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Choosing a Study Abroad Programme
Sarah Landrum

University is about new experiences, and studying abroad is certainly one of the best. With so many programs and countries to choose from, finding the right one can be a little intimidating.


world_suitcaseThat’s why this guide is here to help. Find out what to look for and how to decide on the best programme for you…


Cover the Basics


These factors play critical roles in your experience. They have the most effect on how much you can do, how comfortable you’ll be and how long you’ll be there.


  • Cost of Traveling. Every pound matters, so create a list of affordable programmes. Consider not just the cost of tuition, housing and plane tickets, but also the cost of living. It’s a lot more expensive to spend six months in London than in Costa Rica, for example.


More freedom in your budget means more freedom to go out and afford activities. Plus, you won’t have money stress to bring you down.


  • Duration of the Programme. How long do you want to stay abroad? Six months? A year? It all depends on personal preference and what you hope to get out of the experience.


For a trip packed with sightseeing and a dash of culture, choose a programme that lasts only a few weeks. For total immersion or proficiency in a foreign language, stay for at least a semester.


  • Language Spoken. If you want to become fluent in a foreign language, study in a country that speaks it. Unlike school, exposure to a different language 24/7 helps you learn much more quickly.


Of course, you can still take English courses in a non-English speaking country, but it doesn’t hurt to pick up some phrases while you’re there.



Look for Personal Appeal


These factors are secondary to your decision, but equally important. They’re the things that make you want to hop on a plane right away.


  • Housing Options. Housing depends on what you, personally, want to see and experience while you’re there. Do you prefer city or rural life? An apartment at a university or a host family?


  • Attractions. Sometimes even the smallest things about location spark your interest. Maybe it’s the music scene at night, the local food markets or even one of the world’s fastest roads. Whatever your passion is, follow it – you’ll get so much more out of your trip.


  • Climate and Weather. It’s another seemingly small detail that can make or break your experience.How great would it be to wake up to sunshine and warm weather each day, or maybe freshly fallen snow? Maybe you’re just interested in a place with clean, unpolluted air. Don’t underestimate the power of weather to impact your trip.


  • Interest in the Culture. Studying abroad often means humbling yourself to a different world, a world you’ve dreamed about in books and movies but never experienced for yourself.


Having a passion for the culture allows you to get the most out of your stay. If possible, choose a country that engages your mind. Would you call that place your academic honeymoon spot? If you answered yes, you’re on the right track.


  • Popularity Amongst Students. We’d all love to visit the classics – France, Germany, Italy – as these are all great locations with well-established programmes. But don’t forget about the less frequented places. What if you opted for something adventurous and different, like Madagascar or Turkey?


Discovering an atypical place means exploring corners of the world that few students have, and opening doors to unlikely connections and untold stories.



Think About Potential in the Area


If you’re thinking about future plans in your new home – jobs, a second degree, more traveling – then consider these factors when choosing your location.


  • Classes Offered. Different universities and programs specialize in different subjects. If you’re thinking about finishing your degree abroad, go where you’ll benefit the most academically. For example, English majors might enjoy London while economics majors would learn more in China.


  • Ability to Visit Other Places. If you’d prefer wider opportunities for traveling, choose a location where countries are closer together. Europe is perfect for the backpacker. Africa, not so much.


  • Professional Opportunities. Maybe you already know what industry or firm you want to work in. Certain countries see more business than others.


Leading education systems are in South Korea and Japan. Singapore, Finland and Sweden are some of the the best places to run a business. Whatever your professional goals, it’s good to know where to pursue them.



Final Tips


Choosing a study-abroad program also means doing lots of research.


Start by attending study-abroad fairs and symposiums. Reach out to past participants, faculty and program representatives. Above all, know exactly what the program entails including cost, credits, requirements, housing and transportation.


It may seem like a lot of work, but it’s worth it to make your travel dreams a reality.



Sarah Landrum is a freelance writer, blogger, and aspiring world traveller. Sarah is also the founder of Punched Clocks, a site on which she shares advice for young professionals navigating college and the work world. For more on all things career – with occasional travel musings – follow her @SarahLandrum