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The Most Important Things To Consider When Choosing Where To Study Abroad

Ever since I was a sophomore in high school, I had my heart set on studying abroad at some point during my four years at college. Studying abroad is a unique experience where you can travel to different countries every weekend, immerse yourself in cultures other than your own and ultimately step out of your comfort zone by being a part of an experience that you will remember for the rest of your life. I am unfortunately a consistently indecisive person so I have yet to decide where I want to study for the Spring 2018 semester—and with the application deadline approaching, the pressure to chose a study abroad program is an added stressor to my already stressful schedule. In an effort to help myself weigh out the pros and cons of the various programs offered and to hopefully help others in the same position as me, here are a couple of things that I have found most important when considering where to study abroad.


1. Do you want a location that is in your comfort zone or one that will push your personal boundaries?

One of the main factors in deciding where to study abroad is the location. When thinking about all of the different study abroad options it can be overwhelming; however, you need to take into consideration what type of environment would best suit you. From big cities like London or small towns in South Africa—the options are endless. A huge component in choosing where to go is whether or not you would like to challenge yourself—personally, intellectually, and culturally. Would you rather go to a country where English is the main language with similar societal norms? Or would a country with a rich and diverse culture with a different language be better for you? Self-reflection can be a great tool in trying to figure out which setting would best fit your personality and overall outlook of what your study abroad experience should be like.


2. Would you rather have a structured or unstructured program?

A big struggle that I have been experiencing throughout the study abroad process is whether or not I want to apply to a structured or unstructured program. CIEE, or The Council on International Educational Exchange, offers a variety of structured programs where most of your experience is pre-planned. An instructor or guide often provides you with various scheduled excursions as a CIEE group. An example of an unstructured program can be living in a dorm or with a host family while independently attending an international university or college—allowing you to plan your own activities and excursions on your own while abroad. Although there may be some programs that are a combination of both, these are the most common types of study abroad programs that are offered.


3. What kinds of food or activities in the area interest you?

One of the best parts of studying abroad is the endless types of food you can eat! Do you prefer pasta from Italy or escargot (yes that is cooked land snail) from France? Since one of my most defining characteristics is my love for food, the type of cuisine available in each area is definitely going to be taken into consideration. The various types of activities offered are also very important. It is a good idea to look up local markets, museums, art shows, and festivals that might interest you in the city or town you will be studying abroad in.


4. Is the location easily accessible to an airport for travel on the weekends?

Accessibility to an airport is vital if you wish to quickly and affordably travel to other countries on the weekend. Europe is a fantastic opportunity to travel to various countries on the weekend for less than $100. However, locations such as Australia or New Zealand may be a little more difficult and expensive to travel to different countries due to the distance.  Figuring out transportation accessibility and location in regards to other countries is an important element in choosing where to study abroad.


5. Most importantly, what does your gut tell you?

In my opinion, listening to your gut is one of the most important things to do when figuring out where to study abroad. You should not let your friends, significant other, or family influence where you end up going. Yes, it is important to listen to the opinions of others but always take it with a grain of salt because in the end, this is the place where you are going to spend a few months of your life—not them. Chose a place where you feel like you will get the most out of the experience and the best possible time out of being abroad!


21, Senior, Counseling and Human Services Major and Criminal Justice Minor at the University of Scranton
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