When a student makes the decision to study abroad, it is often with stars in their eyes. Studying abroad brings about romantic notions of a foreign country and a new culture. It’s imperative that you make an informed decision when choosing a study abroad program to participate in to ensure your success. Here are some things that you should consider when looking at various programs to get the most out of your study abroad experience.
Finding a program that has been well-established will often ensure that it is organized and your application, and subsequent acceptance, will go smoothly. Find several different programs and set up meetings with an adviser from each. Enter the meeting with a list of questions and gauge the answers you are given. A well-organized program will never answer a question with ‘I’ll get back to you’ or ‘I don’t know’. If you leave the meeting feeling as though the adviser wasn’t completely on the ball, look elsewhere.
Ask about the support given to students once they have reached their school of choice. You should be able to contact an adviser with any questions that you have during your stay in your host country. No matter if you are struggling in a class or having a problem with your accommodations, your home contact should either be able to help you directly or give you the contact information of someone in your host country that can.
Your program coordinators should keep copies of all of your official documentation as well as any documentation given to you by the university abroad, including contact information, schedules and addresses of your accommodation. Your home adviser should be able to guide you with regards to places to live, transportation and general safety guidelines for you to follow during your semester.
Do you want to rent your own flat or stay in on-campus housing? Do you need a meal card or will you be dining in? These are things to consider and you will want to look for a program that can accommodate your choices. You may find it easier on your budget to find a program that either houses you with a host family or includes the cost of room and board in your tuition. Any fees for the program should be straight-forward and given to you up front.
The experience you garner from studying abroad should not only broaden your horizons but also benefit you when you graduate. Discuss your career plans with your adviser who can help you decide on the program that will be most beneficial to you in the future. For instance, you don’t want to spend your money on a program that concentrates on business if you plan on being a teacher. Also ask about any volunteer or work opportunities available to you whilst you are studying abroad. These will look great on a resume!