Having recently resurfaced from drowning in a vast ocean of study abroad program application paperwork, I would like to lend y’all a few tips on how to prepare for the initial ups and downs of deciding on and applying for a study abroad program.
There are a gazillion awesome places to visit in this world, and studying abroad provides an opportunity to live in one of those many incredible lugares and get to know the people, language and culture. Great! So where do you start?
In a nutshell…
Here’s a quick rundown of what you’re dealing with:
- Selecting a country in which to study
- A city to study in
- A university
- Study abroad program you’ll go through (API and AIFS are two examples)
All of this varies depending on your major. Some countries have several cities with multiple universities that offer classes for a number of majors. Others might have one university available to foreign students and only offers a limited amount of classes.
Also, different study abroad programs give you access to different countries and universities. For example, one program might allow you to study in Puerto Rico while another doesn’t give you that option. Or perhaps you’ll have three different study abroad programs that offer Chile as an option, but they might be for different universities. It all depends.
Keep these in mind when we dive into the deep stuff!
First thing’s first, where do you want to go and why?
Maybe you’re one of those people who can point to a place on a map and off you go. Or perhaps you like to have a rhyme or reason for traveling somewhere. I tend to air on the side of being a planner. I’m all for spontaneity, but it took me a considerable amount of time to think through where I wanted to study abroad, why I wanted to live in this location and what I could get out of being there.
Initially, I wanted to study in Costa Rica. I had traveled there twice before, the landscape is lovely and the people are amazingly kind. I had my program picked out and I thought I knew exactly what I wanted. But a tiny voice in the back of my brain told me I should go somewhere I’ve never been before. Last year I gave a presentation about the country of Chile for my Spanish American civilization class, and the cogs started turning in my brain. It’s a beautiful country with several different regions and varying landscapes, the culture is fascinating… okay so I might have been slightly swayed by my love of horse racing and the popularity of the sport in Chile!
There are multiple reasons why I decided to study abroad in Chile, and I will explain those more in part 2.
While narrowing down your destination, research the country itself. Learn about the language, culture, society. These will give you an idea of what you’re getting yourself into and the attractions the country offers. Do you want to climb a mountain? Swim in the ocean? Improve your Spanish? Take these into consideration when you pick where you want to go.
Stay tuned for part 2 to learn about study abroad programs, universities and navigating the flood of paperwork that’s about to head your way! Hang on tight, because the ride’s about the get wild!