More and more students are choosing to make study abroad a part of their post-secondary or career training experience, and for good reason. As the job market becomes more globalized, employers in all sectors are looking for workers who have an international perspective, can speak multiple languages, and can work well with people from different cultural backgrounds. There are many options out there for you to choose from BUT, before you even start looking for cheap flight deals to embark on your trip, there are a few things to keep in mind. Here are five tips for choosing an enriching study abroad program that’s perfect for you.
Determine your “why”
Before you begin searching for a study abroad program, take some time to consider why you want to study abroad. What do you hope to get out of the experience? Are you looking to become fluent in Spanish? Do you want to learn more about business in China? Are you hoping the experience will lead to a graduate degree program in London? Keep in mind that you can have more than one “why.” Once you’ve determined what your “why” is, make a list of elements that your study abroad program should have (consider location, cost, program length, types of courses, language, etc.). Use this list to guide your next steps.
Talk with an advisor
If you are currently pursuing a degree or certificate (or are considering this) at an institution in the U.S., meet with an advisor as soon as possible to determine how a study abroad experience will fit into your course of study at your home institution. The timing of the program and the types of courses offered should fit into and support whatever degree or certificate you’re pursuing. An advisor can help you understand this better and sort through your options.
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Consider study abroad options at your institution
Check with your home institution to see if they have any study abroad programs or partnerships with programs or schools in other countries. One advantage of going on a study abroad program through your own institution is that your grades and credits will most likely transfer easily. Many campuses have study abroad centers or faculty who specialize in these experiences. Seek them out for options and advice.
Research international programs
Another option is to study abroad directly through an international institution. There are some programs at international universities that will allow you to apply directly to that institution as an international student (without having to go through an institution in the U.S.). International education forums online can be a great way to start your research. If you have connections in your field (or the field in which you hope to work) who have studied or worked abroad, ask them for their ideas as well.
Talk with people who have been through the program
Once you’ve narrowed down your list of possible programs, connect with people who have already been through them. Seek out students at your institution, graduates, or people in social media groups associated with the program and ask them for their honest opinions. You can also ask someone who works for the international program to connect you with alumni so you can ask them questions and learn from their experiences. This is an important step in determining which one of your “finalist” programs will align best with your “why.”
A study abroad program can definitely help you be better prepared to compete in today’s job market. Also, you’ll be able to gain great life experiences and skills you would have never dreamed of before. But, before you start looking for cheap flight deals to embark on your adventure abroad, just make sure you follow these tips to choose the right program for you.
Have you studied abroad? Where did you go? What tips would you add to this list? Let us know in the comments section.