Every year, more than 300,000 American students study abroad for academic credit. There are many reasons why you may want to go to another country or continent to continue your studies, including that the experience looks great on a resume, it lets you experience other cultures and offers the ability to try out a recommended program from a sister school. Thinking about taking a semester or even a year to study abroad? Use our tips to ensure a stress-free study abroad experience.
Do explore your surroundings
When you go overseas, expect to embrace the culture and take in the history around you. Studying abroad is the chance of a lifetime to learn not just from classes, but from the world around you. Be sure to make time for some “must-see” attractions and sampling culinary delicacies when you are studying.
Don’t treat it like a vacation
Reserve your fun time for weekends or after classes and remember the reason you are there in the first place — to improve your education. No one is telling you that you cannot go out exploring or see a concert, just make sure to keep on top of your coursework and studying. You are representing your program and want to make sure word gets back to your department that you were a student of the culture and of the actual class.
Do research the institution
When you are deciding whether or not to study abroad, make sure to learn about the school. Many universities have study abroad offices where knowledgeable staff can guide you and provide information on which classes you are able to take. Since they work with students who have gone overseas, they already know what other students loved or hated about the program. If you have not already done so, go online and look at the program’s website to read student testimonials and the most updated information on the school.
Don’t assume that everyone’s experiences are the same
If a classmate tells you about their horrible experience in Italy, you might reconsider going there. Before you jump to conclusions, consider the reasons why they disliked going there. There could be several reasons it did not work, like:
- They were homesick.
- The classes were harder than expected.
- They went through another program.
- They did not budget, so they felt like they were missing out.
- They did not take studying abroad seriously.
- They never left their host home or attempted to make friends.
Remember that everyone is different and your experience will be unique to you.
Do look into how the courses affect your GPA
Do the courses factor into your home institution’s GPA? Will they even show up on your official transcript from your home university? These are the questions you want to have answers to before you enter a program. If you are counting on these courses to lift up your overall GPA, you may be dismayed to find that they do not get added into the calculation at all. Or, if you had a hard time with your overseas coursework, it may work against you if it gets added into your final GPA.
Don’t wait to see if you will need your overseas transcript
You may want to look to see if your school requires your study abroad transcript or not. In some cases, you may even need a foreign evaluation, which you can learn more about here. If you know you’ll need an official copy to send to your program, you’ll want to arrange that in advance.
Do budget your spending
Studying abroad can be expensive, as you’ll need money for flights, and in some cases, lodging and meals. Depending on which country you are studying in, the prices can vary. For example, in Japan, the cost of studying abroad for an American student ranges from $3,400 a semester to $18,250. In comparison, to study abroad in Barcelona, the cost ranges from $6,000 to $14,000.
There are ways to save money while you are traveling. If there are sights you want to see while you are in another country, you can make reservations to see specific landmarks which will save you money. Also, if you have a student ID, you can get into certain places for free or at a discounted price.
Don’t forget to grab souvenirs
As much as you need to save, you deserve to get a couple of small items to remember your time overseas. You will want to get something that you could not get anywhere else. If you are in Belgium, you may want to take home some chocolates. Or if you are studying in Germany, get a beer stein. As we mentioned in the tip above, by planning out your extracurricular time, you can spend some of the savings on these trinkets.