing well in school opens the door for many opportunities, including future scholarships or acceptance into international universities, among other things.
Do Your Research
Not every institution has a study abroad program in its curriculum. Some have restrictions on where you can study to get credits. Others have partnerships with international schools.
When researching what sort of study abroad programs are offered, Jason Reinoehl, assistant vice president, enrollment strategies and international initiatives at the University of Dayton (OH), recommends considering the “3 P’s”: programs offered, places the university has partnerships and prices for such programs. For example, certain universities may require you to pay full tuition in the United States to study abroad, while others will allow you to pay tuition in the place you choose, which is often less expensive. Or, a university may only offer programs for certain majors in a limited number of countries, while others may have partnerships around the world.
“In the same way a student should research a university, they should research the study abroad programs at said university,” says Joel Bauman, vice president for enrollment management at Stetson University (FL). Ask questions on a campus tour. Bauman notes that it sends a favorable message to the admissions office if students reflect that they’ve done their research in their applications.
Even if you’re not sure you want to live in a foreign place, it helps to know that there is a study abroad advisor or international partnership office on campus. “It is reassuring to know that you can contact someone for advice and support at an early stage, rather than having to research overseas institutions, fees, etc. on your own,” notes Robyn Ekvall, marketing officer at Regent’s University London.
Another thing to consider is what sort of college abroad experience you’d like to have. Institutions like New York University and the Savannah College of Art and Design offer degree-granting programs identical to the ones you’d get on the parent campuses in locations as far flung as Shanghai, Sydney, Hong Kong and Lacoste, France. Or, you can choose to apply directly to a university like the University of South Wales or Regent’s as a full-time student, with the added benefit that tuition costs in foreign universities are usually much lower than in the United States.
If you think this might be of interest to you, start doing the research now, so that you can prepare for any exams or requirements that you might be missing as a student in the United States.
Paying For It
As is the case with most decisions regarding college, finances are an important consideration.
If you’re studying abroad through an institution in the United States, chances are that you’ll be paying full tuition even if you’re in a different country. The good news is that many universities, Stetson included, allow merit scholarships to go abroad.
Some even offer scholarships for travel to the programs. The University of Dayton, for example, provides a $3,000 scholarship to offset housing and airfare costs to its programs in China, England and Spain. And depending on your ethnicity, religion and other attributes, specific scholarships might be available to you. You can find more information about these types of scholarships on websites such as www.studyabroad.com/scholarships.aspx or www.studyabroadfunding.org.
Finally, if you’re paying tuition at your home institution in the United States, you are still allowed to apply for federal aid via the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), even if that tuition is going toward study in a different country.
Increasingly, institutions are realizing that the best way to prepare students is to make them global citizens of the world. “It’s not only about the intercultural awareness that study abroad programs bring,” states Reinoehl. “The ability to learn in a new environment, where things aren’t necessarily easy, prepares students for dealing with the real world.”
Conor Fields is a writer living in New York City.