How I Picked My Study Abroad Location

It’s hard to believe that I will officially be a student at the Queen Mary University of London in January. For all those who are considering studying abroad, picking a location from the many offered can feel daunting. It wasn’t easy to narrow down my choices; after all, Penn offers study-abroad options in nearly every continent. I’ve compiled a few key lessons I learned from my experience in choosing a study abroad location and highlighted them below. Hopefully, they help inform those of you who are thinking about journeying abroad during your college years! 

  1. 1. Understand Penn’s Language Requirements

    Thinking of going to France or Spain? Before you settle on a country that doesn’t have English as its native language, make sure you have taken the classes Penn requires for students studying in countries such as Spain, France, and Italy. Though I completed the Spanish requirement at Penn, I was ineligible for the Spain program because I hadn’t taken a higher level Spanish class. Given my tight schedule, I crossed Spain and many other countries off my abroad list. This language hurdle narrowed down my choices significantly. After understanding the language requirements, I realized I could only apply to English-speaking countries (with a few exceptions such as the Tel Aviv program).

  2. 2. Major and General Education Requirements 

    After the language requirement narrowed down my list of choices, I met with my advisor, who informed me about schools that would have classes I could take to fulfill my major requirements. Originally, I was interested in studying abroad in Tel Aviv, but I learned there were few classes I could take to check off the requirements for my Medical Anthropology major. If you're going abroad and only planning on taking elective classes, then you can ignore this step! With that said, it’s still important that your advisor confirms you can get credit for classes at specific universities. The last thing you want is to take four months of classes that aren’t recognized by Penn!

  3. 3. Living Arrangements 

    At this point in my selection journey, I had narrowed down my options to London, Dublin, and Edinburgh. After I consulted with my advisor, I started thinking about what I wanted to gain from my abroad experience. I considered homestay, dorm living, and apartment-style living. Ultimately, I came to the conclusion that I wanted to live in an apartment. While homestay would have immersed me in my host country’s culture, the appeal of living in my own apartment won out in the end. I did some more research on my remaining abroad options and realized apartment-style housing was possible for all three locations.

  4. 4. Friends 

    Though some would put “where your friends are studying” at the top of the list for study-abroad considerations, I do think it’s necessary to consider other things (such as personal academic requirements) first. My closest friends had chosen Paris as their study abroad location, and upon reaching out to others, I found at least eight people I knew going to London. That was when I realized I might be a bit isolated if I was alone in Dublin or Edinburgh. While studying abroad is about exploration and being independent in a foreign country, I believe that having people to share your abroad adventures with is crucial. Thus, I settled on London.

In a little under two months, I will be moving into my London apartment with a close friend. Not only am I excited to live in London and call a new city home, but I will also get to travel to other cities in Europe due to London’s proximity to my friends in France, Italy, and Germany. Moreover, I will be able to fulfill four major requirements in the process. 

Choosing your study abroad location doesn’t need to be daunting or stressful. If you consider language requirements, academics, friends, and living arrangements, you can narrow down the perfect study-abroad location in no time!