While I was getting ready to study abroad for a semester in Rome, I was inundated with information and advice from friends and family about my plans. While often helpful, rumors and second-hand information can create unnecessary stress. Be aware of common misconceptions regarding study abroad!
Fiction: I should go abroad during my junior year.
Fact: While many students do go abroad as juniors, this is by no means the only option! In contrast, some students with more linear degree plans find it necessary to study abroad during their freshman or sophomore year. When planning a semester abroad, it is important to consider a four-year-degree plan and openly discuss your plans with your academic advisor. Advisors will appreciate these ongoing conversations and will have insight into which courses will best transfer toward your degree. Use study abroad to supplement your degree by actively communicating with your advisor about which term is best for you.
Fiction: Science majors can’t go abroad. If you do, you will need to stay in school longer.
Fact: With careful planning, there is no reason why a student in the sciences couldn’t go abroad. Often, the key lies in communicating with your advisor quickly upon your arrival on campus as a freshman. Some students save general education credits to take abroad, while others are able to transfer science courses toward their degrees. Do careful research and be aware of all of your options!
Fiction: Students who study abroad miss too much on campus.
Fact: This is a problem many students face. If you’re set on taking advantage of all campus opportunities, consider going abroad for a summer or short-term program! This will allow you to spend the academic year on campus and go abroad with less anxiety.
Fiction: Athletes can’t study abroad.
Fact: While this decision is entirely up to the coach, many students find ways to stay active while abroad! Some locations are well-suited for the athletic student and have plenty of outdoor activities such as hiking, swimming, or skiing. Students can often join running groups, go to a gym on-site, or even play on sports teams with other study abroad or international students! While opportunities vary from program to program, there are accommodations that can be made for the athletic student.
Fiction: Students with special dietary needs shouldn’t go abroad.
Fact: Some study abroad destinations are better equipped to accommodate dietary restrictions than others. Students should research their destination of choice, as cultural education is key. Be sure you are putting yourself into a situation in which you can make healthy decisions.
Fiction: Students who don’t speak another language shouldn’t study abroad.
Fact: There are plenty of study abroad destinations and programs for students with no knowledge of another language. Students can even explore study abroad options in English-speaking countries if their lack of language knowledge causes any anxiety. However, many destinations welcome and encourage students of all language levels (even absolute beginners!) to immerse themselves into the culture to practice the language. This is the best way to learn any language!
Fiction: Studying abroad is very expensive and cannot be done on a budget.
Fact: Many factors contribute to the cost of a study abroad program. One of the bigger contributors is the cost of living in the selected destination; some destinations are notoriously expensive while others are quite reasonable. Students should select a destination that makes sense for their unique financial situation. Scholarships and grants are available for study abroad; students can discuss scholarships, grants, and other financial planning tools with their financial aid office to find the right resources.
When it comes to study abroad, information is key. Academic advisors, coaches, study abroad office advisors, financial aid advisors, and other school officials can guide you toward a study abroad program that will help you meet your goals. Utilize all of your resources and educate yourself according to your individualized study abroad needs.
Olivia Del Viscio is an Admissions Counselor at CEA Study Abroad, an organization that helps students spend a semester, a summer, or an academic year studying abroad in 12 countries. Where will your learning take you?