Going to college can open up the world to you. But should you experience the world even more by studying abroad?
Studying in another country is a major highlight of college for many students. But studying abroad has its challenges—and it's not right for everyone. Before you put "great study aboard programs" on your list of top college qualities, ask yourself these questions:
- Do you enjoy new experiences and meeting new types of people? When you're abroad you'll be out of your comfort zone. Customs, food, and languages will be different from what you are used to. If this sounds more exciting than intimidating, studying abroad might be right for you.
- Do you rarely get homesick? Think twice if you rely on frequent communication with your parents, or can't imagine not being home for the holidays. Spending prolonged periods of time wishing you were back in familiar environs can undermine your experience in a foreign land.
- Are you okay with change and uncertainty? Can you change your plans without too much anxiety? Can you stay calm when things get really confusing? Being far from home means you'll be largely on your own to resolve any difficulties. And you'll need to be able to shrug off stress.
- Will time spent abroad support your academic goals? Will you get credit toward your major? Or will spending time out of the country delay graduation? If so, you might consider waiting to study abroad after you get your undergraduate degree.
- Are you a diligent student who does well in your classes? Instruction in other countries will be very different from what you are used to—and your classes may even be taught in another language. You'll have to study even more diligently, and resist treating your time abroad as a vacation.
- Can you afford to go abroad? Will the expense of studying abroad put you in debt? Money worries can undermine your experience and prevent you from taking full advantage of your time in a foreign country, such as taking side trips to interesting locales.
- Have you talked with people who have studied abroad? Students who have already been through the experience can vividly describe the challenges they faced and the benefits they gained. They'll likely have lots of valuable advice.
Have limited time to go abroad?
If you think spending a semester or two abroad might not be feasible, you can look at short-term programs. Consider using your midterm break or summer vacation to experience professor-guided travel, volunteer opportunities, or cultural immersion programs.
- See How to Tell If a College Has a Strong Study Abroad Program for signs of a strong study abroad program.
- Convinced you will study abroad? See Eight Tips for a Great Study Abroad Experience for ways to plan a meaningful and successful trip.