University Study Abroad Guide
In today's interconnected world, knowing and understanding other nations and cultures can be a valuable asset to a student. Although colleges and universities require global study classes to help their students become well-rounded, living is learning. Study Abroad is the best way for students to learn the culture of another country. Each year, thousands of students travel overseas, usually for a minimum of one semester, to take classes, live with a host family or university, and immerse themselves in a foreign culture. The decision to study abroad is a very important one. It requires a lot of information and resources. Take your time to read through this article and the additional resources provided if you have ever considered taking this amazing journey.
Why Study Abroad?
Studying abroad certainly makes for an exciting adventure. The thrill of seeing new places cannot be matched, nor can the experience of meeting people who are very different in terms of attitude, beliefs, appearance, and culture. Students can build strong relationships with these people and with the ease of today's global communication, stay friends for life.
By meeting and interacting with people in other countries, students can learn far more about other cultures than they could in a classroom. Students can learn to develop empathy for others and a truer appreciation and understanding for other ways of doing things, for every society does things differently.
Studying abroad also exposes students to teachers with whom they would not otherwise get to study. These instructors can greatly enrich the student’s educational experience and provoke learning experiences that the student would not ordinarily get to be a part of. Students can also learn the cultural differences within the classroom. Studying abroad can connect students to top experts in their field that do not live within the United States.
There are many other advantages to studying abroad, but a final one that must be mentioned is studying abroad can greatly increase a student’s proficiency in another language. Being immersed in a culture that speaks another language is the best way to learn that language. Within the classroom, it is common for teachers to provide the proper and formal approach to a language. By being submerged, students can learn the informal slang and cultural deviation of the language.
- Advice for Parents: Study Abroad — The Center for Global Education offers advice to parents of students who want to study abroad.
- Top Ten Reasons to Study Abroad — There are many reasons to study abroad. Check out the top ten.
- The First Lady on Study Abroad — Michelle Obama delivered these remarks on the advantages of studying abroad.
- Five Questions Parents Should Ask about Studying Abroad — CBS News provides this helpful list of questions that parents should ask before allowing their children to study abroad.
- Forum on Education Abroad — A non-profit organization dedicated to the field of studying abroad. This website provides great information on this subject.
- Student's Guide to Education Abroad — Here is a five-part guide that helpfully outlines the advantages of studying abroad and how to prepare for overseas education.
- Comparing Costs — The University of Minnesota offers this brief, helpful guide to comparing the costs of overseas study programs in order to help students make an enrollment decision.
- Teen Health: Studying Abroad — Students will appreciate this helpful guide to preparing for study abroad.
- The World Factbook — This website from the CIA can help you choose which country is right for your study abroad trip.
- Study Abroad with AIFS — This website provides information on 20 popular study abroad countries and reasons to choose each.
- Choosing a Program — The tips outlined in this article will guide you in your efforts to choosing a program.
- National Geographic Countries — Learning about different countries where one might study is always a good idea, and National Geographic is a good way to get this education.
- Ten Good Reasons to Study in France — France is a popular destination for studying abroad, and here are ten reasons why.
- Why Study Abroad in Asia? —This page explores the distinct reasons and advantages why students would want to study abroad in Asia.
Preparing to Study Abroad
Once the decision has been made to study abroad, there are lots of things do to in order to prepare. The most obvious of these is making sure that the student has the appropriate passport and visa. Host schools should be able to give students more information on the documents that will be required.
Students will also want to contact their health insurer to find out what to do in case of an illness or emergency while overseas. It might be necessary to purchase additional, temporary coverage, so money should be set aside for that expenditure should it be required. Students will also want to check with their country’s health ministry to find out about the risks for specific diseases before they go. If they will be going to a country where malaria is a risk, for example, a malaria vaccination will need to be prescribed and administered before the trip is made. Specific information on this subject for U.S. citizens can be found through the Center for Disease Control.
Related to health and well-being is physical safety. Students should be aware of any risks to their safety in the city and country they will be residing, and this can be obtained by visiting the website for the U.S. Department of State. Students should remember that they are no longer in the United States, and to respect the host countries culture, beliefs, and values. Students should dress and act appropriately. Consult with the exchange program administrator to get more information on this specific aspect of overseas travel.
Of course, none of these preparations benefit you unless you get into a studying abroad program, so make sure that you apply in time to get accepted. Check with your school's study abroad office for specific information, but the following resources offer important suggestions and advice.
Before You Go
- Things to Learn Before You Leave — The University of Illinois provides this excellent page on what students should know before they leave for an overseas study trip: Including things to pack, monetary issues, transportation issues, guidebooks, information on hostels, etc.
- Before You Go — Although this site has a lot of specific information for students of Carnegie Mellon University, it can help any student who wants to prepare for overseas study.
- Helping Your Student Before Departure — Parents can learn how to help their students prepare for study overseas on this helpful website from the ISEP.
Organizations That Can Help
- SCIET: Studying Abroad — The Council on Standards for International Educational Travel offers information on accredited and recommended programs for international study.
- Going Abroad — Guide from the US Dept of Education on studying abroad.
- Mobility International USA — For over thirty years, Mobility International USA has worked to insure that people with disabilities can participate in international exchange programs.
- Students Abroad — This official U.S. Department of State webpage is specifically designed to assist students in preparing to study abroad and for help once they are overseas.
- Study Abroad — StudyAbroad.com is a comprehensive resources with information on studying abroad, study abroad programs, and more.
- Worldwide Classroom Travel Planner — The Worldwide Classroom Travel Planner has helpful links on the left side of the page for information on international study and preparing for it.
- Diversity Abroad — This website focuses on study abroad and dealing with diversity.
- Embassy — This website provides access to every US embassy in the world.
Health & Safety
- Travelers’ Health — Before going overseas, students should consult this site from the Centers for Disease Control for information on maintaining health while overseas.
Funding Overseas Study
Cost typically represents the biggest obstacle to students wanting to studying abroad. Fortunately, there are many ways to obtain funding for such programs. Dozens of foundations and governmental entities offer scholarships, loans, and grants to qualified students who want to study overseas. The links in this section will take readers to some of the most well-known funding resources for overseas education.
Of particular interest to low-income students is the TRIO program offered through the U.S. Department of Education. Students who are at an extreme disadvantage for paying for overseas study can obtain grants and other financial aid to travel overseas. Students on Pell Grants and other hardship assistance should especially consider this option.
- TRIO Programs — TRIO provides funding and other helps to disadvantaged students for higher education.
- Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship Program — This program provides funding for international study to undergraduates who are attending college via a Pell Grant.
- Boren Awards for International Study — Boren awards are provided to graduate and undergraduate students who want to study in regions deemed critical to U.S. national security.
- Chevening Scholarships — Chevening Scholarships provide funds for non-UK students to study in Britain.
- Marshall Scholarships — Marshall Scholarships are awarded to U.S. students who want to pursue graduate education in the United Kingdom.
- Phi Kappa Phi Overseas Study Grants — Each year, the honor society Phi Kappa Phi awards grants for overseas study to many deserving students.
- Rotary Ambassadorial Scholarships — The Rotary Foundation provides dozens of study abroad scholarships each year to deserving students.
Spending an extended period of time away from home can create “reverse culture shock” to students when they return to their homeland. Since advisers, parents, teachers, and friends focus so much attention on the initial culture shock students may feel when arriving to the host country, reverse culture shock is often overlooked. Because of this, many students are unprepared for this phenomenon, which can be marked by depression, irritation, and anxiety as students miss their new friends and have difficulty readjusting to "normal" life. Returning students and their loved ones who are prepared for this are better able to cope. Loved ones should give the student a good deal of space and not be so shocked if they display a new streak of independence. Students who are returning home should try to talk as much about their experiences with someone who is willing to listen as they can. This will help the student process their experience and integrate it with the rest of their life at home. Everyone experiences “re-entry” into their home culture differently, so students should not be dismayed if their feelings do not match those of other oversea students who have come home. Some more information on coming back home after studying overseas can be found in the following resources.
- Returning to the U.S. — The University of Miami offers this basic guide to students for dealing with life once they return from studying overseas.
- Coming Home: Relationships, Roots, and Unpacking — This article from Transitions Abroad provides an in-depth look at returning home highlighting relationships, roots, unpacking, and bringing it home.
Study Abroad Programs
Due to the near-insatiable demand for study abroad experiences, there are an almost endless numbers of organizations and government programs that facilitate student exchange. The following links represent some of the largest and best-known study abroad programs
- American Institute for Foreign Study — The American Institute for Foreign Study puts together exchange programs for over 30,000 students every year.
- AYUSA: Study Abroad — Teenagers can find a good study abroad program for them at this comprehensive site.
- CIEE: Study Abroad — The Council on International Educational Exchange hosts several popular study abroad programs.
- Education Abroad Network — The Education Abroad Network is another good option for finding a program for studying abroad.
- Eurolearn — Eurolearn makes study abroad opportunities in Europe available to North American students.
- IES Abroad — For over fifty years, the Institute for the International Education of Students has offered students the opportunity to pursue studies in other countries.
- Peace Corps: Volunteer and Study — Students can combine overseas study and volunteer opportunities when they enlist in the U.S. Peace Corps.
- ProWorld Study Abroad Programs — ProWorld Study Abroad provides students with the chance to study overseas and assist underdeveloped countries.
- Semester at Sea — Semester at Sea is another popular program that provides opportunities for students to study abroad.
- Syracuse University Abroad — Syracuse University Abroad offers overseas study programs that live up to the high standards of Syracuse University.