Study Abroad Series Part 1: Should I Study Abroad?05 June 2013
The following post is part of a three part series concerning study abroad. Hopefully I will be able to assist anyone who is thinking about studying abroad and explain just how the whole thing works. Because I am an American who studied abroad in Europe, most of my advice will be anecdotal and center around these facts. If you are from another country or studied abroad somewhere else besides Europe, I'd love for you to contribute your own thoughts and tips in the comment section!
|A year in France gave me the opportunity to visit the Louvre|
Can you fund study abroad?
This is probably everyone's biggest concern when it comes to study abroad since part of your application will be proving that you can support yourself financially while abroad. While I personally feel you can't put a price tag on the amazing experience that is study abroad... there is in fact a hefty price tag. Research different study abroad options and pick the best one for your financial situation. The cheapest choice would be to enroll directly into a foreign school as most tuition for European universities only cost a fraction of that of American schools. However, this plan means less hand-holding and requires you to be very independent. Another option would be to apply for study abroad through an exchange program. You pay a fee with your application in addition to the tuition you would pay at your home institute and get a bit more assistance with your life abroad than if you enrolled directly. This is a great choice for people who have scholarships since they will still be applicable to your tuition while abroad. Your final option is to do a program directly through your university. This choice is a little more expensive than the other plans but is a good option for someone who wants structure, security, and assurance that their credits will transfer. On that note...
Will your credits transfer properly?
If you've picked a program that's approved by your university it's pretty much guaranteed that your credits should transfer back with you. However, even if you're getting credits, do some research on how many credits you'll actually get out of your time abroad. I assumed everything would be the same and that I'd be able to get 30 credits for my year abroad- the same credits I would receive for a year at my home university. In the end I only got 22 credits, even though I was putting in the same class hours as an American student. That's because European schools use a different system to count course credits (ECTS, more info here) and my home university used an equation that basically divided my ECTS by 3 and then deemed that as my transfer credits. I was so pissed! I was putting in 16 hours of class a week and receiving about 12 credits! If I had known that would happen, I would have considered doing a study abroad program that was actually run by my school instead of enrolling in a foreign university. That way I would have gotten every credit I deserved!
|Le Havre wasn't my first choice but I ended up having a great time [Halloween 2010]|
Are you physically able to study abroad?
As a traveler this isn't something you usually have to consider but as someone hoping to reside in a foreign country for 90+ days, you have to be in good health. You may even have to go to the doctor and get an exam as part of your visa application. I personally had to get a full examination (chest x-ray, blood sample, heart tests, etc) once I was in France to prove I was healthy. If you don't pass, you get deported. Some countries can even deny entry for mental disorders such as depression. Save yourself some worrying and research the standards you will have to meet for the country you wish to study abroad in.
Are you emotionally ready?
It's ok to feel homesick. In fact, a guarantee you will struggle with homesickness while abroad. However, study abroad will make demands of you that you've probably never experienced before. When you're alone- lost in some foreign city at night- you can't just pull out your cellphone and ask mommy and daddy for help. It's up to you to take care of yourself. While studying abroad in France and working in China I saw so many people quit and go home early and the only thing I could think was 'I can't believe you're wasting this opportunity.' They'd rather go back home where they felt safe and comfortable rather than test themselves and grow. Really consider whether or not you are up for the challenge before you study abroad.
In the end, the best tip I can give for this first step is research research research! The more you know going into the process, the more prepared you will be. Taking time to plan everything out in advance will save you money and stress in the future.
Have you studied abroad before? What are your tips?
Also read- Study Abroad Series Part 2: Preparing to Go