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
Of course, the first step to any study abroad adventure is to consider whether or not it's best for you. Let me go ahead and say yes, you should study abroad. There's no doubt about. I've never once met anyone who regretted study abroad. That being said, there are lots of things to think about to make sure you have the absolute best time possible. Here are several questions for you to consider:

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?

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12 comments

  1. Great post and tips! I'm definitely going back to read these when I start to get ready to plan studying abroad!! :D

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    1. Thanks! Let me know if you have any questions or concerns and I'll try to address them in the next parts!

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  2. Love this. I spent months and months trying to decide if Study abroad was right for me and then in the end kind of just went on a whim. I wish I had down more research instead of just going through my university and living with all Americans.

    That being said, study abroad was the best choice I made in college and I would do it again (and longer) in a heartbeat!

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    1. Nothing ever works out perfectly (I didn't LOVE my program either) but I still had a great time! It's truly what you make of it.

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  3. Love this! I've just decided to study abroad (also in France) and I'm SO nervous and excited.... ah!

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    1. Awesome! What city are you going to?

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  4. I was talking about this with my sister a couple weeks ago, because she isn't sure if she can fit in study abroad with the classes she needs for her major. I told her that as much as I loved all the travel I did on my breaks, I still regret not doing a real semester abroad - it's such a great way to experience a new place.

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    1. There's always a way to make it work if you plan it out! Even though I only got 20ish credits for the year I still graduated in 4 years. If she's worried about credits, it would be best to look for a program that's specifically geared toward her major. For example, I know my school has summer programs just for business majors, architecture majors, ect.

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  5. I studied abroad in Sevilla, Spain and I absolutely hated it...but I still wouldn't exactly say I regretted it. It's such a good chance to get out there and see the world!

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    1. Wow, just curious, what did you dislike about it? The city or the program?

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  6. Thank you so much for all of your wonderful posts! I'm planning on studying in france next year and I was unable to find any good, helpful advice from people who've actually been there (and not just from various colleges/agencies/etc). They're making me realize things I need to do that I hadn't thought of!
    On another note, I hope that you are soon able to achieve your goal of a world tour. I have a similar goal and people react the same way when I tell them. Don't give up on your dream :)

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    1. Thanks so much! I', glad I could help you out! Hopefully I'll be doing my rtw trip soon!

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