Studying abroad can be a deeply rewarding experience. There are several reasons to embark on such an adventure. First, this experience will afford you a more robust view of the world. If you travel to one of the multitude of countries where English is not the primary language, you will get the opportunity to learn a new language or practice one you have learned before – this time, with immersion. Additionally, it is a great deal of fun, as well as excellent material for your college application and resume.
Perhaps you’ve thought about studying abroad, but just aren’t certain how to begin the process. The idea of living somewhere else, practicing a foreign language, and meeting new people is an exciting concept – but how do you make such a hope a reality? There are three ways to look further into studying abroad, and doing all three will bring you much closer to the experience.
1. Ask around
Do you know anyone who has studied abroad? Where did they study, what organization did they travel with, and what was necessary to begin the process?
Often, it may be difficult to ask meaningful questions about studying abroad, as it’s an experience you haven’t had yet. You may have traveled on some short trips, but living and studying for an extended period of time in another country may be a difficult concept to grasp. Consider posing these helpful questions: What classes did you take? How difficult were they, and were they in a foreign language? How helpful was the organization or institution with which you went? Did you go with a group or on your own? Did you stay with a host family, and if so, what was that like?
2. Do your research
After hearing about others’ experiences, you should begin to research potential study abroad options. The first person you may wish to speak with is your school guidance counselor, who might have a strong idea of which programs are best for you. Also, take a look at nearby colleges and universities, which often have study abroad programs for high school students with coursework transferrable to their institutions.
While you’re conducting your research, it’s important to pose relevant questions along the way. It’s much more advantageous to figure out issues in advance instead of being surprised when you’re abroad. Every program is run differently, and may have different goals and objectives, so you should ask about them now.
Some basic questions to ask the study abroad counselors and program representatives are: Do I qualify for the program? Do I have the grades and experience required for competitive programs? Do I receive academic credit for courses, and to where can they be applied? What kind of cultural immersion activities occur?
Academics are important, so it’s important to understand what classes are offered, and with what institutions. It’s also essential to know how the organization will support you while you’re abroad. Do you need a visa and insurance, or will they assist you in that? How can you expect to keep in touch with family and friends while abroad?
3. Look at countries
While you’re researching, browse the countries and regions that are being offered as study abroad hosts. You may already have a favorite location in mind, but consider that those students who are more flexible and have less of a preference have far more programs – and scholarships – to choose from.
First, identify the language of the country. Are you studying a language already and would prefer to continue learning that, or would you like to acquire a new one? How difficult is the language for an English speaker?
Secondly, consider the culture. Is it a culture you’re highly interested in, or one that you know little about? There’s no right answer to this question, as you’ll experience some level of culture shock regardless. In the end, it doesn’t matter as much where you go as it does that you bring an open mind and a sense of adventure.