It is important that you first reflect on your own individuality and reasoning for studying abroad prior to searching for programs. You should begin by considering how an international program will support your academic, professional, and personal objectives. We encourage you to view studying abroad as an integral step to achieving your long-term goals rather than an ancillary activity engaged in while you’re in college. You will be investing considerable time and resources, so be sure that you get a good return on that investment.
Study Abroad Reasoning
The following questions are crucial to ponder before you begin weighing specific study abroad programs. Think about your answers and if they serve your aspirations.
Why are you seeking a study abroad experience?
- Gain a global perspective
- Improve my foreign language skills
- Internationalize my résumé
- Explore my family roots or ethnic heritage
What is attractive to you about living and studying in another country?
- Gaining appreciation and awareness of different cultures
- Making international friends
- Challenging myself to adapt to a new environment
You should also contemplate your goals in life, at least as you think of them now. You are currently attending university and have perhaps selected major and minor fields of study as preparation for life post-graduation, so…
What will be your professional direction after you graduate?
Do you plan to apply to graduate schools, teach, volunteer, or find a job in the private or non-profit sectors?
How will you apply your international experience in your chosen profession?
Do not be apprehensive if you don’t have all the answers to these questions. You will simply be in a better position to make informed choices about studying abroad after considering your future.
Identifying Program Attributes
Once you have a grasp on your reasoning for studying abroad and long-term goals, you should begin identifying program and host destination attributes. The following list is by no means comprehensive, but should be useful in selecting a program abroad that will meet your needs.
Are you interested in a region of the world or a specific country?
What scale of place are you looking for? (urban, suburban, rural)
Are there any events or trends in the world today that you want to learn more about?
What degree requirements would you like to satisfy by going abroad?
Do you have another interest or a complementary subject area that you want to focus on?
Do you want to study one topic intensively or take a variety of courses?
Do you have the language skills to take courses taught in the local language?
How important is an internship or conducting research to you?
What type of experience will improve your graduate school applications or make your résumé stand out?
Do you learn better in the classroom or in the field?
Do you like independent or guided learning?
Are you able to adapt to different styles of learning?
Do you want to study abroad more than once?
How immersed in the culture do you want to be?
After brainstorming ideas of program attributes, try to rank those characteristics according to their priority to you. What aspects of a study abroad experience are the most important to you? Try to remain flexible because there may be programs that fit some, but not all of your priorities. The most highly ranked factors are often geographic location, affordability and academic offerings. Be open to the possibility there are multiple places in which you will prosper and succeed.
It is equally important to consider any challenges to studying abroad. Generally, there are so many programs available that at least one will fit each student’s situation, so do not be discouraged. Any potential barriers that you identify should be incorporated into your goals statement. What will you need to overcome any challenges?
Commonly identified challenges include:
- Financial Resources
- Family situation
- Job obligations
- Social, academic, or athletic commitments
- Physical or learning disabilities
Write a Goals Statement
After considering all of the above, try to compose a brief statement (one or two sentences) that combines everything into a guide for examining programs. Your statement should be brief in order to be most effective for narrowing down possibilities. Bring this information with you when you meet with an Education Abroad Advisor.
Here are a few examples of program search statements:
“I plan to apply to graduate school in Marine Biology, so I am looking for a program in Australia to take sciences courses and conduct research.”
“I aim to be an internationally competent social worker who has experience relating to diverse groups and am flexible with any destination, but would like to have a service-learning experience.”
“I want to be a bilingual nurse who can easily communicate with patients in Spanish, so I am looking for an intensive Spanish program in Latin America which will also allow me to also fulfill general education graduation requirements.”
“I am a Mechanical Engineering major and want to work for an international firm upon graduation, so I am looking for a program to take engineering courses taught in English.”