If you are exploring the possibility of a study abroad experience, it is likely you came into college knowing it was something you wanted to do. But many students who are committed to taking a summer or semester abroad nevertheless struggle to decide exactly where to go.
With so many options and programs to choose from, it can be difficult to narrow down the possibilities. However, if you take some time, do a little research, and carefully consider what each program has to offer, you will soon be able to come to a decision. Where then should you start when it comes time to finally make a choice?
Start With Language
If you are working on becoming fluent in a foreign language, a study abroad experience is an invaluable resource. Immersing yourself in another language is a great way to exercise your linguistic muscles and put in countless hours of practice at speaking a foreign tongue. However, for some students, either their foreign language skills don’t line up with an available program or perhaps their career goals make taking classes in another language a little too challenging.
Luckily, there is a study abroad program for everyone. Some programs, such as our two Spain opportunities as well as Ecuador and Mexico programs, offer courses taught in the countries host language – Spanish. These programs require a higher level of language proficiency to enter because you’ll immediately need to use the language for your classes and conversing with your host family. Meanwhile, our Marburg, Germany program welcomes students with no prior language education and those with a more advanced understanding of German. The program begins with eight to twelve weeks of intensive language training to ensure you’re confident with the language before moving to a German university.
Additionally, other programs such as our semester program in Brussels, Belgium or our summer programs in Vienna, Austria and Tetouan, Morocco give you the option to take language courses at any level, while still receiving majority of your instruction in English. All programs provide deep cultural immersion, so there’s no need to worry you will be missing out on the full cross-cultural experience if you choose to go into a program without a language requirement.
Consider Your Career Goals
You’ve probably heard that study abroad experiences are a great resume builder, but how will this opportunity specifically help you achieve your career aspirations? Of course, when you spend any period of time studying away from your home institution, you want to make sure the courses available are going to help you meet your major or minor requirements. But you also want to think about what specific skills as well as internships or volunteer experiences could make you stand out from other candidates in future job searches.
If you are entering into a career in biology, time spent in Ecuador’s remarkable biodiversity can give you a leg up. If you plan on working in a social work, experience in Trinidad & Tobago can give you a sizable advantage in the future.
Follow Your Gut
However, for some, you will just feel drawn to a particular program. Don’t be afraid to take that feeling seriously. Studying abroad, in any culture, is a wonderful, transformative experience. If one program just feels right, even if you’re not exactly sure how you might apply it to a future career, don’t worry. So much of the study abroad experience is about adapting and evolving. For many of, studying abroad is a one-of-a-kind opportunity to productively wander.