While both areas of advice are certainly sound, there may be a third area that can have enormously positive results as well: studying abroad.
Yes, your junior year of college may offer the best opportunity for you to study abroad, enabling you to take classes for a semester or for an entire academic year and have those classes count toward your graduation. Read on for some tips on how to find the best study abroad option for your junior year.
1. Suit your major. Some students already have a destination in mind for studying abroad, but they may not give full consideration to their major. This can be a mistake because if you have your heart on studying in Switzerland, for example, and you cannot match your courses up while abroad, you may waste time. Then again, if you do not mind extending your academic pursuits, then an extra semester or year of schooling may benefit you especially if you have opted for a double major.
2. Settle on where you want to go. There is nothing wrong with preferring one location over another one, or even determining to avoid a country you have no interest in visiting. There is no point for you to study at a location that does not suit you — your experience abroad should be interesting, academically challenging and enjoyable.
3. Summer or more. Some students are simply uncomfortable with spending months to a year abroad. Studying abroad may not fit their budget and the time away from home may simply be too much. Your college likely has several summer abroad programs available where you can be away for as little as three weeks and still earn credit. A summer program can also whet your appetite for a possible lengthier trip abroad later on: perhaps between your junior or senior years, or during the summer following your graduation.
4. Apply as soon as possible. Slots for students studying abroad may be limited and fill up quickly. Time is of the essence, therefore if you are determined to study abroad, get busy identifying your options. Speak with your college advisor and discuss your options with your parents. Make a concerted effort to finalize your plans at the earliest possible moment. Also, renew or obtain your passport, apply for a visa, visit your doctor for a health checkup and shots, and begin packing.
5. Soak it in. For many students, studying abroad is a “once in a lifetime opportunity” or one that may never be repeated later on. For other students, studying abroad can open them to job opportunities abroad with their earlier tenure abroad paving that way. When abroad, do as the locals do. Remember, you are a guest in another country and are expected to understand local customs, laws and various idiosyncrasies. Be yourself, but be mindful how your experience may be received by others. Immerse yourself in your studies, enjoy the local culture and try to travel as much as possible within your host country. Practice your language skills and allow locals to practice their skills on you.
Study Abroad Benefits
There are a number of benefits in studying abroad that college students should consider. First, students can obtain academic credit for work completed. Second, study abroad participants gain exposure to different cultures and languages. Third, prospective employers are very receptive to job candidates with international experience under their belts. Disadvantages include the cost of studying abroad and in some cases taking courses that will not count toward your graduation.
See Also — College Sophomores: What to Consider