As seen in USA TODAY College:
6 steps to selecting the perfect study abroad program
By McKenzie Powell, Ohio University May 20, 2015 2:22 pm
S electing a study abroad program can often be difficult and extremely overwhelming.
Depending on your university, you might have a considerable amount of options for professor-led programs. If not, you may have to begin a long journey searching the endless possibilities offered through other providers.
No matter which route you take, the steps below can help you cut through the clutter and find a program well suited to your interests.
1. “Go out and talk to people,” says Frances Weiner, study abroad advisor and representative for International Education Programs at Ohio University.
Chat with a fellow student who has studied abroad, a professor who has led a trip or someone at your college’s study abroad office. Chances are, your university will have an on-campus study abroad advisor who can cover the basics , while giving you an overview of programs available at your school.
Talking to different individuals will help you as you begin to narrow down the possibilities for your global experience.
2. Decide how long you would like to study abroad and when. Plenty of semester-long options are available during the fall and spring, while shorter alternatives are frequently offered during summer and winter breaks.
By making this small decision, you can avoid wasting time sifting through countless programs.
3. Begin searching for programs with classes that will meet your degree requirements. You may have a few extra prerequisites that you would like to get out of the way, or perhaps a foreign language requirement. Some programs may even offer courses more specific to your major, like a higher-level geography class or an exclusive course in psychology.
“If it’s not going to count for anything, you’re basically going on glorified travel,” says Ryan Geiger, advisor for International Student and Faculty Services at Ohio University. Geiger, who studied abroad in Italy and Switzerland as a graduate student, cautions, “don’t look at study abroad as just a way to travel, look at it as a way to get an education and expand your views."
4. Choose your language of study. Would you like to take classes in French or English, Portuguese or Thai? Some study abroad programs will only offer classes in the specific country’s official language, while others will offer just English and, sometimes, both.
These courses may also vary based on level of difficulty and will oftentimes require a foreign language proficiency test upon arrival.
5. Start examining costs. Most programs will vary in price largely due to location, which is why its usually best to save location for last. Begin seeking out programs that not only meet your degree requirements and preferred language of study, but also fit into a realistic price range.
6. Location, location, location. Location can easily be determined after investigating available classes, language of instruction and cost. Once you get those figured out, a location can sometimes fall right into place.
“Sometimes you can get bogged down by all the options,” Weiner says. “If you have too many options you’re less likely to choose, so less is more.”
If you still find yourself struggling to find the right study abroad program, or are continuing to have a challenging time choosing just one, take a step back, leave it alone for some time and sleep on it.
When it’s time to make your ultimate decision, go with your gut, follow your heart and start preparing for an amazing, life-changing experience.