Bon Voyage! A Guide to Study Abroad Preparation
The opportunity for students to study abroad has adapted immensely in the past years to make this an opportunity available for practically any student interested. There are many factors that must be considered when tailoring this experience to be the best fit for each student, and while each factor limits options in one way or another, each provides a great way to narrow down the abundance of programs. Additionally, once you have made the tough selection of a program, there are many more steps to be completed before finally being able to depart on this life changing experience. While this process may seem daunting, and certainly will not be done overnight, here are several important tips for planning and preparing for your study abroad program, including a timeline and resources to streamline this process.
Where to look
There are many factors to consider when selecting the best program for you. Whether your decision depends on the duration of the trip, classes offered, available scholarships, a specific region of the world, or anything else on the ongoing list, there likely is a program that fits your unique combination of desires. When navigating through this decision process, there are many resources to help you sort through the many study abroad program options. Many universities host study abroad fairs on campus each semester, where representatives from various programs set up information tables, hand out flyers, and happily answer general questions. This event is a great place to begin exploring study abroad opportunities available for students at your university.
Additionally, many universities host general information sessions on campus to help students learn how to navigate the study abroad search. Each school’s website and search engine are different, so attending an information session provides useful insight to tools you can use to begin narrowing down your program selection.
Once you have narrowed down your options to a small selection of programs that are a good fit for you, it is a great time to schedule an appointment with a study abroad advisor. Study abroad advisors are a fabulous resource for answering program specific questions to help find which program on your narrowed down list stands out as the best fit for you.
When to start
From beginning the study abroad search, to applying to your selected program and finishing pre-departure materials, there is a large amount of timely work involved. In order to avoid getting overwhelmed by this process, it is important to give yourself plenty of time to select and apply to any program.
Depending on your selected program, you may have to schedule multiple appointments with your academic advisor and your study abroad advisor. Applications are often due a few months before the start date of any program. Once your application is accepted, your work is not done. There are many pre-departure tasks to complete. There is also the factor of taking placement exams, applying for a passport and/or visa, and filling out many forms and documents. Beginning your program search one year prior to the time you wish to leave for your program is ideal. This allows ample time to use your school’s program selection resources to research the details of your selected program, plus complete the application process and all other tasks required before your trip.
Going abroad is one of the best things you can do as a college student in order to learn a new culture and be immersed with different types of people. Allowing yourself sufficient time ensures that you do not overwhelm yourself with this process and are fully prepared to enjoy your experience of a lifetime.