As your upperclassmen years roll around, many students consider going abroad to get a taste of new cultures and experiences. From China to Mexico many schools offer different kinds of programs to suit the tastes of every major and lifestyle, and based on the competitiveness of the program one is applying to studying in another country is an accessible cornerstone of higher education.
If you’re even thinking about considering going abroad, do your research first and consider what you are about to take on. Are you really ready to be apart from familiar friends and family for four months or more, in a country that may or may not have English as a common first language?
There are a lot more risks with living in an unfamiliar city, country and continent, so check out the places your college or university is offering and make a choice that fits you. This isn’t to say that any student should take the easy route; really pushing yourself out of your comfort zone is what studying abroad is all about. It’s also important to consider expenses and how much you can and can’t afford while out of the country.
Next, after you have been accepted to your city of choice, ask around to hear how the experience was from people who have already been. Ask what was easy and hard about living there, the ease or difficulty of traveling, and if they experienced anything that simply could not be missed.
Getting the opinions of fellow students rather than travel websites is a lot more reliable to actually get a sense of how the experience is for real, independent twenty-somethings trying to find their way around a big city.
Ask them honest questions about really going out and seeing the sights as well, and where the best bars and restaurants are. Asking your peers is like your own person travel guide that has done the trip for you, down to the same living accommodations, classes and outings.
Sadly, the heartbreak of not actually being accepted to a study abroad program can be hard to fathom. There are other options, however, to get your traveling bug satisfied. Exploring other programs at different colleges and universities can open doors you thought were once closed, and applying later on to summer programs can still give you a taste of the international life.
Studying abroad isn’t for everyone; it requires a lot of self-initiative and responsibility that some college students just don’t have. For the ones that do, studying abroad is a great option to take a chance and really see what is beyond the horizons of college and everything it has to offer.
Image: Northern Kentucky University