The perfect guide and starter questions to help you choose the perfect destination to study abroad!
What are you studying? How long are studying abroad for? Do you want to do other traveling while abroad? These are a few of the questions you need to ask yourself when choosing the right location. Whether you have a specific country, city, or a few schools already in mind or you’re completely open and undecided… there are so many little things you may not have considered that factor into the right decision.
What are you studying?
This is a huge determining factor for choosing the best place to study abroad. I was an English major, so naturally going to England made a lot of sense for me. If you’re studying something more broad like business, then this may not be something to think about too much. But if you’re a history major or archeology major then location is important. If you can find a location that directly relates to your area of study, put it at the top of the list.
Do you want to travel to other countries? What are some places on your travel bucket list?
Are you completely undecided and have no idea what country you want to study in? Start here. Choose a place you already want to visit and choose a study abroad program based on that focal point! You might as well embark on this adventure while you’re in college, because after you graduate living abroad is a vastly more difficult endeavor.
If you’re going to another continent, you definitely want to factor in your travel bucket list. Once you’re already abroad, traveling around is insanely cheaper and easier. It can be very expensive to travel abroad from the USA… so while you’re there for school, make it a priority to travel to places you’ve always wanted to visit. And if you’re from another country and thinking about coming to the USA, make sure you travel around to all the different states and cities you want to see.
It should be a 40/60 balance of education and travel. Yes, you’re going abroad to attend another school and take classes, but you could also do that in your home country. In my case, I would’ve taken 10 classes at my home university and was only allowed to take 4 at the university I attended abroad. What you should be truly looking to gain is an amazing experience traveling and discovering new cultures – that’s what studying abroad is really about.
What programs does your school offer? What programs does your major offer?
Some schools will offer great opportunities and programs for specific majors. Most of the faculty-led programs are “minimesters”, meaning they take place over winter, spring, or summer break. Many of these programs feel more like big field trips that focus on your area of study. If you’re looking for something more immersive, then you should opt for a semester or year long program.
If your major doesn’t offer specialized programs or that’s not the type of study abroad experience you’re looking for, your university definitely has partner programs to offer you as well. Your school’s study abroad website should have some type of database you can browse through. These partner programs are not major-specific. They are partnerships between your home school and an international university.
My advice is to make a list of countries you want to possibly study in and then peruse the various partnerships. Look at all the partnered schools and then do ample research on each one.
What should you ask yourself when choosing a school?
- Do they offer your major?
- Depending on your major, some schools may not offer it.
- Is it in a good location?
- Yes, you’re studying abroad and the school matters, but the location is just as important. You want to make sure you’ll get an education and get the most out of the location as well.
- Is it a good school?
- It’s always important to see how the university ranks among others in its country.
If faculty-led or partnership programs aren’t for you, then your next option is an affiliate program. This was the option I went with because I wanted to study in the UK, but my home school didn’t have many partnerships. I studied through USAC, which is a company that affiliates itself with tons of different universities and liaises your study abroad experience. Your home school’s study abroad website will probably have the various affiliates listed in their database for you to explore.
The one downfall of choosing an affiliate program is that your tuition will not be the same. Each program will have its own tuition and fees. I chose a program that was about the same, but there are programs that are a lot more expensive. It completely depends on the location and school. This became a slight dilemma for me because I really wanted to study at Oxford, but it was too expensive for me to go both semesters. So I opted for Reading, which was significantly cheaper, so that I could go abroad for the full school year. It all comes down to what is more important to you.
Are you going abroad with anyone else? Do you know anyone in that country? Are you okay with being alone?
Studying abroad will force you to really get to know yourself and take stock of your insecurities. You will probably be thrown outside your comfort zone, so it’s important to think about this before you’re alone in a foreign country.
For me, I wasn’t going abroad with anyone. I do have family friends in England, so I had a support system in the country. But once I got to my university, I was completely alone. I’m not gonna lie, the first few weeks are hard. If you’re not going with a group or a friend, you won’t know anyone at your new school. Is that something you’re okay with? Are you good at making friends?
I lean on the introverted side, so having zero friends and being alone constantly was a struggle at first. Don’t let this stop you from going alone though! I went, cried the first few days, ate alone… and then I made friends. You will too, and you’ll be a stronger, more confident person from the experience.
I haven’t covered every single detail here, but this should definitely get you started when beginning the harrowing task of deciding exactly where you want to study abroad. If you’re looking for more advice, have any questions, or just need someone to bounce ideas with, shoot me a message! I know just how chaotic and overwhelming this process can be, and I’m be happy to help you out.
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