How to Choose Where to Study Abroad

Research marine biology in Australia and snorkel the Great Reef. Dive into French history in Paris. Study religion in Israel. There is a seemingly endless amount of study abroad opportunities located all around the world, and it can be stressful just to decide where to go. Her Campus has rounded up the best tips to help someone decide what study abroad location is best for her. 

Course offerings

You need to place emphasis on the “study” part of the trip before anything else. Check with your school to see what programs it offers and how those offerings can be worked into your degree. You can also browse outside programs such as AIFS, CIEE and CIS to browse courses at their partnered schools. Lastly, you can look directly into a university you have in mind to see if its courses are compatible with your degree. This is the most vital step in the process to make sure you stay on track to graduate, unless you have room in your schedule to take classes that don’t count towards your degree.

“From my perspective, the two best reasons to pick a program location are either because it is somewhere you are passionate about or because you get to study a topic that you might not have the same perspective on at your home campus,” says AIFS Northeast Regional Director Maura Cassells. “Perhaps you study biology in Indiana, but have always been interested in tropical marine life, so you choose to study in Costa Rica or Australia,” she says. 

Photo courtesy of Scott Webb on Unsplash.com

Location 

After you have a clearer idea of what academics are offered where, you can focus on the “abroad” side. Think to yourself what kind of community in which you want to be immersed. Do you prefer an urban or rural setting? Do you want a coastal location or somewhere surrounded by forest? Another thing to keep in mind is how much traveling you want to do while studying abroad. Do you want a place surrounded by other locations of interest so you can travel at any given time? Or do you want to be in a remote place that will force you to explore the country you are in?

“When it comes to picking a study abroad location, I recommend finding a place that has lots of activities that pique your interest,” says Rachel Bowman, a junior at Hofstra University. “I knew I wanted to do lots of other travel while I studied abroad and Amsterdam’s location made it cheap and easy to go to other countries throughout Europe.” Bowman also recommends researching the climate of potential locations so you know what to expect.

Language

Language can play a huge role in determining where you study abroad. If you’re fluent in another language and want to practice that language, go for it! If you feel comfortable in a place that speaks your native tongue, let that lead you to your ideal location. Living in a foreign place with a new language can be daunting to some and invigorating to others, so make sure you think this one over.

“Generally students come in with a specific location in mind and if not, I ask them what foreign language they took while in middle school or high school and see if they have an interest in going to a country where that language is spoken,” says Hofstra University Assistant Provost for Study Abroad and Internationalization Maria Fixell. “And I always suggest a homestay.”

Photo courtesy of Victor Garcia on Unsplash.com

Housing

Many universities outside of America don’t offer typical dorm living like you’re used to. However, it is not uncommon for these universities to help place students in housing. Look at the housing options in the programs you are considering to make sure you will feel comfortable where you end up. The range of options may include, but are not limited to, university housing, a shared apartment or flat with other students, a shared apartment or flat with strangers, a homestay or your own apartment away from the school.

Program Length and Cost

Some study abroad locations offer programs as short as a week, while others can last a year. Knowing how long you want to be away can help sort through your options. 

While many different factors play into how much studying abroad can cost, some locations can be more expensive depending on how far away they are and how strong the exchange rate is. Understand your budget before making a decision to avoid financial stress down the road. 

“Once you determine your passion or study topic, we can work together [what] fits into other areas, such as budget and curriculum match,” says Cassells. 

Have a back-up

While you may have your heart set on one location, it is useful to have a back-up destination in case any of the abovementioned factors affect your plans. 

If you have any questions about where to start, it is always useful to reach out to friends who have studied abroad or your home study abroad office. With these tips and a motivated heart, Her Campus is sure you can find the right fit for your study abroad experience.