Where Do You Want to Study Abroad?
There’s a variety of factors that can impact where you want to study abroad. One of the most obvious will be whether or not your home institution has a set list of approved schools to which they send students.
My college has about 20 foreign schools from which students can choose; however, if you wanted to study in a country in which the native language wasn’t English, you had to be proficient in that language. With those guidelines, my options were narrowed down to the UK, Ireland and Australia. I chose Scotland since it had one of the better schools in the UK, as well as some of the best golf in the world.
Here’s a list of other things you may want to consider:
Language: Are you going to be studying a language in a particular country? If not, will you be comfortable in a country where English isn’t the native language? It’s not impossible, and if you’re determined to go to a non-English speaking country, and are confident in your ability to communicate and find your way, by all means go for it.
Time Table: Summer, Semester, or Year? See above.
Type of Program: Does your school have the type of program you are looking for? Is there a possibility you might have to go through an independent program? Are you comfortable participating in a program where you won’t know any other students? Which programs can you afford? How will you finance the cost of the study abroad program?
Major requirements: Will you be able to complete any major requirements while abroad? Will your degree progress suffer if you can’t? Will your credits transfer either way?
Weather: This one’s pretty easy. What type of climate do you want to live in? If your idea of being abroad is on a beach under palm trees, then Moscow probably isn’t for you.
Living Situation: Do you want to live with a host family or in a dorm? There are positives and negatives to both.
Studying abroad and living in a dorm
In a dorm, you are more likely to interact with people your own age, who are going through the same adjustments you’re going through, and who can relate with you on a greater level. In most dorms, there’s no curfew, and living in a dorm requires you to be much more independent.
Studying abroad and living with a host family
If you’re studying a language, living with a host family will vastly increase the amount of interactive situations in which you’ll speak that language. There’s also a greater possibility that you’ll experience more local culture first-hand.
Local Life: Do you want to study abroad in a big city or small town? What is the campus like? Are there any famous landmarks, sights or tourist attractions close by that you'd like to visit? How's the night life? What is there to do when you’re not in class?
Travel: How close will you be to an airport? Are there low cost airlines flying out of those airports? Do you want to visit nearby countries/cities in your free time? If so, are you close to countries/cities you want to visit? How long will it take you to travel to different locations?
Food: Do you like the food common to that country? Can you get by on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches? While this shouldn’t be the deciding factor, I would go somewhere where you can appreciate local cuisine as it’s definitely a big part of the overall immersion experience.
Talk to people from your school or just people that you know that have been there before and ask their opinion. They’ll probably be very happy to share their experience.
The most important thing is to go with your gut feeling. If there’s a place that you’ve wanted to go since you were nine years old, then go. Do the research needed to be sure you know what you’re getting into so you can be as prepared and confident as possible when making your decision.