Study Abroad Explore Your Options
If you’re like the 82 percent of My College Guide readers who say they’re interested in spending at least a portion of their college experience overseas it’s never too early to start doing your research!
Thinking about where you might study abroad can be really beneficial. You can get a kick-start on your language skills by taking a beginner course at your high school. Or you could research colleges that have the best financial aid for students who want to spend a semester or year (or longer) abroad.
Before you learn Mandarin however there are a few things you need to consider about studying abroad.
LEARN ABOUT THE PROGRAMS
Study abroad offerings will vary from one school to the next but programs are typically offered for a semester a full academic year or all or part of a summer. You also can obtain your degree at a foreign school. Many colleges have partnerships with foreign universities which makes it much easier to apply to study abroad programs.
For example although Regent’s University’s main campus is in London they take part in Webster University’s programs through Regent’s American College. Webster is an international nonprofit school based in St. Louis which has satellite campuses in the United Kingdom the Netherlands Switzerland Austria Ghana Thailand and China.
“The big advantage of the partnership is that students earn United States credits which are easily translatable back to their degrees with their home institution,” says Phillipa Hain senior marketing manager at Regent’s University London.
In other words studying abroad doesn’t set a student back. In fact you will be able to continue with your normal coursework. “United Kingdom programs are generally accepted as satisfying entry requirements into U.S. postgraduate programs,” Hain notes.
Of course make sure to check your particular program to ensure credits will transfer.
DIFFERENCES IN EDUCATION
Many students choose to study abroad for a semester during their junior year or during the summer between their junior and senior years.
If you decide to complete your undergraduate education at a foreign school there are some differences to keep in mind. In the United Kingdom for example degrees are highly specialized. If a student there is receiving a psychology degree they take only psychology classes. In comparison a liberal arts student at a U.S. university will study across many disciplines. However some schools like Regent’s do offer traditional U.S. liberal arts degrees with majors minors and general education courses.
If you decide to attend for only a semester or year or the summer you won’t be constrained by requirements for a single major and can take a broad range of courses.
WHERE TO GO
There are countless options for you to choose from. According to the Open Doors 2012 Report published by the Institute of International Education the United Kingdom is the most popular study abroad destination followed by Italy Spain France and China.
Consider factors such as the different cultures and travel opportunities. For example the UK’s location like those of other European countries gives you easy access to the rest of Europe for weekend trips.
If you attend a study abroad program that is in partnership with your American college you will more than likely have access to your normal financial aid. This however is specific to each individual institution.
Whether you’re studying abroad in London Rome or Beijing you’re sure to make friends from a culture different than your own. Not to mention that a study abroad program on your résumé may be attractive to potential employers after graduation.
“Increasingly employers are looking for people who can work in diverse teams think critically be culturally aware and approach problems from multiple viewpoints,” says Hain.
In a workplace that now—thanks to advances in travel and communication technology––spans the globe it’s a great idea to make yourself familiar with another culture. Study abroad programs not only enhance your college experience but they also enhance your worldview.
Scott Overbrook is a freelance writer in New York.