Choosing a program abroad can be one daunting task. Sure, you’re excited at the thought of travelling. Who isn’t? Just the thought of scaling the Eiffel Tower, touring Buckingham Palace, or visiting the Taj Mahal gives you a rush of excitement. You imagine your friends at home – jealous of your far-away adventures. But, before all this can happen, you need to make a choice. Do you want to study in Seville or volunteer in Pokhara, intern in Ireland or study in Sydney? Some of you may know immediately where you’d like to go, when you’d like to go, and what you’d like to do. But, for many, finding the right program can be like a frustrating game of pin the tail on the donkey. Well, that’s where we come in! Below is a not-so-short how-to guide to help you in your search for the perfect program.
Step One: Research the Options
First off, let me say that it is never too early to start researching. With so many options, the best first step you can take is to see what’s out there. You’d be surprised at the types of opportunities available, and the earlier you start looking, the more opportunities you may have. Want to help with sea turtle conservation efforts? Take classes towards your engineering degree? Intern at a law firm? You can do all of these things abroad! Take some time and do some browsing to see what types of programs pique your interest.
Step Two: Meet with Your Advisor
An increase in study abroad programs over the years has meant more opportunities for more people. Whether you’re majoring in global studies or marine biology, there’s a program out there for you. However, there may be better times to go abroad than others. Your academic advisor can help you narrow down when might be the best time for you to go and what types of classes or programs you should focus on (ex. credit-bearing, intern, study, short-term, etc.)
Step Three: Choose a Time and Duration
Once you’ve met with your advisor, you should have a better idea of what time frame you should aim for. While some may be fortunate enough to work in a full year abroad, this isn’t possible for everyone. Luckily, program providers and universities have found a way for most everyone to fit in some period of time abroad during their academic career. From week-long volunteer trips to four-month internships, there’s something for everybody. Once you’ve narrowed down a time frame, say a two-month summer program after your junior year, you can begin to get a better idea of what places and programs will work for you.
Step Four: Choose a Program Type
This can be one of the harder parts of choosing a program abroad. There are so many different types of programs, each with its own unique benefits and features. To help give you a better idea of the options, scroll down for a short description of each type.
Step Five: Choose a Continent/Country/Region
Choosing a location can be one of the best parts of traveling abroad, but also one of the hardest. For many people it may be easy. Maybe they always saw themselves sitting along the shore in Valencia or sipping a cappuccino in Florence. But for some, it can be hard to choose between these two scenes and the many others that likely occupy your daydreams. Choosing a general area is really the best place to start. When choosing a region, take language, climate, and time zone into consideration. Keep in mind that, while these are things to be aware of, they shouldn’t necessarily be deciding factors when you get down to picking a program. Wherever you go and whatever you do, it’s all about finding a program that will allow you to have the best possible experience abroad.
Step Six: Choose a City
The (almost) final step! When choosing a city, you should factor in a few things:
- Geographic location:
Think about whether you’d like to be by the beach, the mountains, or the countryside. What type of location fits you best?
- Activities available:
Do you enjoy hiking? Swimming? Biking? Look into what environment might be most conducive to the types of activities that you enjoy.
- Cultural events:
Look into the events that are typically held in that city. Is there a yearly rock festival featuring a frequent lineup of your favorite bands? Do they host an autumn festival complete with traditional food and activities?
Step Seven: Choosing a Program!
You know what’s out there, when you’d like to go, what type of program you want to do, and where you’d like to go. Now the only thing left to do is pick a program. Once you know what you’re looking for, the process of finding a program can be a lot less scary and a whole lot quicker. If you’re still having trouble, simply ask for help. There are plenty of people out there that want to help you get abroad – academic advisors, professors, the study abroad office staff at your university, and us! Any one of the World Endeavors staff members is ready and willing to help you narrow down your options and plan your program.
Once you’ve figured out your program, there are many things you can do to get started on your adventure. My suggestion is to get in contact with the study abroad office at your university. Let them know what program you’re planning on doing and what program provider you’re working with. From here they can help you figure out funding (scholarships, crowd-funding, financial aid, etc.), the transfer of credits, and any other steps you might need to take.
Have questions? Contact a World Endeavors Advisor at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave your comments below!