As with any decision relating to completing a degree, the answer to this question will be different for every student. However, I think there many things that come in to play. I’ll list a few here, but please remember this is only some of the basics as every institution is different when it comes to the policies and procedures regarding the possibility of a Study Abroad experience. The list below is in no real order of importance, but I simply want you to consider these as you research the possibility(ies) of studying in another country:
1. Study Abroad is possible in any major, as long as you are willing to make the effort to make it work. Just like anything else in life that is worth pursuing, right?
2. The Study Abroad experience and academics is a great resume builder for anyone. It says a couple of things about the student without having to look too far:
a. The student wanted to step outside of their comfort zone.
b. The person who goes abroad is an independent thinker, and will do well to make decisions as needed in life.
3. As with everything else about academia, the first major question is how would I be able to afford this experience? My answer, how would you pay for any “once in a lifetime experience”. You’d find a way if you wanted it, right? Again, here is another place to research the possibility of scholarships, etc. If there is “free money” to help you, take advantage of it. Your only regret will be that you had the opportunity but didn’t take it. Most Study Abroad Offices worth their weight will find a way to help, if it is at all possible. You’ve simply got to ask the questions.
4. How does the Study Abroad semester/term/summer session fit into the completion of my degree requirements? Will this Study Abroad experience extend my undergraduate education? If it does, is it worth it in the long run?
5. If there is a Study Abroad option at your home institution there is most likely the ability to transfer credits back to the institution or have the courses recorded on your home institution transcript as academic credit earned through your home institution. Again, this will depend on your home institution’s policies and procedures; you’ll simply need to ask the question(s).
6. But I don’t know where I want to go? This is where the Study Abroad Office is really going to help you sort through all of the choices. There are many Study Abroad Programs that have discovered the best way for students to relate to all of the possibilities available to them is to have an “outbound” student (that would be you, looking to go on a Study Abroad Program) work with other students who have recently returned from a Study Abroad term. Peer advisors are simply amazing, and you will probably find that many of your questions/concerns/fears/unknowns will be VERY similar to those who have gone before you. Here are a few of the questions they will ask you:
a. A foreign language is NOT usually necessary, but if you speak Spanish do you want to look at programs in a Spanish speaking country?
b. Do you want the courses to help you to fulfill major/departmental requirements?
c. Are you simply looking for the courses to count toward your electives? Do you have some elective room in your Program of Study?
d. Are you looking for a big city/urban experience? Or a rural, more out of the way destination?
e. and the list goes on, and on, and on.
7. Well, I’m an Engineering or Science major and I’m just not sure the courses I would be able to take would be useful to me within my degree program once I return from the Study Abroad term.
a. You might feel this way, but again, if you really want it and want to make it work it will happen. A little bit of “leg work” upfront, will have a HUGE payoff in the return. Remember what I said about that once in a life time experience?
b. Here is another place to make sure you ask questions…there is usually a program that can be found for any situation.
In case you missed my point: Please, at a minimum, do a little bit of research about the possibilities of a Study Abroad program. Don’t miss your potential “once in a life time experience” simply because you didn’t think it could work. You won’t know until you ask…weigh the pros and cons, I think you will be incredibly surprised at the results…in a positive way!!!