Explore The World (and Earn College Credit)
Do you wish you could experience life in another country?
If so you should consider studying abroad during college-and getting a head start on your future. Once you graduate from college and start working a full-time job and possibly juggling family responsibilities you might not get the chance to spend several months-much less a year- living in another country.
Employers are now placing more emphasis on foreign languages and international backgrounds when making hiring decisions. “Students who have an international education by studying abroad will stand out in the competitive job market,” explains Maral Dadourian, Senior International Officer at Regent’s College in the United Kingdom.
“The best way to learn about another culture is to live in it and work in it,” adds Lori Bauer, director of university relations at Arcadia University. “It’s important for students to have a global understanding of the economy and marketplace since they’ll be tomorrow’s leaders and need to understand how the world works. The current economic climate reveals how much the world is interconnected.”
While traveling you can also earn credits toward your college degree or complete an internship that may directly help you get a job after college. Studying abroad may even help you get into graduate school law school or medical school later on.
Most students who study abroad do so either for a semester or over the summer. Some students who really want to immerse themselves in another culture attend all four or five years of college at a foreign university.
When Do Students Typically Study Abroad?
The most popular time to study abroad is during junior year of college or during the summer after sophomore or junior year. By that point in college students will have selected a major made friends and can leave their home university for a few months without worrying about feeling like freshmen again when they return. Plus by their junior year most students have fulfilled their basic requirements and have room in their schedules for classes they want to take.
Where Can I Study Abroad?
A good number of American students who study abroad head to Europe with many studying in the United Kingdom.
“A common language and strong political ties makes the U.K. a safe destination for U.S. students and the current exchange rate between the U.S. dollar and pound makes the U.K. even more attractive than it was 18 months ago,” says Malcolm Taylor, head of international recruitment at the University of Glamorgan in the U.K. If you prefer to head someplace a little more exotic but still want to speak English you might want to consider studying in New Zealand or Australia.
Increasingly though students are discovering the benefit of strong foreign language skills. Many head to European countries like Italy Spain France the Czech Republic Greece Germany and Ireland. “Although their courses are taught in English,” says Dadourian. “Students are submerged in the culture of the foreign language further enhancing their skills in that language.”
A growing number of students are also studying abroad in Asia Africa Latin America and the Middle East. “Study abroad trends tend to follow the economy,” says Bauer. “As countries like China and continents like Africa become bigger players in the global economy more students see the importance of studying there.”
Will I Have a Chance to Travel While I’m Studying Abroad?
One of the coolest parts of studying abroad is that you can visit other cities or towns in the country where you’re studying. You might even have the chance to travel outside of your host country and see some more of the world.
Many study abroad programs actually organize excursions for students. If your program doesn’t do this take advantage of weekends and consider scheduling some time before your program begins or after it ends to do some exploring for yourself.
Where Can I Find Out More About Different Study Abroad Programs?
Your academic advisor and if your college has one your school’s study abroad office can provide you with information about your study abroad choices. It’s also a good idea to speak with students who have studied in a program or country you’re considering.
But What About the Current Economic Situation? Will Studying Abroad Still Be Affordable in a Few Years?
The current economy may make you think twice about shelling out the money to study abroad. According to John Terry, head of the international office at Newcastle University in the U.K. students are “[taking] up shorter study abroad periods especially programs that are a semester long or shorter. Students-especially those from the United States-are looking for something … more cost-effective.”
Right now is a great time to make your study abroad dollars go further says Dadourian. “With the current economic situation and the value of the U.S. dollar increasing … now is the best time to study abroad and get real value for [your] money,” she says. “Compared to a year ago students studying abroad now are actually saving more.”
When deciding whether or not to study abroad think of the money you spend as a long-term investment. Even if your gut reaction is “I can’t afford this,” says Bauer. “It’s something you can’t afford not to do. Students who gain a global perspective from study abroad will have a big leg up in the job market.”
There are also plenty of scholarships and loans for students looking to study abroad. In fact there’s a whole database full of them! The IIE’s sister website StudyAbroadFunding.org is dedicated to study abroad funding resources. If you’re participating in a college-sponsored program check with the school to find out about additional scholarships and loans.
What Are the Benefits of Participating in a Study Abroad Program Offered by My Own School Versus One Offered by Another Institution?
Many American colleges and universities offer their own study abroad programs and most have a study abroad office that will advise students looking for such programs. If you participate in a study abroad program through your college you shouldn’t have to worry about whether or not your credits will transfer and whether or not you’ll continue to receive financial aid. While it’s helpful if your own college offers a program you like don’t stress if your school doesn’t have many (or any) study abroad options. Plenty of other universities and private firms offer great study abroad programs.
If you’re interested in a program offered by a college other than your own or one sponsored by a private company or noncollege organization check beforehand to make sure your school will allow you to transfer the credits. Also keep in mind that an outside program may not give you the same level or form of financial aid. Save yourself some headaches by speaking with study abroad officials or your academic advisor at your college to find out how they will handle these issues.
Wow! This All Sounds Great. I Want To Go Now! How Do I Pick a Program?
If you see studying abroad in your future ask yourself some questions: How long do I want to spend abroad? What countries cultures or languages interest me most? Do I want to travel a lot while I’m studying abroad? Also think about what kind of academic offerings interest you as well as the cost of the overall program and the kinds of students who participate.
Once you’ve identified your preferences start looking for a program that fits most of them. You may not have all of the answers just yet but you’ll get more out of your money and time abroad if you plan ahead.