How to go about Studying Abroad – Programs, Definition & Benefits

So you want to study abroad? Here’s my short guide (tips) for getting it done (and doing it right).

There are many types of programs for many different countries from Canada to the Netherlands to Africa. It’s a great part of the college experience and one I definitely think everyone should try to take advantage of, whether only for the experience or for resume or whatever your means. Financial aid is available and studying abroad can be affordable. I’m currently studying in Hong Kong for the year and so far, my journey has been amazing.

1. How to apply?

Talk to your study abroad office. You usually have to meet with an adviser to discuss your options. Gather information on the countries you’re interested in get feedback. For example, some schools are tougher than other schools. this may be in competitiveness to get in or academically. Find out whether your school offers any type academic assistance such as grade boosts when you return or the pass/fail option.

Fill out your applications (there’s usually a couple short essays and a personal statement) and get your transcripts and letters of recommendations in. It’s helpful to be organized. You’ll also need a medical exam.

NOTE: Make sure you meet all language requirements for the country/program you’ve chosen if there is one.

2. When do you want to go?

There is a program available, no matter what year you’re in. Whether it’s right for you, however, is a different question.

For example, the UC EAP program offers a particular language program in Germany available ONLY to freshman and most programs require you to be juniors or seniors (although some like Japan take sophomores).
It’s important to know when you want to go because applications take awhile to fill and complete (the process can be up to 6 months). You also have to know whether there are language requirements of other prerequisites for the program.

3. Where do you want to go?

Choosing a country is important. You’re are either going to choose a language/immersion program or you’re going to choose a more field specific program. Regardless, location is important. Using Hong Kong, Vallendar (Germany), and California as examples, here are some things to take into consideration when choosing a country and school:

-availability of transportation:

Hong Kong has a great system that runs almost 24 hours (buses, taxis, trains). California is huge, we all know that cars are necessary unless you live in San Francisco or some maybe downtown LA. Waiting for the bus? It might be awhile.

-location of the school:

Hong Kong is a major busy city with a vibrant night life. Everything is accessible.
Vallendar is a small town and at least 20 minutes to a big city (it’s small enough you see everyone everyday).
California? Depends on where you are. Most places close around between 9-11 PM. Can be quite drab in certain areas.

-whether other exchange students there tend to do semester or year programs:

Many schools (especially European) tend to allow their students studying abroad only one semester in any particular country. It would definitely suck if you decided to stay the year and everyone you met leaves half way. On the other hand, most students who only stay a semester wish they have the opportunity to extend their stay to a year.

4. Do’s and Don’ts and how to make the best of your college experience abroad:

  • DO go out of your way to meet people, try new things, be open!
  • Don’t forget about your studies if you’re not pass/fail.
  • DO travel and remember to follow the laws.
  • Don’t (well, try not to) be ethnocentric.

and….TRAVEL! Traveling is easy and relatively cheap to surrounding areas whether it’s Asia (to South East Asia) or Europe or South America. I got roundtrip tickets from Hong Kong to Vietnam for ~$150 USD. Although, I do recommend you travel more in the beginning of your term, as classes and midterms/finals can pile up one over another.

Did I miss anything? Check out my website for more info about my travels!

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