How to Study Abroad: A 10 Step Guide

Studying abroad can be an eye-opening experience and a wonderful opportunity to take advantage of during your time as a college student. You may be curious though about the pros and cons and how to study abroad! We’ve included a rundown of the basics, plus some tips on how to study in a different country.

Three hot air balloons in the sky.

What is Study Abroad?

Studying abroad is the idea of traveling to another country for your education for a set period. Schools that offer this program will have partnerships with colleges and universities around the world for various majors. The programs can last anywhere from a couple of weeks to a year.

What are the Pros of Studying Abroad?

  • You can immerse yourself in a different culture
  • In many cases, the credits will transfer 1:1
  • You can learn or practice a different language
  • You’ll make friends and connections
  • There is support for international students
  • You can gain independence?

What are the Cons of Studying Abroad?

  • If you don’t speak the language, you won’t understand your classes
  • Not all classes transfer 1:1 and you may graduate late if you don’t plan properly
  • Your desired destination may not have a partnership with your college for your major
  • It can be expensive (more on that below!)
  • You may experience culture shock
  • You could get homesick

How Much Does it Cost to Study Abroad?

 On average, studying abroad can cost students $18,000 per semester. However, there may be resources available to you to make the cost more affordable. You could, for example, start with your college’s financial aid department to see if there is any assistance available. You can also apply for scholarships that are dedicated to study abroad students!

1. Determine your Priorities

Before trying to decide on a study abroad program, you need to consider your priorities. Decide what is most important to your experience and what are you willing to sacrifice. Some questions to ask yourself are:

  • How long do I want my program to be?
  • Am I set on a destination, or flexible?
  • Do I want to travel with friends or go solo?
  • Do the classes I take have to pertain to my major?
  • Am I willing to alter my 4-year graduation plan?
  • Do I want to study a language?
  • Are scholarships and financial aid a deciding factor?

Once you know these factors, you can start to assess programs.

2. Do your Research

Now that you’ve decided on what is important to you, it is time to start researching and assessing programs. Using a tool like studyabroad.com can help you gain access to hundreds of programs in many countries. You should also talk to your school’s study abroad department. They will help you identify schools that partner directly with the college so you can be sure you’re not falling behind on your graduation requirements.

3. Attend an Information Session

Most colleges offer information sessions on study abroad opportunities. Some may cover general information on studying abroad and others could be program-specific. Talk to the faculty and alumni who are hosting the session; they will be able to answer your questions and concerns! You should also pick up some brochures and information packets while you’re there.

4. Schedule an Appointment with a Study Abroad Advisor

You should schedule an appointment with a study abroad advisor so they can help you narrow down program choices. They will assess the best options for you based on academics, finances, and culture.

5. Submit Application

Once you’ve decided on a program (or a few) that interest you, you will need to apply. Just like your college admissions application, you need to take this seriously. Show the program directors what you are hoping to gain from this experience and why you would be a great fit.

6. Apply for a Passport & Visa if Needed

If you don’t already have a passport, get one! The process can be lengthy and paying for expedited service is expensive; they take between 6 to 8 weeks (if there are no current delays). A standard passport will set you back around $145, but it’s necessary to visit any other country outside of the United States and its territories. Depending on the program you choose, you may also need to obtain a Visa. Your study abroad program coordinators or advisor will help you determine if one is needed and walk you through the process if you need help.

7. Apply for Scholarships & Financial Aid

This is most likely a very important step in your journey abroad. Seek out as many scholarships as you can when searching for ways to finance your study abroad. Apply for scholarships at your home institution, your chosen study abroad program, your home institution’s study abroad office, or external parties, and file for financial aid. This process may seem confusing or daunting. It will be especially helpful to meet with a financial aid advisor as well as your study abroad advisor again. A joint meeting could be very beneficial for locating as many resources as possible to fund this wonderful opportunity.

8. Prepare for Your Study Abroad Semester

Once you’ve been accepted to a program, it’s time to start planning for your move! First up is booking your flight. Finding a deal is a good idea, so try using apps that are designed to notify you of low prices.

You will also likely have to select your classes, dorm room, and other facets of your trip. If you have any questions about what you should be doing at this time, refer to your school’s study abroad department.

9. Create a Budget

It’s important to create a budget before you head out, too. And that doesn’t only include your tuition. You need to think about travel, living expenses, food, fun, and more because you don’t want to go broke halfway through the experience!

You’ll also have to decide just what you’re taking with you and what you’re buying there, so plan accordingly. You don’t want to head to the airport with everything you own in tow.

10. Attend Pre-Departure Meeting

Most programs will have a pre-departure meeting. Don’t skip it! It may even be necessary to attend. This meeting will cover last-minute checklist items, things you should pack (and shouldn’t), and what to expect when you arrive in the other country.

Studying abroad can be a wonderful opportunity if you can swing it! You’ll have the chance to explore new parts of the world, make new friends, and open the doors to new opportunities. Just be sure you don’t skip any of the steps above or you could make a mistake when it comes time to travel!

Studying abroad can be expensive. Scholarships can make the experience much more affordable. Our Scholarship Search tool allows you to identify the awards you qualify for and have a chance of winning – including ones for study abroad programs!

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