From a social media perspective, studying abroad can feel like a carefree escape across the globe. The colorful buildings of Copenhagen and the warm beaches of Mykonos make for a glamorous study abroad experience. But while studying abroad sounds like all fun and games, there’s actually a lot of planning and consideration before setting off for a semester or two to study in another country. Studying abroad is a decision where you have to consider many factors, from your finances to your language skills.
In the months before studying abroad, I spent several hours researching and preparing for the experience. There were many nights of Googling and creating spreadsheets, as well as several conversations with academic advisors, my college’s study abroad office, and seniors who had gone abroad the year before.
While it’s an important decision, studying abroad can also be a great opportunity to experience different cultures, gain a new academic perspective and become more independent. But is studying abroad right for you? Here’s what you should consider before deciding to study abroad.
- DEGREE REQUIREMENTS AND CAMPUS COMMITMENTS
Before committing to study abroad, make sure you are able to complete your degree. Check your program requirements (for your major, minor, and whatever!) and know which classes you need to take. Your academic advisor can be a helpful resource, as can students in your major who have already studied abroad.
Also consider what commitments you have on campus, such as sports, clubs, and student jobs. If you have a job or leadership position, you may need to help find a replacement while you’re away. Sport can affect when and for how long you choose to study abroad. For example, I chose to study abroad for the fall semester because I play a spring sport.
Cost is another important factor to consider when studying abroad. Tuition fees may vary based on the university you decide to attend, as well as the cost of additional study abroad programs that facilitate social activities, travel, and internships. Accommodation and food may also be separate from tuition, which will then need to factor into your budget. Getting out and about traveling can also be particularly expensive when studying abroad. Oh, and don’t forget the exchange rate in your budget calculations!
- WEEKEND TRIPS
During weekends and breaks, you will be able to explore the areas surrounding your study abroad location. When choosing where to study abroad, it’s important to consider if and where else you want to travel and how to make that happen. Look at the cities and towns close to your schedule and consider where you want to visit. The location of your study abroad school also determines how easy it is to get to the airport, which you may need to consider if frequent travel is in your plans.
- LANGUAGE SKILLS
Studying abroad can be a great opportunity to improve your language skills, through lessons in the language of the country, interaction with the local community and the possibility of living with a host family if you wish. However, there are also study abroad opportunities in countries that speak English or offer tuition in English. Consider whether developing your language skills is important to you when choosing where to study abroad. (You may want to download Duolingo, beasts.)