Study Abroad – Don’t Miss Out


By Cathryn Johnson

I graduated from college a few years ago. At the time I couldn’t wait to get out, and into the work force. I took summer school. I took extra credits during regular semesters. I did everything possible so that I could to graduate early.

Are you dreaming about studying abroad?

But, now that I am working, I wish I wouldn’t have been in such a hurry. Like most of people, I have fond memories of my four years of studying Political Science. I often refer to my college days as “the good old days.”

Personal Regret

Looking back, probably my greatest regret is that I never took the time to pursue study abroad opportunities. Since my graduation, I have run into countless people who studied abroad for a semester or two during college. And each of them has quite a story to tell. None of them regret the fact that studying abroad may have caused them to graduate a semester late (and in some cases they were able to graduate on time).

Aside from the fear of graduating late if I were to study abroad, I also felt that choosing a study abroad program would be a daunting task. Thus, I shied away from ever seriously looking into the opportunities.

Study Abroad

Some of you may still be in college, and I do not want you to make the same mistake I did. I do not want you to miss out on the opportunity of a lifetime of studying abroad (at least not because of a fear of late graduation or being overwhelmed by all of the choices out there). Thus, I have put together a simple guide on how to pick a study abroad program that best suits your needs:

1. Talk to an on-campus education counselor who has experience with study abroad programs. It is important to know what programs your college already has relationships with. It is often easier to get credit approval for programs that have been tried and tested by former students of your college. You can also get inside scoop on what different programs are like.

2. If you are able to, have the counselor introduce you to students who have studied abroad. Talk to them and discuss their experiences. First hand advice is the best advice.

3. Decide what country you would like to study in. Since you will be saving up and traveling abroad, why not go to a country that have always dreamed of visiting? Make a list of your top three countries. You will need back-ups because as you proceed, you may discover that a particular country is way out of your budget or that the country does not offer a program with courses you are interested in taking.

4. Determine your budget. Realistically decide how much money you can save up to pursue this opportunity. Look at the costs of the various study abroad programs that your college supports and narrow down the programs according to your budget.

5. Decide what topics/courses you would like to focus on while abroad. Many people fulfill their foreign language requirements while studying abroad. But, there are programs where you can study abroad and take literature, art, math and science courses as well. Generally students elect to take courses abroad that will somehow count towards their major back home. Your decision may also be swayed by the courses offered by programs in the country of your choice.

6. Next decide when, during your four years in college, would you like to study abroad. When making this decision you need to consider the following:

  • the timing of the study abroad programs you are interested in (some study abroad programs are on ly offered during the summer months or during particular times of the year);
  • the weather in the country of your choice;
  • your budget (third-world countries are generally cheaper than developed nations);
  • mandatory classes you will need to take and when they will be offered in your college (some core classes are offered only once a year, and you may not want to fall an entire year behind by studying abroad);
  • the time table for applying for jobs/internships in your field (you want to be sure you are in your hometown to apply for jobs at the right time).

Generally, keeping all of these considerations in mind, most students choose to study abroad during the summer of their sophomore year of college.

7. After deciding “when,” you need to decide, “for how long.” How long would you like to study abroad for? In making this decision, you need to evaluate your reasons for studying abroad. If you are going to study a language, a one year stint abroad may not be unreasonable. Think of it as a one year immersion program.

If you are just going for an adventure, a summer or semester abroad may be enough. You will also need to consider your budget and the type of program you will be in. Some short programs (ones at prestigious colleges) can cost an arm and a leg for just two weeks. On the other hand, some year long programs can be quite affordable (ones in developing nations).

8. After going through all of these steps, you will likely have narrowed in on a particular program. The next step is looking into housing arrangements. Many students opt to live with host families.

Living with a host family is generally more economical and for those who want to learn about a foreign culture, it a great way to do so. However, some students want their freedom and choose to live in hostels or shared apartments.

Author Information

Cathryn Johnson is a content writer for Medical Billing. She also is a contributing writer for a site that helps students determine the best online nursing program for them. In her free time she enjoys traveling, theater and playing in the sun.

Photo Credit: Julia Freeman-Woolpert

Adv. — Are you coming up short this semester? A Sallie Mae Smart Option Student Loan can help you close the student financing gap.


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Categories: Personal Advice