How to Prepare to Study Abroad, Steps to Study Abroad
By: Nicole Mittelstaedt (justin) 2013.10.04
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So you've decided that you want to prepare to study abroad. The hard part's over then. All you have to do now is decide on a program, length of time to go for, whether to study a language or not, even which country you want to go to. Easy-peasy, right? There are literally thousands of programs offered by universities and organizations all over the world. The opportunity to study, do an internship, or research is right at your fingertips, it's just a matter of tapping into the resources.
Talk to yourself
Okay - maybe not out loud, but really probe the inner workings of your mind and figure out what is realistic for your study abroad experience. I like to ask the students in my office at the Center for International Education at University of California, Irvine, "What is your ideal study abroad experience?" Is time an issue? Maybe you can only go for a summer. Maybe money is a factor. Very few students have their study abroad experience worked out in their heads. Where exactly do you want to go? What is the outcome that you're expecting? This can be anything from learning or improving a language to earning academic credit towards your degree. What do you want to do there? Study your major, study just for the heck of it, not study at all...On a scale from "tourism" to "cultural immersion" what are you looking for? Just remember that you can never ask enough questions.
Alright Sherlock Holmes, start searching (usually six months to one year in advance.)
Use your university's resources: If you are a college student, chances are your university has some sort of study abroad office. Go in and make an appointment. Maybe they organize a Study Abroad Fair at the beginning of the academic year, where representatives from different programs are on-hand to talk to you about what they have to offer. The great thing about the study abroad office is that pretty much everyone there has been abroad before and has a wealth of advice and knowledge to assist you.
The web (you knew that was coming right?) Yes it's true, the good ol' Internet is the best resource tool out there. Some of the best web sites to check out are search engines where you can enter in that you want to study French in Paris for the year and it will pop up any programs that fit that criteria. Some good sites to look at:
- www.goabroad.com - An extensive web site listing study abroad programs. Search by country or by subject. Includes sections on intensive language programs, work/internship programs, and travel.
- www.iiepassport.org - A powerful searchable web database compiled by the Institute of International Education (IIE).
- www.istc.umn.edu/study/search.html - The on-Line Study Abroad Directory (OSAD)
Once you have found the program it's time to ask more questions. Is a high GPA required for the application? Language ability? Class level? What's the cost? And when's the application deadline?
Always check directly with the program. If a program really interests you but the deadline has passed, remember that some programs take out applications on a "space available" basis even after their printed deadline, so it doesn't hurt to ask. We tell our students to find one to five programs that interest them and then ask for information and an application to be sent to them.
Gossip's a good thing
Finally, you should talk to past participants of the program to get their evaluation of their experience. Simply ask the program to provide you with the student's contact information and/or ask at your campus study abroad office. This is extremely important. Talk to at least one person before making a final decision.
Apply and wait
Yes that's right, now it's time for the waiting game. Hopefully they won't keep you in suspense for too long. In the meantime in between time you should:
Find out about free money - This linkwww.cie.uci.edu/finaid.html will tell you all you want to know about getting money to go abroad, plus it lists several financial aid web sites to look at for scholarships and grants.
Learn about the country - You don't just want to show up in the Netherlands or Thailand and not know where to go, what to do, and what to expect do you? So go out to your local bookstore or library, check out some books and start reading. Again, the web is great for current events going on in that country - you might want to know if the train workers are on strike or if there was a recent outbreak of mad cow disease. Just get informed about your country - what religions or languages are present? Who are their national heroes or celebrities? And what kind of relationship do they have with America?
You're in like Flynn
So you got into your study abroad program, you got some scholarships, you have your guidebook and you leave in a month. Think about your classes, plan for doing a little traveling, and be open to the adventures ahead.
Photos by Kurt Scheeler