5 Things to Consider When Choosing A Location To Study Abroad
1. Program Length
Different schools and programs vary in the length for semesters abroad, so you have to plan ahead a bit to see what kind of time frame suits you best. Both the Fall and Spring semesters bring holidays and plans that might overlap with your semester. Are there weddings in the spring or holiday gatherings and events that you need to be back in time for? Does your travel budget allow for you to be abroad for the duration of your program? While the typical semester in the states is usually 16 weeks long, this length in different programs can vary from anywhere to just 4 or 5 weeks (for summer programs), to 20 weeks (for regular semester programs.) Most programs list their semester dates in the same section that has all of the other “quick facts” you’ll need to know, like the total cost, the meal plan arrangements, and housing information. Take into consideration other travel plans that you might want to incorporate in your trip at the beginning or end of the semester, as well as how long you want to be abroad overall.
2. Class and Curriculum Options
Just like your home school, there will be many classes for you to choose from to enroll in while you are studying abroad. In order to make the most out of your time abroad, be sure that the classes you do enroll in will not only be enjoyable but will transfer back to your home school for credits. Why study abroad and take a class that won’t enrich your experience, or not give you credit for the time and effort you put in all semester? Picking classes that will get you out of the classroom as well are a great option too- something like a photography class, an architecture or art history class that will let you tour the country you’re studying during class time are extremely enjoyable classes, and are efficient in helping you become a better tourist. Plus, you will likely get to see more of the popular areas and tour spots as well as local attractions that you might not even know about if you are just exploring on your own.
3. Your Language Experience
Did you take a language in high school, or in college? Picking a country that speaks a language that you’ve studied is beneficial for many obvious reasons, but picking a country with a new language can be just as rewarding. If you’re interested in brushing off the Spanish you haven’t thought about since your high school years, spend a semester in Barcelona and you will be surprised at how quickly it comes back to you. Being able to become nearly fluent in a language because you studied it in the native country is not only a great life skill to have, but a great resume booster as well. On the other hand, if you haven’t studied a language before or want to pick up a new one, choose a country that speaks a language you’ve always wanted to learn and dive right in! The best way to learn a language once you’re older than the ripe age of 5 is to completely embrace the language and immerse yourself directly into the culture. Stop in to a pizzeria or cafe in Italy and learn how to order a pie, and before you know it you’ll have Italian food in your vocabulary, if nothing else.
4. Housing Options
In some countries, host families are the more common housing arrangement for study abroad students, but there are also dormitory and apartment style options as well. When choosing a country, school, or program to enroll in, be sure that they offer the style of housing that you think will make the transition as easy as possible for you. If you enjoy the dorm life, or want to experience living in an apartment with many locals around you, pick a program that offers those housing options near the school or a central location. Host families also can provide an ideal local “in” for you, but living with a family means living under their roof and rules. In dorms and apartments, you might find that there aren’t as strict of rules regarding curfew or overnight guests, but in the home of a host family, those rules might differ from ones you are used to now that you’ve likely lived in an apartment or house on your own during your college experience.
5. Picking a Place You Might Otherwise Not Go
Everyone studies abroad in London, Rome, Spain, and France, and while those are all fantastic places to study, it’s very probable that once you are abroad you can and will travel to all of those destinations on your weekend excursions. What many students overlook is the places that you might never get the chance to visit unless you study there. Cities like Prague in the Czech Republic, Berlin or Frankfurt in Germany, Florence in Italy, Vienna in Austria, and Amsterdam in the Netherlands all offer such an incredible amount of charm with the same amount (if not more) culture and excitement. Don’t take the top destinations off the table when deciding where to study, but keep the roads less traveled in mind as well, even if it’s just for a weekend visit