See the world. Expand your horizons. College is the prime time to do both.
“Studying abroad can be a life-changing experience that shapes your future and how you see the world. It takes you out of your comfort zone and makes you think differently about your identity and world around you,” says Nikki Bruckmann, associate director of Student Services at the Institute for Study Abroad at Butler University.
Dr. Brian Harley, associate dean of International Programs and director of Programs for Study Abroad at Purdue University, adds that study abroad can complement your academic degree program. Inter-cultural awareness is “increasingly important,” he says.
Some courses will transfer to your home college or university to help you stay on track for your graduation timeline. Your school’s study-abroad office should be your first stop to research available opportunities.
“There are many different program models available that cater to a diverse range of needs,” says Bruckmann. “Students should consider their academic, personal and professional goals.”
Primary consideration should be given to programs approved by the student’s home college or university, says Harley. “A key ‘red flag’ would be participating in a program not approved by your college or university,” he says.
Students with disabilities can study abroad with proper planning and careful program selection, Bruckmann says. Some overseas campuses and programs are more accessible to people with disabilities than others. Check with your school’s study-abroad office to help identify programs that meet your specific needs.
“You get what you pay for,” Bruckmann says. “All programs are not created equal, and students should carefully consider what is included in the program fees and what might be an extra cost.”
Your college or university may offer financial aid or scholarships for study-abroad programs. In addition, scholarships or aid are available through national organizations and the U.S. Department of Education. Federal Pell Grants also may be used for study abroad.
Spending a semester abroad can be more affordable than a summer program because financial aid and scholarships may be more readily available for semester-long programs. “The best way to get started is to talk with your financial-aid officer and study-abroad advisor,” says Bruckmann.
While we hear news about terrorist attacks overseas, other health- and safety-related issues are more prevalent, according to Bruckmann.
“Students with medical conditions or mental health conditions should plan ahead to secure medications and health providers abroad,” she says. Your school’s study-abroad program may help coordinate this.
“Students studying abroad need to be aware of their surroundings and make good judgments just as they would at home,” adds Bruckmann. Investigate the country’s political and cultural environment, customs and laws. Learn areas to avoid and protect your personal belongings. Research local transportation options and how to navigate them.