Studying abroad is a life-changing experience. Whether you want to discover the world or benefit from the different approaches to education offered in foreign institutions, signing up for one of these programs will be a defining moment in your education. Here is what you need to know about these programs and how to sign up to go abroad.
The Benefits of Studying Abroad
Combining travel and studying will definitely make for an exciting semester. Signing up for a study abroad program will help you become more independent and you will get to meet new people and discover new interests.
You might also find that a foreign university has an approach to education that is more enriching than the experience you had in U.S. institutions. Your language skills will definitely improve, and you will get plenty of opportunities to learn about different cultures.
Your experience abroad will probably open up new possibilities when you get back home. Your year or semester abroad will give you an edge over other candidates when applying for jobs or graduate school.
Exploring Your Options
There are different options available to you if you are interested in signing up for a study abroad program. Choose the option that makes the most sense for your budget and for your educational goals.
A Program Offered by Your College Or University
Not all colleges and universities have a study abroad office, but some institutions have partnerships with other universities around the globe. If your school offers one of these programs, you should think about signing up.
The advantage of going abroad via a program offered by your school is that your credits will transfer easily towards your degree. Your school will probably help you with the visa application process and with finding an accommodation abroad.
A Third-Party Study Abroad Program
Third-party study abroad programs are your best option if you are still in high school or if your university doesn’t have a study abroad office. Studying abroad with a third-party program means you will have more options to choose from and will receive advice from people who have plenty of experience with foreign institutions.
Some programs will only match you with a school in the country of your choice and help you apply for a visa. Other programs will provide a real structure while you are abroad by offering housing, activities, and language classes.
One of the advantages of studying abroad with a third-party program is that you can sign up to go abroad during the summer. You wouldn’t miss a semester of university if you chose this approach.
Your experience abroad will vary in function of the program you choose. Keep in mind that fees vary from one program to another.
Enrolling Directly at a School Overseas
The advantage of enrolling directly at a foreign school is that you will probably pay a tuition that is much lower than what U.S. colleges and universities typically cost. The downside is that transferring your credits towards a U.S. degree won’t be easy.
This is an option worth exploring once you have done some research on different schools and have found a good match for your educational goals. Ideally, you should be fluent in the language of the country where you will be studying since you won’t receive any assistance to enroll at a foreign school.
Enrolling directly at a foreign school is your best option if you want to take a specific class or think that a specific course of studies would be a perfect match for your educational goals.
What About Scholarships?
Traveling to a foreign country and living there while you take classes is expensive. Thankfully, there are different ways to receive financial help.
If you qualify for FAFSA, you can receive financial help for your study abroad program as long as your college or university has approved the program. You will either receive a grant or have the possibility to apply for a student loan.
You can apply for study abroad scholarships via different organizations. Your U.S. university might offer a scholarship for students who wish to study abroad for a semester. The foreign institution you are interested in might offer a scholarship for foreign students.
There are third-party study abroad programs that can help you find scholarships you would qualify for. Keep in mind that you can apply for scholarships offered by schools, study abroad programs, and non-profit organizations both in the U.S. and in the country where you want to study.
Consider These Alternatives
If your primary goal is to travel or improve your language skills, there are some alternatives worth considering:
- Volunteer abroad.
- Find an internship in another country.
- Work as an au pair.
- Enroll at a language school.
How to Prepare for Your Study Abroad Experience
Being well-organized is crucial when applying for study abroad programs. These tips will help you stay on the right track while you plan your semester or your year abroad.
Pay Attention to Deadlines
There are deadlines to apply for programs, deadlines to apply for scholarships, and deadlines to apply for your student visa. You will also have to meet deadlines while you are abroad if you want to enroll in classes when you come back or continue your education with graduate studies.
Apply for a Student Visa as Soon as Possible
You will be able to apply for a student visa once you have a letter of admission from a school or a program. Some countries require you to apply months in advance for a student visa.
Do some research in advance and have all your paperwork ready so you can send your visa application as soon as you get accepted by a program or a school. Find out what kind of visa fee you will have to pay, which documents you will have to submit, and when you can expect to receive your visa.
You will also need a passport to travel abroad. Apply for a passport or renew a passport that is about to expire as soon as you know there is a good chance you will be accepted in a study abroad program.
Keep in mind that most countries will not authorize you to work while you are on a student visa.
Find Out About Requirements for Studying Abroad
Schools and third-party programs typically ask students to meet a few requirements. You might need to bring your GPA up before you can apply, or improve your language skills.
Some countries will ask you to meet some financial requirements in order to qualify for a visa. You would typically have to prove that you have enough money to support yourself during your studies since you won’t be allowed to work.
Establish A Budget
You can apply for financial aid or scholarships, but keep in mind that there will be a lot of out-of-pocket expenses. Establish a budget as early as possible and consider going to a country where housing and tuition are more affordable if you want to go abroad on a small budget. Signing up for a shorter program would also help keep expenses down.
The best places to study abroad really depend on what your budget is. The cost of living would typically be lower in a South American or Asian country, but you would probably end up spending more on housing than you do in the U.S. if you decide to study in Europe.
On the other hand, tuition can be lower at foreign institutions. For instance, a year in a U.K. university would cost the equivalent of $18,000 in tuition. Consider enrolling directly at a foreign institution so you can spend less on tuition and have enough money left over for housing.
Secure an Accommodation as Early as Possible
On-campus housing is common in the U.S. but you won’t find dorms in most schools overseas. This means you will need to secure a living accommodation or find a study abroad program that can either provide you with housing or help you find an accommodation.
If you decide to enroll directly at a foreign school or are going abroad with a program that can’t help you find an accommodation, travel to the country where you will be studying ahead of time so you find an accommodation.
Paying rent will probably be your biggest expense during your year or semester abroad. If the foreign institution you have chosen has a roommate matching service, take advantage of it.
Try getting in touch with students who have studied in the area you are interested in. They will probably have some useful tips regarding accommodations, and might even have friends who are looking for roommates.
Studying abroad is an experience that will change you. Finding the right program and planning your departure can seem intimidating, but this experience will definitely be worth it. You should start looking into signing up for a program offered by your school or get in touch with different third-party programs to see what they have to offer.