International study abroad can be a life-changing experience. You encounter people, ideas, and cultures that are different from your home country.
In the 2016-2017 school year, approximately one in 10 U.S. students studied abroad. That number has continued to grow as students become increasingly aware of the world around them, and programs continue to develop.
If you want to travel to another country to study abroad, then there are few factors to consider. Here are seven questions to assess when choosing an international study abroad destination.
1. What Are Your Priorities?
It’s time to take an in-depth, introspective look at yourself and evaluate your international study abroad priorities and expectations. Honesty is the best policy, so consider what factors are driving your decision-making process.
Do you want to experience a radically different culture? Are you looking to travel to multiple destinations while abroad? Would you like to attend a prestigious college or take laidback classes?
Contemplating these questions will help to guide you as you evaluate locations. You’re the only person who can establish what’s best for your needs.
2. What International Universities Have Relationships With Your School?
Typically, universities form agreements with various international schools to allow ease of transfer. In essence, it simplifies the process by guaranteeing credits will carry over. Depending on your program choice, you may even pay the same tuition fee and only have a different room and board expense.
While it might be possible to attend a separate university and negotiate a contract between schools, it’s usually beneficial to choose one of the partner programs. Evaluate the list and determine what colleges offer programs during your intended study period. Like Japan which starts classes in April, some countries hold sessions during the summer months. You’ll want to choose a country whose semesters coincide with your availability.
3. Are Classes Taught in English?
Since you’ve chosen to complete an international study abroad program, you should review the selection of course offerings taught in English. Learning a new language from native speakers is a fantastic opportunity, but taking every class in a foreign language can be intimidating.
You want to focus on absorbing the material rather than wondering if you’re translating correctly. Keeping this in mind, research the number of classes that will be taught in English. Remember your priorities — some people may prefer to travel to an English-speaking country like Australia or the U.K. rather than speak a foreign language.
4. What’s the Cost of Living in the Country?
While living abroad, you’ll be responsible for room and board costs. If you want to eat out or have drinks, you’ll find yourself racking up expenses. Every person’s budget is different, so look up the cost of living in the destinations you are considering. Is one region pricier than another?
Only after doing research can you determine whether the cost of living will be affordable. To stretch your money further, look up tips and tricks for eating on a budget while you are traveling.
5. What Are the Expectations and Laws?
Your international study abroad destination will offer a culture different from your own. Often, the laws coincide with the culture.
For instance, the legal drinking age is lower in the U.K. than in the U.S., and as a result, many universities promote social drinking. Clubs and societies meet at pubs, and many school functions provide complimentary wine. In comparison, some countries strictly prohibit drinking alcohol regardless of age.
Always study local customs and laws before traveling to a new place. There may be differences in greetings, hand gestures, and clothing that could make you stand out. It’s important to remember that cultural differences can quickly lead to awkward confrontation and insult, depending on the region.
If the laws or cultural expectations are unappealing to you, consider another destination.
6. What Activities Are Available?
Some schools exist in remote parts of the world, while others reside in bustling metropolises. Therefore, the availability of nightlife, excursions, and shopping will vary by destination. Study the university’s location and look up what clubs and activities are hosted by the school.
Sometimes, an exciting society or feature of the region will help you choose a destination. For instance, if you love extreme sports, a skydiving or windsurfing club might stand out to you.
7. What’s the Weather Like?
Weather is proven to affect your mood. Under various conditions, your brain will react in different ways — altering your mental state. Studies show that less precipitation and an absence of fog are associated with a better outlook.
Review the predicted climate for the time you will visit each country. Does the weather in one nation seem more suitable for your goals?
The Adventure of a Lifetime
Participating in an international study abroad program is the adventure of a lifetime. This is an opportunity to discover yourself while learning about diverse cultures. You’ll undoubtedly make friends wherever you go, but remember to answer these seven questions to choose the perfect destination!