So, you are thinking about studying abroad. Woop! Woop! The first step is always the biggest, and sometimes, the most overwhelming. You may know exactly where you want to go and you may have no idea. And that’s okay. Getting all of the information is the ground work, after that it’s just paper work… and money. (That’s a whole other discussion)
Go to a Study Abroad Fair or Study Abroad Office:
At Study Abroad Fairs you can talk directly to Independent Providers that are partnered with your university, your International Programs, and usually other students who have studied abroad or have done exchange programs through your university. It’s a great way to meet other people who have experience in studying abroad, hear their stories, and ask them your questions. If you can’t make it to your fair or missed it, your International Programs Office is always the next best thing. They will have all of the programs for your schools study abroad options, exchange programs, and all of the independent study abroad partners, as well.
Factors into Choosing a Program:
Let me be one hundred and twenty percent clear, IT IS YOUR CHOICE! All of these factors are ranked on what is most important to YOU, no one else. When trying to choose a study abroad program in the beginning, I had no idea how to go about researching. All I knew was I wanted to study abroad twice, and I didn’t care where.
MAJOR: How important is taking courses or a course in your field
LENGTH: Do you want to go for a semester? Would you rather go for a summer or January session?
FINANCE: What is your budget? Do you choose a program based on its price?
LOCATION: Do you care where you go? Big city? Small town in the countryside? Need that ocean view?
Deciding on a Program:
It can all be a lot to take in at once, so I’m going to give you a second to take a breather.
The Opera House in Paris // Me eating my daily dose of gelato in Milano // My lovely London
Once you decide what is the most important thing to you for your study abroad experience, then it becomes easier to find the right program and find your study abroad.
Again, this is your decision.
Once you do, all you can think about is your soon-to-be-study-abroad-life. That is, after the paper work.
Get a Binder:
With everything expensive in life, there is always paper work. If you go through your school or an Independent provider, you will have some paper work to fill out. It’s not a scary, life-altering amount of paper work. But it is enough to the point that you will want a binder to keep copies of everything you sign in it and records of everything you have completed. It is a system of different offices, like degree evaluations, student financial services, records, advising, etc ., signing forms for approval and it’s always good to have a copy or record on hand in case things get lost.
Financing can be one of the most stressful parts of studying abroad, and one of the biggest turn offs. So many people have said they didn’t look into studying abroad because they didn’t think it was affordable, when it can be! Through your financial aid, scholarships, program scholarships, and even GoFundMe, there is always a way if there is a will to study abroad.
(I feel like I should make it clear with scholarships, Independent Providers will usually accept independent scholarships if you already have them or apply for them, they will not however take university scholarships. Your university should take all independent scholarships so if you get more to go abroad every little bit counts!)
flying over London // leaving London
Booking a Flight:
Time to book a flight already? Everyone has their tips and tricks to getting the best deal on flights – and to be honest, a few have worked. Here is what I have noticed over the last two years of booking international and domestic flights:
Australia/Asia – 6-4 months a head of time if possible.
Europe – 2 months in advance
Africa – 2-3 months in advance
South America - 2-3 months in advance
North America – 2 months in advance
Antarctica – Book a flight to Chile and then take a cruise (aka 2 months plus some)
Get Excited, Get Exploring, Get Educated:
You’ve done your research, decided on your perfect program, gotten a binder for al of you paper work, done your paper work and financing, booked a flight… what could possible be left!?!
The good stuff!
Now in the few months before you leave is the best time to learn about the city, country, and culture you are about to call your new home. Create a bucket list of all of the places you want to travel to while you are abroad, read as much as possible, and take time to go over travel safety and emergency contacts.
a fancy still life I posted to officially announce I was going abroad
See Be Safe Traveling Abroad for more travel safety tips!
xx A Traveler's Bliss
(hey - hey you. click the bliss above... do it.)