College is a time for having new experiences and learning about yourself and the world around you. There’s simply no better way to do that than by studying abroad. These days, study abroad opportunities are affordable, flexible, and highly customizable to fit the needs of your academic program. Use this guide to help answer your questions on why—and how—you can study abroad.
Why Do It Now?
If you think there’s no rush to start exploring the world around you, consider this: after you graduate, you’ll likely have a full-time job with just a few weeks of vacation time each year. You may also want to get married, buy a home, or start a family, putting added stress on your daily life and on your finances. While you can certainly use your time off to make short trips abroad, you may never be afforded the same opportunity to actually live in a foreign country and reap the benefits that come along with that experience: meeting new people, mastering a second language, and getting to know a place like the locals do. Even if you do decide to live abroad later, what you learn through study abroad now will serve as a great foundation for the future.
Planning a study abroad experience starts with a trip to your academic advisor. He or she will be able to explain the academic requirements you need to fulfill while you’re abroad and suggest study abroad programs that align with those requirements. Almost every university offers its own study abroad programs which makes it very convenient for you to ensure that your credits will transfer and count towards your major after you return home. Another benefit of traveling with your university or through a university exchange is that tuition costs will likely be identical to that of your home institution, and your scholarships and financial aid can be applied toward your tuition abroad.
If you can’t find a program that suits your interests at your university, don’t sweat it: there are hundreds of study abroad providers that can help you find what you’re looking for. AIFS, IES Abroad, CEA Global Education, CIEE, and The Education Abroad Network are some top-rated providers that regularly work with universities to arrange study abroad experiences. They all offer a wide selection of locations—from London to Paris, Buenos Aires to Sydney—and programs that range in length from a short summertime experience to a full year abroad. Because these programs are not run by your university, however, it is important that you double-check with your academic advisor to ensure that all the credits you earn abroad will apply toward your major.
A Smart Move for the Future
In these tough economic times, it’s especially important to develop a resume that will stand out from the rest of the pile. Studying abroad will certainly help make you more marketable. In addition to picking up some language skills, you’ll have a better understanding of how to identify—and work through—cultural differences, something that’s becoming increasingly important in the global economy. And even though it’s certainly a strategic move for your future, you’ll have a ton of fun meeting new people and seeing new places in the process.