Studying abroad can be a life-changing and horizon-broadening experience. With hundreds of programs across the globe specializing in a diverse range of topics, choosing the right one tailored to your major and academic interests ensures you make the most of your time overseas. Here’s a step-by-step guide to selecting a study abroad program that fits your degree and personal passions.
Start by considering your field of study and long-term career plans
As an undergraduate still deciding your major, going abroad is a great chance to explore potential areas of specialization firsthand. Make a list of the subjects that intrigue you and places with expertise in them. For example, maybe you’re torn between business or fashion merchandising. Look for programs offering management or design curriculums abroad to test these interests. If you’re further along in your degree with defined academic and professional goals, choose locations strong in that discipline. Find programs offering specialized tracks of advanced courses related to them.
Get clear on your reasons for going abroad
Make a list of personal goals beyond earning credits overseas. Do you hope to achieve proficiency in a foreign language? Look for immersive programs in non-English speaking destinations with language prerequisites and homestay or dorm acculturation. Seeking hands-on career development? Consider internships or field training courses. Prioritize cultural enrichment? Opt for direct enrollment in local universities pairing you with domestic students. Define what “success” in your program looks like so you can identify ones designed to help you achieve it.
Start broad then narrow down your program and location options
The first step is poring over study abroad clearinghouse databases like IIE and Diversity Abroad to get a sweeping overview of thousands of programs worldwide. Use filters to screen broadly for ones matching key elements like your subject matter, program duration and global region of interest. Compile a wide list first before applying finer filters in the next round.
Once you have around 15-20 broad matching options, revisit what you’re hoping to accomplish or experience specifically during your time abroad. Get discerning with qualities prioritizing those goals. Does a focused academic curriculum or chance to completely immerse in another culture matter more to you? Location specifics like language or how remote or urban a setting comes down to personal factors too. Be honest with top deal-breakers versus “nice to haves” and refine your list down to around 5-8 matching programs.
Dig deeper into each program’s details
Now it’s time for due diligence by extensively reviewing remaining contenders’ websites, informational materials and student testimonials. Ensure academics are still a robust match for your degree needs with challenging coursework that earns credits at your home institution. Determine if housing, co-curricular programming, student support resources and health/safety measures align with your priorities. Email current students and program staff with in-depth questions. The right fit becomes apparent through this final evaluation process. Ultimately you want assurance the program delivers what you need both in and out of the classroom so you come home feeling fulfilled, enriched in your area of specialty and personally evolved as a global citizen.
Trust your Intuition during decision time
By following an intentional filtering process based on academic and personal objectives, your perfect study abroad match should rise to the top. Listen to your intuition and make choices aligned with your goals and instincts. If a few options still seem equally suited for you, compare costs or see if their calendars sync with your schedule plans to finalize the best one. Go forward feeling confident embracing the international opportunity in front of you!
Here are some frequently asked questions (FAQs) to provide more helpful information on choosing the right study abroad program
1. How early should I start researching programs?
Ans. It’s best to begin your study abroad program research 12-18 months in advance. Popular programs fill up fast, while others require lengthy visa applications. Give yourself ample time especially if you need to fundraise money or fulfill prerequisite courses beforehand.
2. Should I go abroad for a summer, semester or full year?
Ans. Shorter summer study trips offer a teaser abroad experience letting you dabble in new cultures and subjects, while semester (or year) long provide more immersive rigor and time to build regional expertise. Consider what duration best supports your academic and professional goals. Just keep in mind shorter programs mean jam packing days whereas longer stays have more flexibility.
3. What if I’m having a hard time deciding between two really great options?
Ans. It can be tough deciding between two equally matched top contenders that seem perfect for you. Beyond comparing basics like location or cost, consider differences in program structure, housing arrangements and types of students enrolled that may influence your experience abroad. Trust your gut on factors that deep down feel aligned with your personality, interests and needs to make the final decision.
4. What should I know about earning credits for courses taken abroad?
Ans. Before enrolling or applying for any abroad opportunity, talk with your academic advisor at your home university about credit transfer eligibility and any pre-approvals needed. Some schools have blanket transfer agreements with select foreign partner universities too. Be sure all academics align with your graduation requirements.
5. Do I need to be fluent in another language to study abroad?
Ans. Don’t let not speaking a foreign language deter you from an amazing study abroad adventure if you have other goals. While options for exclusive immersion do exist for building fluency, many university level programs now accommodate beginner language learners and provide academic courses taught fully in English too. With the right option, language barriers can quickly vanish abroad as you pick up new communication skills fast living overseas.